Sense8 never felt like a show that was supposed to happen. Bizarre and unwieldy, it seemed like an intern’s pipe dream that somehow made it to the upper echelons of Netflix programming, even though it had the Wachowski siblings (The Matrix, V for Vendetta) at its helm. Eight strangers, connected like a mushroom’s mycelium, could access each other’s emotions and psyches. At the same time, a scientist named Whispers (Terence Mann) actively hunted the eight strangers. Filmed in eight of the world’s most cinematic cities, the show luxuriated in absurdity. Some scenes were absurdly beautiful. Some scenes were absurdly exciting. Most of it was just plain absurd. By most definitions, this show is too expensive, too strange, and too ambitious to stick around. Which is why the 2-hour movie finale can’t escape the giddy feeling that, shucks, we’re getting away with it.
The movie finale wasn’t even really supposed to happen. Netflix canceled the show after the second season, but an uproar from fans convinced the streaming site to relent. Like a tired parent, Netflix said, alright, fine. Have your movie. And did Sense8 have its movie! At a lush two and a half hours, the Sense8 movie runs wild with the sensibilities that made it popular. It is sexy. It is celebratory. It is flooded with characters and plot, but it happily wades through, plugging away until every single character gets a resolution.
When it begins, the sensates are gathered in Paris scheming to save Wolfgang (Max Riemelt). At the end of season 2, BPO (the evil company intent on killing sensates) captured Wolfgang, leaving fans concerned that they would never know what happened to him. The first half of the movie busies itself with saving him. Wolfgang needs to be with his octet in order to finish the job. They trade Whispers (whom they captured last season) for Wolfgang in the movie’s first big dramatic sequence. It takes place at a throbbing club, and the sensates employ Kala’s stinky smoke pots and, oh, most of the non-sensate characters are involved. How? Not sure.
The Sense8 movie doesn’t tarry with things like plot or dialogue or grounded reality. Lines are doled out seemingly by number of words instead of who should say them. The sensates recite exposition line by line, passing the dialogue through the group. (This may also be the result of sensate-brain thinking.) There’s also very little intra-cluster conflict. There’s a little kerfuffle surrounding Kala and her two lovers — Wolfgang and Rajan — but as the action intensifies, they shrug it off, deciding that everyone should share Kala. The main conflict, then, is just BPO in general, and the sensates themselves are just one globby family fighting against BPO.
The movie operates like a filmmaker’s (or fan’s) bucket list, passing the time by sending shots of cinematic dopamine to the brain. A lot is very convenient. For example, Daniela (Eréndira Ibarra) is involved and apparently very good with a gun. So is Bug (Michael X. Sommers, who will appear in this summer’s Sorry To Bother You), who sneaks into Paris as a FedEx delivery man. Later, Rajan (Purab Kohli) finds Kala (Tina Desai) as well, citing husbandly duties. (He also learns how to use a gun and is quite good at it.) Other characters arrive throughout the movie, including Detective Mun (Sukku Son), Felix (Max Mauff), and Diego (Ness Bautista). Detective Mun claims he “had a few vacation days saved up,” and Diego says, essentially, he'll do anything for his best friend. Amanita (Freema Agyeman) and Hernando (Alfonso Herrera) are also, naturally, there the whole time. I’ll resist a comparison to a certain big-budget crossover movie from April, but let it be known: This is a crossover movie as well. It’s just more fun.
Which, incidentally, is the name of the game here. The movie prides itself in the fun that’s going on. Frequently, characters refer to “movies” as some grandiose idiocy as if to say, “We’re idiots, too.”
“He’s like a character from one of my movies,” Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre) exclaims when he meets Bug.
“No, he is better,” Capheus (Toby Onwumere) says. Sun adds, “Because he’s real.”
At this point, these characters are little more than shuttles for beautiful action sequences and love stories, so Sun’s insistence sounds more like Sense8 pointing out the diversity of the show. The show has gone to great lengths to portray people as "real." The movie upgrades this by allowing some of the characters to speak their native language. (In most episodes, all the characters speak English, even though they are ostensibly speaking their native languages when they are at home.) The movie also wields nudity, this time around, in a very “real” way. The female characters are frequently hanging out in just their underwear and a T-shirt, and, when Sun heads into the nightclub, she’s wearing track pants and a crop top, her stomach on full display. The nudity is rarely sexualized as much as it is essentialized: These women want to be comfortable, and — as many can attest — a T-shirt and a pair of underwear happens to be a prime outfit.
