Saturday, June 9, 2018

REVIEW: 'Sense8' - The Sensates Come Together to Rescue Their Love and Connection in 'Amor Vincit Omnia'

Netflix's Sense8 - Episode 2.12 "Amor Vincit Omnia"

In the sweeping series finale, passions run high as the Sensates and their closest allies fight to save the cluster and stop their enemies for good.

Sense8 was a messy, beautiful show. At its heart, it was a show about love, acceptance and connection. It was a show that operated on a global level that aspired to connect all different walks of life. It wanted to build those connections to show that there are so many things that unify us as human beings while also showcasing the many ways that we are different. It was a show that touched on so many types of characters who are still rarely seen in movies and television shows. It was accepting of all faiths, nationalities, sexual orientations and gender identity. The premise saw eight people from around the world suddenly being psychically linked with one another. They learned languages and new skills in an instant. But it was more important for them to share emotions and their unique perspectives on the world. It brought them closer together while understanding how the world operates on a global scale. It's such a profound message about the human condition that spotlights the idea of hope that comes from simply loving and accepting one another. At times, it felt like Sense8 was eight mini-shows all operating at the same time. Each Sensate operated in their own corner of this world that played into different storytelling conventions. Lito was in a Hollywood satire. Sun was in a prison revenge thriller. Wolfgang was frequently in a heist plot. And yet, the various characters were all interacting with each other and experiencing these new worlds alongside each other. It was beautiful and profound in a very special and remarkable way. And yet, the decision was also made to give the show a complicated mythology and conspiracy. That was a part of the narrative mostly to insert some tension and suspense into the plot that always kept it moving forward. It allowed for there to be real and genuine stakes with this show in a way that extended far beyond Kala worrying about her marriage when she's more in love with someone else and Lito unsure about what coming out as a gay man will do to his career. Of course, the show also frequently got lost within its own mythology and trying to make sense of everything. As such, it's a little frustrating that the show's big series finale event spends so much time on resolving the many conspiracy elements before ending on an extended coda that brings everything together once more on a human level.

It is also so apparent that the show is just jamming a lot of plot into this hour to offer all of the hints of what this story would have become should it have gone on for several more seasons. It's clear that the creative team did have a story plotted out for what to do in seasons three, four and five. They just never got the opportunity to flesh out those ideas fully. And so, a lot of them are just crammed into this series finale movie in order to give some sense of closure while continuing to mystify the audience about the grand reasoning behind so much of this mythology. And yet, do any of these reveals really add anything to the story? It mostly seems like the show's creative team wanting to spend as much time as possible in this world knowing that this movie is all that Netflix will finance to give a sense of closure. It wants to say that there were still so many ideas with this concept. Those include warring factions within the BPO about the direction of the organization, Whispers actually seeking out immortality through the drone program, the Chairman being the man truly running the villainous organization, Lila wanting to form a sanctuary city for Sensates, and the existence of a Lacuna where mothers of sensate clusters reside and watch over the species on Earth. A lot of these things are just tossed out here in order to confuse the characters. It's the show trying to present some kind of rational ending for a story that wasn't able to tell everything that it wanted to do. None of these are bad ideas either. But they also distract from the main story of this finale. It feels like the focus is being pulled in too many different directions. It makes it feel like the show still could have done everything that it needed to do in this wrap-up movie while also finding a way to come in under 90 minutes. Two and a half hours is a long time to conclude this story. Everyone involved knows that it is the ending. But it also feels very much like the show extending the inevitable for as long as possible without really telling a coherent story in the end.

Of course, so much of the conspiracy allows the show to produce a number of fun action sequences. In addition to all of the emotions that came from exploring the human connection, the various different ways that the show shot action scenes by relying on the different skills of the characters was one of the most thrilling components of the series. As such, it's fitting that the finale produces a number of those. There is really no purpose to Wolfgang's brief escape attempt other than to show him getting to shoot a couple of anonymous bad guys. It certainly doesn't make the Chairman any more real or nuanced as a character. He is suppose to be menacing because he always hides behind a mask. But he never really rises to the level of being the big bad the sensates have been running from this entire time. And yet, it's still thrilling. So is the sequence where the main cluster stage their trade-off of Wolfgang for Whispers. It's inventive to see them stake out this club with a very deliberate plan. But it's also surprising to see it go awry because Lila has her own plan to kidnap Whispers and leverage him for what she truly wants. That affords the show the opportunity to go on a road trip from Paris to Naples, Italy. That too produces a memorable montage where everyone is just jamming out to a good song. But the raid on Lila's compound is probably the most intricate and fun action sequence throughout this finale. It's hilarious to see the cluster and company pose as a tourists in order to Trojan Horse their way into the compound. It's equally great seeing all of them make their way up the floors looking for Whispers in the hopes of ending this conflict once and for all. It all building up to Will getting into another car chase and an epic shootout that concludes with him shooting a rocket at a helicopter carrying Lila and Whispers is also just so completely thrilling and badass. Sure, it may just be mindless action for the purpose of entertaining the viewer. But that's what so many people enjoy about this show as well.

