As sad as it is, the cold business of television often means that not all shows get to tell their entire story. Low ratings sometimes mean that even the best shows, with the most devoted fan bases, might be cancelled before their time, leaving agonizing cliffhangers in its wake. But just occasionally, a miracle happens, catalyzed by that same passionate community of fans, that was once deemed to small to cater to, but have since grown too loud to ignore.
Back in the heyday of broadcast networks, fan campaigns to save shows took on some pretty creative forms, usually in obscure reference to their beloved series. Roswell fans sent bottles of tabasco by the truckload to the WB offices. Jericho fans mailed bags of of nuts to studio bigwigs, while Chuck fans flocked to program sponsor Subway. But even before then, traditional letter-writing campaigns have also managed to convince executives to give shows like Star Trek, Quantum Leap and Designing Women another chance through the 1960s and 1980s.
Naturally, once the Internet became more prevalent, it became a lot easier to get the studios’ attention. #SixSeasonsAndAMovie became a rallying cry for Community’s community, while more recently, online furor can even lead to dropped shows (like The Expanse heading to Amazon or Brooklyn Nine-Nine being saved by NBC) getting swiftly picked up by competing networks. But while all of these cases were pertinent to the hopes of Sense8 fans, their reprieve was far shorter-lived than the couple of extra seasons these other shows got.
What ended up happening was actually more akin to Veronica Mars’ famously crowd-funded farewell movie, or Joss Whedon’s Serenity, which functioned as the big screen wrap-up for most of Firefly’s unresolved storylines. Netflix heard the plight of Sense8’s worldwide cluster, and offered a compromise. Not an extra season, but one extra episode to tie up dangling plot threads. And hey, Lana Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski could make the episode however long they needed – which is how we ended up with this lovingly-crafted, 150 minute climax.
Sure, this may be billed as series finale, and Netflix may have even labelled it as the 12th episode of season two. But for all intents and purposes, this was a feature length film, which is the kind of glorious goodbye that a special show like Sense8 deserved. Though ostensibly a sci-fi series about a diverse “cluster” of multinational, polysexual “sensates” – who are able to share thoughts, emotions, and experiences through a shared telepathic consciousness – Sense8 was always less concerned with metaphysics than it’s grander message of empathy.
Most of the time, the show was madcap mish-mash of tones, with each of it’s eight protagonists headlining as the hero of their own genre (ranging from Mexican telenovela to Chicago cop show to German gangster flick to Korean prison break to Bollywood drama, and more). But the beauty of Sense8 was that it managed to straddle these worlds by building very intimate bonds between between these disparate people. The feel everything every other person feels, and thus help each other in times of need by sharing skills or lending emotional support.
These eight people are well-defined individuals who are also each other at the same time, creating a genuine bond that ignores gender, race, sexuality or any of the other societal constructs that divide us. It was a narrative feat of schizophrenic writing and a production challenge of gargantuan proportions (Sense8 shot on location in eight different countries as far-flung as Iceland and India) that frequently paid off with action-packed yet profound explorations of themes like religion, friendship, existentialism, sexuality, tribes and identity.
This series finale continues the show’s endlessly empathetic and endlessly eclectic nature by finally bringing our sensates together at the same physical place at the same time. They’ve gathered in Paris for a dire reason: to rescue one of their cluster from the BPO, a nefarious organization dedicated to conducting horrific experiments on sensates. The electricity of combining our large ensemble (alongside their allies) and the desperate stakes of this mission involved, ensured that the finale’s long running time felt breathless and worthwhile.
Every minute in “Amor Vincit Omnia” was to be savoured, and trust us, there was plenty to chew on. Interplay between familiar characters were joyous, while long-awaited interactions pay off in entirely unexpected ways (see Wolfgang and Rajan). And like much of the show’s duration, the character beats work so well, that we sometimes forget that the Wachowskis made their names on The Matrix. Of course they can do action too, and this season finale provided a couple more epic fight and chase sequences that will absolutely knock your socks off.
Sense8’s guiding principles have always been empathy, understanding and love – and it’s amazingly been able to deliver that message free of cynicism. So what better way to end the show than with heartwarming scenes of jubilant dancing and, appropriately enough, a wonderfully moving and tastefully shot orgy (sensual but never exploitative). A psychic and physical clusterf*ck, if you will. To the very end, Sense8 celebrated the joy of human connection in every way, emphasizing that everybody deserves to find happiness, however they can.