TV Review - Sense8: A Christmas Special
The first season really took its time establishing what that meant and the many ways that that telepathic power can manifest and express itself. The first season also took its time rolling out its Stephen King-like plot about how a secret government organization is hunting them and others like them either to experiment on them or kill them. The first season ended with one of them being captured and the other seven having to rescue her. They escaped but a lot of unanswered questions were still left.
This episode takes place a year later from the end of the first season. We follow the eight people, but director Lana Wachowski and co-writer J. Michael Straczynski don't advance the characters that much or the plot at all. We don't learn or see anything new with the telepathic powers. It's all replays of things we've seen before. The first season was notable for its clever and really fun action scenes, but Wachowski doesn't really craft any good thrills in that regard. We get the sense that the table is being set for something hopefully epic in the second season and this episode is just a placeholder, or else it was just an excuse for us to spend time with all these sexy people for the holidays, a very long tease as it were.
I continue to cry shame that the Emmys or the Golden Globes have overlooked this series, particularly the Emmys in its myriad of technical categories. This episode is a clear example of why I thought the first season should have been nominated in places like Outstanding Cinematography, for John Toll, and Outstanding Editing, for Joseph Jett Sally and Fiona Colbeck. The opening sequence is a prime offering. It's a glorious, underwater sequence where we see all eight characters swimming or submerged, all cut to a cover of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good." The beauty and the beats of the images are nothing short of incredible.
For those who enjoyed the orgy in Episode 6 of the first season, another more intense and crazier one is staged here. Yet, one has to question this orgy more than the previous one. The previous orgy felt purposeful. It was about discovery and the breaking down of barriers, as most were thrust into this intimate scenario. It felt messy and a little out of control, but in a good way. The previous orgy didn't involve every character.
This orgy did involve every character and it felt gratuitous. It was almost nonsensical. A year later, the sensates, as the eight telepaths are called, don't have much more control of their psychic powers, but one has to wonder if there will ever be boundaries drawn. Now, it seems every time two characters or more have sex that the entire group will be pulled into it whether they want to be or not.
I get that Wachowski wants a sex positive show where sex with any and every body is always perceived as a good thing or an enjoyable thing, but there is a scene where a person is pulled into a sexual scenario of which she doesn't want to be a part. Yes, the implication is that secretly she does want to be a part of it, but on the face she resists and effectively says no, yet this sexual scenario keeps being put on her, and it's a wonder if this is a line that Wachowski wants to explore. The girl in question comes from a conservative background, so does she really consent to these orgies she's pulled into? It almost could be perceived as a sexual assault or rape.
However, the way the orgy is filmed and edited is nothing short of brilliant. A subsequent dance montage is also celebratory in how it's so perfectly cut together. The music, the slow-motion, all flows so magically, so fluidly.
We see the sensates dancing and having fun on their collective birthday, which is August 8. We see them at Christmas and it ends on New Year's Eve. It's all for the most part festive and joyous. There is surprisingly a lack of drama.
In that regard, we do see a step forward for one of the characters. Lito, played by Miguel Ángel Silvestre, is the Latino actor who was secretly gay. This episode sees him get outed to the public and not deny it. He even goes to visit his mother and she embraces him warmly. It's a nice evolution for someone so closeted.
Everything else here is pretty safe though. There is potential danger lurking on the edges. The only genuine excitement is when the father of the sensate named Will Gorski, played by Brian J. Smith, is threatened. Until then, everything feels tame. Wachowski and Straczynski don't make it as scary as it could have been. They let the tension drop. Yet, the whole thing remains beautiful and titillating.
Not Rated but contains graphic sexuality, nudity and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 4 mins.