Towards the end of the newly released Christmas episode of Sense8 a minor character delivers a monologue about his virtual family. Across the globe he has people he has deep and profound connections to, people who know him better than anyone in his real life. And thus the special makes explicitly text what Sense8 has always been about. It is a TV show about the internet.
If you watch any movie about the internet in the ’90s (or ’00s or often today) the internet is a cesspool of the most depraved impulses humanity has to offer. MTV managed to get an entire TV show out of serial killers using the internet to find victims (the so-bad-it-is-brilliant Eyecandy). But that’s not how people actually use the internet. Twenty years ago no one predicted that most people would use the internet to look at videos of cats. And few would have predicted that people would start to develop these intense interpersonal connections with other people, people whom they would likely never meet offline. Across the planet is a global web of friendships, compassion, love, wisdom, and communal experience.
Sense8 might be a sci-fi show about a telepathic hivemind, but it is ultimately about how we as humans now reach out across cultures, genders, sexualities, religions, races, everything that separates us and create communities.
The first season of Sense8 slowly dribbled out the details of what the show was about. So slowly that some characters had barely met by the end of the season. So slowly that lots of people gave up on it after that first episode. But now having firmly established its own premise, the special can charge forward with kinetic fury.
For only being the thirteenth episode of the series, the special manages to cram a truly spectacular amount of fan service into its two hour run time. There’s an extraordinarily long birthday party montage (which I never wanted to end), there’s a new telepathic orgy, Wolfgang and Lito team up, Sun gets multiple fight sequences. But mostly the episode acts as a prelude to the upcoming season. Storylines are gently started and characters are moved around the global setting.
But ultimately the episode is positively jubilant, rather fittingly for a series as exuberant as Sense8 tends to be. For all its ruminations on how nasty, hostile, and alienating humanity can be (at one point the characters literally look at deeply personal hate speech graffitied on a wall), it always falls down on how we’re all connected and how great that is. Sense8 is always uplifting, always joyful, always sincere.
And damn is it not one of the most beautiful pieces of television out there. The Wachowskis have always been brilliant visual artists, working in comics even before becoming prolific directors, and Sense8 allows their remarkable talent for beautiful visuals to reach an apex. The location shooting might be a budgetary nightmare, but it has created a show that not only feels global, but also of the globe. It isn’t a show about people in different places, but a show about how humans are inextricably tied to the majesty of Earth.
Sense8 really is the greatest work the Wachowskis have produced. It ties all of their signature themes and unique visual style into a deeply emotional, deeply humane story. It’s a show that gets under your skin, and forces you to ruminate upon it. The Christmas special is such a poignant opening for what is likely to be a magnificent new season premiering in May. And if we can’t have a third season, can we at least get a spin off about Lito, Wolfgang, and Sun getting into and out of scrapes and mischief?