Cast: Doona Bae, Max Riemelt, Tina Desai, Tuppence Middleton, Brian J. Smith, Toby Onwumere, Jamie Clayton, Miguel Angel Silvestre, Naveen Andrews, Terrence Mann, Daryl Hannah, Freema Agyeman
Produced By: The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski
Distributed By: Netflix
Episode Count: 10
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Action
Netflix | IMDB | Wikipedia
For those who have been too busy re-watching Stranger Things and debating Thirteen Reasons Why, you may have missed another Netflix original TV show that will blow your mind. Season 2 of Sense8 is here. And though it’s certainly not always the most straight-forward of shows, if you can get into it, it is one of the most enjoyable.
Season One follow 8 people who find themselves psychically linked. They can feel and sense anything happening to one of the eight in their cluster. Naveen Andrews from Lost pops in and out as their sort-of mentor. There’s science, mythology, and culture thrown into a blender and spat out in the form of eight of the most gorgeous people you’ve ever seen have giant sensual orgies. God, I love this show.
Season Two scaled back on the orgies (though the Christmas special has a very good one if you’re missing them). Instead, Season Two ramps up the narrative and the story structure to focus on both individual journeys, BPO the Big Bad, and the mythology that is Homo Sensorium. A recap of the entirety of Season Two would be completely futile, so this review will be light on the spoilers.
I’ve been waiting for Sense8 to jump the shark since the show began. The premise of Season One was amazing, though the rules of the world were sometimes hard to comprehend. I still don’t understand how the sensates talk to one another. Season One had them physically talking to each other, making it look like they might be talking to thin air.
Season Two has them talking (and f*cking) more and more in their heads. Almost a year has passed since the cluster was born, so it only makes sense that they would gain a better understanding of their connection to one another. Season Two fixes many of the critiques of Season One and, in the process, put out an extremely relevant TV show that old and new fans will love.
This season also introduces other clusters and other sensates. There are a few that make a mess of things, and a few that are an absolute delight. I can say, spoiler free, that I was so happy to see Sylvester McCoy (aka the Seventh Doctor). And while the rules of sensate interactions with those outside of their clusters are blurry, the cast of characters introduced are a welcome addition to an already packed ensemble.
Speaking of ensemble, one of my favorite parts of Season Two are the side characters: Amanita, Bug, Hernando, Dani, and a few new additions. The fact that the two healthiest relationships are the LGTBQ relationships speaks not only to the writers, (both Wachowski Sisters are trans women), but it also speaks to the main themes of the show: acceptance of people and their differences, and love.
Capheus (played by Toby Onuwara from the Christmas special) says it best: “I hope our children know a future where love is a bridge, not a wall.” Nomi and Amanita’s relationship is the rock when much of the plot feels afloat. And Hernando (who still doesn’t know about Lito’s cluster, what!?) is always breath of fresh air.
This season, there’s less of Felix (Wolfgang’s best friend), Dani (who started in Season One as the most vapid of celebutantes, and makes her way into a more thoughtful character), and of Rajan (Kala’s husband). Rajan mostly appears towards the end of the season when his own storyline impacts Kala’s.
But there is the addition of characters who know more about the homo sensorium secret. The Americans are spreading their secret around left and right, while characters with the closest homo sapien relationships never reveal this important part of themselves to others. This could possibly make for a mess in Season Three. That is, if we get a Season Three (Netflix, please say yes).
The show has as many strengths as it does weaknesses. The action sequences are incredible; Doona Bae needs an award for kicking ass. And the soft, quiet moments are powerful, but the formula of each episode becomes predictable. Like clockwork, there will be a big flashy group sequence, followed by a quiet one-on-one, followed by a fast-paced scheme, followed by a few long shots set to beautiful music off “The Most Beautiful Songs In The World” Spotify playlist. It’s not enough to be off-putting, but for a show with such original content, being predictable can certainly be a bore.
Speaking of downsides, there are actions sequences that feel outright excessive. Wolfgang’s gunfight in episode 8 is reminiscent of The Boondock Saints (“There was a firefight!!!!”). And Sun’s season-defining moment is done is a bra and pink sparkle hot pants. It might seem tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also worth at least one eye roll.
The importance of each individual plotline is also out of balance. Riley and Will are fighting a giant government organization; also, how is Will strung out on heroine for half the season, with almost no repercussions later on? Sun is seeking revenge on her murderous brother.
And Kala? Well, Kala spends the whole season pining for Wolfgang and not wanting to hurt her husband’s feelings. What? Ok, let me just say that if there’s any sensate that I want to get all sexy-mind-meldy with, it’s Wolfgang. How Kala manages to keep it together is beyond me. Halfway through the season, I wanted to throw a glass at her for the amount of times she huffed and puffed about her feelings. Luckily I didn’t have to. She threw the glass herself. The struggles of the others seems so much more important than her already loveless marriage.
But I guess maybe that’s the point. No matter how big or how small, each individual action matters to someone. Sun and Lito have a matter-of-fact discussion about perspective. And Capheus reminds Kala that no matter how far away a place may seem, what happens in one country can affect the lives of another.
What makes the show worth watching is not just the story that unfolds, or the action scenes, or even the CGI cluster fights. It’s the love there for each and every character. Season Two brings the cluster (and this cast) closer together and it resonates off the screen. This cluster is closest any has ever come to the Big Bad, and clearly their connection to one another is why.
In addition, the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski (creator of Babylon 5) wrote characters who clearly love each other. And you can see that the show runners/writers/directors clearly love what they’ve created, you see it in each and every shot.
In a show that deals in so much (global politics, classism, sexuality, identity), the love everyone has for each other is what grounds the show. Even when plots get outrageous, or the writing gets sentimental, or motorcycles ride on just a little too long, what keeps me coming back for more is the love of this cluster. They may be more than human, but they also feel like family.