Sense8’s transition from a sleek, surprisingly sexy, and entertaining sci-fi series into a turbulent mass of action movie tropes is now complete. And it comes with copious amounts of blood spilled, shamelessly hammy acting, and almost complete disregard for the main plotline driving these 12 episodes.
The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski do dangle a bit of string in front of viewers with Riley passing out at her dad’s performance and the doctors finding out that there’s something weird with her brain. Hence, Whispers decides to track her down, with Will, Nomi, and the gang working overtime to rescue the young lass. They concentrate all their energies on that in the final episode of the season.
To get there, though, they have to have many of the main characters settle their individual affairs and kick the shit out of anyone that gets in their way. Capheus confronts the Superpowers gang and, using Sun’s fighting skills, takes them all down with multiple hacks of a machete. Sun, meanwhile, finds out that her father supposedly killed himself, but knowing that it was likely the doing of her lily-livered brother, she pounds his face in.
The worst offender is Wolfgang. He wanders into his uncle’s palatial estate and starts shooting everything in his line of sight. For some reason, Will and Kala feel compelled to help him out, leading him to set off a rapidly constructed chemical bomb and then filling his dad’s brother’s face full of bullets. Sure, it emphasized the point that he’s the wrong man for Kala, but couldn’t he have just farted in his sleep or something instead?
Okay, okay… there’s no drama in that. Nor is there a chance for Tom Tykwer (the director of the penultimate episode of season one) to get his John Woo-like kicks with slow motion gunfights and tightly choreographed fight scenes. Why the hell not, I guess? When the show is this far gone, why not take it even further?
As for the final episode of this season, at least, like Lifestyles Magazine, the fun comes with a purpose. The seven conscious members of the gang (Riley is still knocked out in the hospital awaiting her date with Whispers) work together like a strange superhero collective, each bringing their skills to the table for the noble cause of rescuing one of their own. The Sense8 gang are more like a cabal of bank robbers because they are quite a selfish lot. For them, it’s all about self-preservation. The writers tried to throw in a little palaver about Wolfgang and Nomi doing terrible things because it meant protecting the person they loved, but for the sensates, as Yrsa alluded to two episodes ago, it’s all narcissistic self-preservation.
The happy ending comes, of course, with a price. Dumb ol’ Will locked eyes with Whispers and now they are mentally connected. So, to protect himself and Riley, he has to keep himself unconscious. How the hell that is going to be reconciled in Season Two without him firing a bullet into his brain (as Angelica did to kick off this little adventure) is just the thing that might keep me coming back for more when the show returns next year.
Until recently, I might have done that anyway, without the need to see how the other shoe drops. For a good six to eight episodes, I was able to stomach some overacting and brow furrowing exposition and explanation because all the different storylines felt like they were going to connect in an interesting way soon enough. That big intersection never arrived, however. It’s like the Wachowskis and Straczynski just lost their nerve or got too enamored with the idea of trying to crib from the notes of Raiders of The Lost Ark, Duel, and Minority Report. The measuring stick for all of this craziness is Spielberg, but it is missing almost entirely the humanity that grew into his work over the past two decades. The Wachowskis and company are stuck on the whiz-bang thrills of his early years.
If the brother/sister creative team’s most recent work like the dizzying Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending are any indication, they are completely stuck in their ways. Which means if you liked what you got in Season One of Sense8, prepare yourself for a lot more of it by the time the next run of episodes lands on the Netflix home page. And, logically, if you were numb to its charms, you’ll skip past it and re-watch some old 30 Rock episodes.
Maybe, though, you’re like me and you see the kernel of a great story causing us lower back pain like we’re in The Princess & The Pea, you’ll begrudgingly keep watching. Those vague hopes of a much more streamlined story and a lot less simpering acting that are keeping me up at night have to be directed somewhere. Fool me twice… shame on me.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.