Sense8: “A Christmas Special” Review: A Joyful Return for the Sci-Fi Series

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Know what I realized while watching Sense8‘s bonkers Christmas special? I really miss Sense8. The two hour holiday episode is largely devoid of Christmas cheer (the first sight of decorations show up past the 90-minute mark), but it’s nonetheless as joyful as any other Sense8 entry.

Acting more as the season two premiere than an independent special, the series’ return is mostly about catching up with the characters. Taking place over the months following season one’s end, the special zips around to the characters’ shared birthday (August 8th), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and finally closes out on New Years. There are few real plot developments over these months. The government is still tracking down all those connected, making slight advancements throughout, but nothing all that substantial, which is totally fine. What this Christmas special does instead is have lots of fun with its insane premise.

The best sequences by far are the long-winded montages of the eight main characters experiencing something together, usually something beautiful and cheerful. The first is their shared birthdays, which turns into a globe trotting dance party that lets all the characters, from their prison cell or their honeymoon, come together and celebrate themselves in a manner appropriate for each and every one. Sense8, with its diverse cast, has always been about celebrating yourself, so this sequence, perfectly placed in the first hour of the special, is like an explosion of confetti simply for the show’s return and overall existence. Especially now, in the era of Donald Trump, Sense8‘s light and frothy message of human connection transcending race, gender, and orientation is all the more important and refreshing.

The second shared montage is, you guessed it, an orgy, which, god bless ’em, the Wachowskis just know how to shoot and direct to make it an insane convergence of sex, love, emotion, beauty, and camp. The third is most appropriate giving that this is a Christmas special, as all the characters come together with family, some overcoming personal trials (Lito faces his mother for the first time after being publicly outed), for the holiday.

It’s not all bygone cheer, however. The show’s main villain, known as Whispers, is closing in on Will’s father. Meanwhile, when a family war breaks out in Germany, Sun has to take over Wolfgang’s body for a great hand-to-hand combat sequence that closes out the special. Sense8 is still a sci-fi series somewhat reliant on action, which is part of its overall appeal.

For the most part, the Christmas special is an embodiment of everything we know Sense8 to be. The only major change is an actor switch for Capheus, with Toby Onwumere replacing Aml Ameen but not quite capturing his grin-inducing enthusiasm quite as well. But I reserve judgement until the character is given more to do later in season two. For now, Sense8 just gets to be itself, which is a very good thing. Full of spirit, holiday or otherwise, this special is perfect encapsulation of why we love this series and why I can’t wait for more. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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