After rescuing Wolfgang, the sensates luxuriate a little, riding across Europe in trains and automobiles and enjoying their momentary success. This is when the Kala situation sorts itself out. Bug, ever the plot motivator, tells Kala that, because she can be in several places at once, “there are no rules.” Which means that Kala can greet Wolfgang with a kiss at the same time that she gives Rajan the same greeting. With Sense8, there are no rules. Just a lot of kissing. (Rajan, for the record, provides housing for the sensates in France.)
The big plot twist of the movie occurs when Bodhi (Sarah Kants) arrives at their cozy French villa talking about someone called “the Mother.” The Mother is an elder sensate, kind of a great-grandmother of clusters. Her son happens to be Milton Brandt, a.k.a. Whispers. She claims Whispers is using BPO to obtain immortality. Basically, he’ll upload his consciousness into the sensate “drones” that operate like zombies. And thus, Whispers will live forever.
The Mother operates something called the Lacuna, an organization of sensates that tries to remain “neutral.”
But, in Bodhi’s words, “Neutrality in the face of such evil is complicity.” Message received.
To recap: Whispers is killing sensates and using them as drone zombies so that he can live forever. BPO, the Biological Protection Organization, is just a tool in his hands. The Lacuna is an assembly of sensates that are willing to help the main cluster.
This is all to say that, when the plot gets down to the wire, everything unravels spiffily. Jonas (Lost’s Naveen Andrews, or Balraj from Bride and Prejudice) helps because, as it turns out, he’s had a plot of his own this whole time, part of Angelica’s long con to stop Whispers. The sensates hatch a ham-fisted plan to get inside the Palugio rione, a mob-held villa with very tight security. Hernando finally comes in handy by using his classics education — he suggests they use a Trojan horse to get inside. Their choice of horse? A bus filled with tourists.
Their plan is mostly hitchless, save for Kala’s injury, which is almost fatal. (It isn’t. This movie is a happy movie.) Part of Angelica’s plan included hijacking the drone-zombie-sensates to do her bidding when necessary. So, the sensates have help.
After defeating Milton Brandt, there is little else to do except have a massive party with every single character from the series. It feels like a series wrap party as the actors mingle and discuss the fate of Sense8. The reason for the gathering is Amanita and Nomi’s wedding, which happens in the Eiffel Tower. The final stragglers arrive, like Capheus’s friend Jela (Paul Ogola) and Capheus’ ladylove Zakia (Mumbi Maina). He’s still running for office, and prospects look good. It’s all a little too prim, a little too happy — but just the right amount of cozy.
Mr. Hoy (Sylvester McCoy), on older sensate, remarks about the events that just transpired: “If it were a film, I wouldn’t have believed it.” Neither would we, but it isn’t a film, is it? Sense8 was a phenomenon. It gathered directors, writers, and actors from across the world for a television show with a premise so thin it looked like cling wrap. It loaded its story with topical issues like transphobia, immigration, and racism. It explored unencumbered sexuality. It took risks on the biggest emerging streaming platform in the world. The final scene of the movie is literally a ten minute orgy. Then, for its final shot, Sense8 gazes purposefully at a rainbow strap-on. Shucks, they got away with it.
For the sake of the Sense8 obsessives out there, we’ll run down the fates of each of the cluster.
Nomi: Married to Amanita and hoping to move to Paris while Amanita writes a novel. And Nomi’s parents are proud of her! From Amanita’s parents: “Amanita used to go through boyfriends the way people binge TV shows.” Ouch, Netflix. Also, Nomi’s parents took special brownies?
Kala: Healed, thanks to her “good doctor” in Italy, and ready for a threesome/orgy with both of her love interests.
Wolfgang: Happy to have a threesome with Kala and Rajan.
Capheus: Presumably, still running for office. And still dating Zakia!
Sun: Exonerated of all charges! And currently dating Detective Mun, who just met her dog.
Lito: No word on whether or not Daniela was able to rescue the job he postponed
Riley: Still dating Will — Will met her dad!
Will: Still dating Riley. Apparently, the day he met Riley was the best day of his life.
None of this, however, answers the question: What happens when sensates from the same cluster have babies together? Are they also a sensate cluster? Feel free to advise.