The best way to enjoy “Sense8” as a series is to not question it too much. It’s a show that has a lot of complicated elements, with Season 2 continuing to expand the mythology that creators J. Michael Straczynski and the Wachowskis built from scratch in Season 1, but if you find yourself asking too many questions about the rules that govern this world, you’ll find yourself lost in the weeds.
This isn’t to say that the show doesn’t have an intriguing plotline, which only gets denser and richer in Season 2. But you’ll be missing the best aspects of a show that leads with its heart, first and foremost. In telling this story about eight once-upon-a-time strangers who find themselves bonded together by a psychic link, the creators have chosen to celebrate the sense of connection that underlies this premise.
If you watched Season 1, you know what we’re talking about. Over the course of those initial episodes, we saw Capheus (Toby Onwumere), Kala (Tina Desai), Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Riley (Tuppence Middleton), Sun (Doona Bae), Will (Brian J. Smith) and Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) move from bewilderment to sympatico with their newfound brethren. This led to unlikely alliances, heartfelt conversations, some kick-ass action sequences utilizing each character’s unique skillset, and yes, the occasional orgy.
The best bits of Season 1 were, by and large, those moments of communion — but they were few and far between in early episodes, because of the understandable learning curve presented to these characters. However, the season finale brought with it the sensates realizing their full potential as a group, and thus in Season 2, it’s rare-to-nonexistent that one of them has to face a pivotal moment, be it one of joy, one of sadness, or one of violence, alone. In fact, more often than not the entire group is united together. All for one, and one for all.
In Season 2, the mythology only gets denser — while we already knew there were other senseate clusters in the world, by the end of the season we get to know a lot more about that. And not only is Mr. Whispers (Terrence Mann) still a threat, but a number of new forces have arisen as the show’s mythology grows deeper.
The process of making “Sense8” is not an easy one, as the entire production spends months traveling from location to location as a unit that bears comparisons to a traveling circus — and Season 2’s travel schedule expanded beyond the nine cities used last year, adding pit stops in Los Angeles and Brazil others. However, our reward is a look at the world unlike anything else on television.
Lana Wachowski directed most episodes herself (Lilly Wachowski took a leave of absence this season), while also collaborating with Straczynski on the writing. Visually, it remains one of the most beautiful and dynamic series on Netflix’s roster, with a love of color and chaos and landscapes that also doesn’t skimp on the blood and explosions when required. When “Sense8” shifts gear into violence, it’s a reminder that “The Matrix” is still one of the greatest all-time action movies ever made. The people involved here know what they’re doing.
The show is always strongest when focused on the sensates working together, and as mentioned in our review of the “Christmas special” (which in truth is really just the first episode of Season 2, to the point where you’re going to want to rewatch it before launching into the new episodes premiering in May), some of the individual storylines feel less dynamic than others. In fairness, though, the balance by the end of the season is a lot better than expected, and certainly a few key plotlines remain unresolved enough for Season 3 to make sense.
We’ve tried to keep this review vague, though it’s a hard show to discuss without bringing in spoilers, because so much of its charm lies in specific moments and interactions. But here is the thing we can say for certain — “Sense8” is a show that’s earned a passionate fanbase, one that’s deeply connected with all eight characters and their journey. And it’s not hard to see why, when you consider just how much the show itself loves these characters.
“Sense8” is built on the message that the people we love can make us braver and smarter and better. And even if we’re not psychically connected across continents, the human race is better together than apart. That shouldn’t feel like such a rebellious message, yet somehow right now, a story about people working together so intimately to defy authority has a unique power… almost as unique as the show that captures it.
“Sense8” may have had a slow start in Season 1, but Season 2 is a hell of a ride. Hold on tight.