But again, all of this takes up so much time in the finale. It means there is hardly anything left for the personal dynamics. It's surprising to see just how many of the individual stories are just dropped in this finale. There is simply no time to address Lita's new role in a Hollywood movie or Capheus' political campaign. There's only a throwaway line saying that the man Sun let live at the end of the previous episode was arrested quickly thereafter. There are many things in the individual stories that just have to be wrapped up quickly or left in an ambiguous way. That's disappointing because it's through those personal stories that the characters actually felt real and important. Lito and Capheus were never that important to the ongoing conspiracy stuff with Sun mostly showing up there to offer her talents as a fighter. And so, that means they are given significantly less to do in this final episode. That's lame because they are terrific characters - or at least Lito and Sun are. Capheus never really became interesting after the recasting and shift in his story. In fact, Wolfgang and Kala are essentially the leads of the finale story. Wolfgang is the one being tortured by his memories and learning to accept the love that comes from this new makeshift family of crazy and unique individuals. Meanwhile, Kala is the one who must make the decision to love two men at the same time. She's also the sensate who suffers a near fatal gunshot wound. That too feels like an idea the show probably would have liked to explore in a more meaningful way with the benefit of a full season. What would happen to the cluster if one of them were to be injured or die? Here, it's mostly just a quick glimpse before it becomes ironic that the person who was shot is the one person who knows how to save someone's life. It's humorous watching her tell Wolfgang what to do - with the final solution coming from a taser. That's surprising and weird. But it's also special even though this finale does a lot of work to make Rajan once again feel like the perfect husband whom Kala should love being married to.

However, all of this is effectively building to the grand wedding between Nomi and Amanita. Their relationship has been the most genuine and personal throughout the entire series. Yes, all of the characters are defined by love and romance. There are two couples within the cluster after all. Everyone is able to find that love and happiness in the end too. In fact, this feels like an ending that wants to ensure that everything concludes in the happiest way possible for every single character. As such, the show feels the desire to bring back everyone who once appeared on the show. Yes, that is exhausting in a couple of instances. But when the show slows down and is able to just focus on the happy celebration at hand, it is once again so emotional and rewarding in the way that only this show can be. It's so beautiful and perfect watching this wedding. It's the show essentially giving the audience its grand mission statement as well. Amanita's vows talk about the importance of actually expressing one's feelings and being able to accept all of those changing emotions. The need to have a rational explanation for everything often gets in the way of simply connecting with the rest of humanity. Meanwhile, Nomi's vows are essentially a message to the fans of the show in saying that change is inevitable. Things will never be the same as they are in this moment. And yet, this moment is also perfect. There is the desire to spend as much time with each other as possible. There is no one else they would rather be then in this moment with this group of people. As such, it's a celebration that everyone should take ahold of and love. This is a show that brought so many perspectives together and made sure to legitimize all of them. It also fittingly ends with an epic orgy. That's something that only this show would do. But it also highlights the many different forms of love and romance. All of them are completely normal and can be accepted. It's eye-opening to those involved. But it's ultimately rewarding as well. It's simply through expanding one's mind that one can accept new ideas and welcome love into one's heart. And that is ultimately a beautiful message for the show to conclude with here.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Amor Vincit Omnia" was written by Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell & Aleksander Hemon and directed by Lana Wachowski.
  • All of the stuff between Jonas and Angelica never really made sense. It ends the same way it always operated - with Jonas speaking in cryptic monologues about secrets and pain while Angelica appeared as this angelic ghost who represented the hopes and dreams of whomever saw her. They never really amounted to interesting or nuanced characters. And yet, I guess it's satisfying to know that their love is what ultimately takes down BPO and the Chairman.
  • Which was the more extraneous detail included in this finale? The co-founder of BPO had a daughter who wants to move away from the vision that Whispers and the Chairman support? The head mother of the Lacuna is also the mother of Whispers' cluster who can no longer sit on the sidelines of this conflict? Or Wolfgang's mother also being his sister which further showcased just how cruel his abusive father always was to the family?
  • There isn't really a moment where Wolfgang and Rajan are allowed to react to each other's existence. Yes, it's surprising that Rajan is able to discover the cluster and company in Paris before BPO does. But there isn't really a moment where Wolfgang and Rajan are allowed to see each other as competing for the love of the same woman. Instead, they almost quickly become friends which allows them to be perfectly fine having a threesome in the final orgy sequence.
  • Every episode of this show up to this point has been co-written by Lana Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski. And yet, JMS is no where to be found in this finale. That's strange. There is probably a fascinating story there as well. Of course, he's still listed as the co-creator and executive producer. His production company is still credited as well. It's just odd that two newcomers to the drama write the finale script alongside Lana. It's odd and felt worthy discussing here.
  • Moreover, Netflix sure handed over a lot of money in order to produce this finale event. The final title card reads "For the fans." The fans are the reason why the streaming service felt the need to finance this conclusion. But all of the action sequences and location shoots did not look cheap even though there weren't as many shots of the beautiful cities as there was in the previous two seasons. Plus, did Netflix say that the finale had to shoot primarily in France and Italy because it wants to expand more into those international production territories? That could have been another reason to produce this movie.
  • And that's all for Sense8. Again, this was such a beautiful and messy show. It was never perfect. It was only for a very specific audience. As such, it's understandable why Netflix couldn't renew it based on how expensive the production was. And yet, it was so freeing to get a conclusion at all. Most shows with a complicated mythology that end on a cliffhanger never get any resolution. Netflix saw the value in the long run in providing that for this show so that more fans can keep discovering it. It may not be perfect. But Sense8 ends the way that it has always lived. And that's very fitting.