After two full seasons and now a feature-length series finale, one fact about “Sense8” remains unchallenged: The Netflix drama has always felt like a bit of a miracle, as far as shows about psychically connected strangers being hunted by an evil corporation are concerned.
As easy as it might be to boil the premise down to its most essential points, this is a show has always contained multitudes of weirdness, as the eight central characters of the series pursue their own life goals while also contending with the life-threatening stakes on the rise. Because the writers have made use of Netflix’s flexible runtimes to craft extended sequences that simply focus on character over narrative, “Sense8” has emerged as the sort of show which could probably exist nowhere else but Netflix, genre-bending in the best way possible.
When the series’ initial cancellation order came down, it was shocking because of the incomplete way in which Season 2 ended; if the series had been left this way, future Netflix users might have discovered the series, enjoyed it, and then been frustrated by the final conclusion. That’s why it was a relief when the decision to commission a feature-length finale was granted, though it did inspire one concern — was one installment enough to wrap up an entire series?
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The answer is yes. The finale (and seriously, as much as hardcore fans might like to claim that there’s a chance of future specials down the line, let’s consider this to be the real true end of the series) right away digs in hard to the cliffhanger ending of Season 2, and there is no shortage of action in the quest to save Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) from the clutches of BPO.
Clocking in at two and a half hours (basically the equivalent of three episodes), the finale delivers plenty of twists as the core eight — played by Toby Onwumere, Tina Desai, Miguel Angel Silvestre, Jamie Clayton, Tuppence Middleton, Doona Bae, Brian J. Smith and Riemelt — aim to recover their missing compatriot with the help of their friends and lovers. There are definitely moments of the finale that feel stretched a bit more than necessary, but the action sequences remain as tight and clean as ever (almost 20 years after “The Matrix,” Lana Wachowski, who directed the special, still knows her way around a fight scene).
“Sense8” is a show that’s never felt committed to conventional staging, something that has become more and more prominent each episode, as the senseates weave in and out of each scene in ways that defy continuity. It’s also not a show that feels the need to make it clear who is exactly where at any moment — because, after all, what does it really matter?
The cast’s chemistry remains as solid as ever, though let’s include a quick shoutout to Sylvester McCoy as ally Mr. Hoy, who comes to the assistance of Riley (AKA “Ms. Blue”). The 7th Doctor of “Doctor Who” is a delight to see in action here, as well as limited appearances from Naveen Andrews and Daryl Hannah, occupying their own uncertain places in the “Sense8” universe.
In general, it’s lovely to see the extended cast come together for the episode. The basic concept of being a senseate cluster would make you think that the initial eight would shut out people who aren’t in their cluster, but that perception goes entirely against what “Sense8” is actually about — community and connection. Admittedly, sometimes this show takes that idea to a sexual place (oh, how we will miss those legendary psychic orgies) but the ultimate ethos is that we’re stronger together than apart, and by not excluding but including all of the people in the sensates’ lives, the message comes together.
One thing that’s truly lovely about the way in which the finale works is that it doesn’t try to pull any fast ones on its audience; it’s saturated with love and respect for its fanbase. The term “fan service” gets thrown around a lot in criticism, usually as a bad thing: Pandering to those who love a franchise, at the expense of the storytelling.
But in a situation like this, when the show knows it is literally getting one last chance to tell this story, leaning toward the concept of fan service is honestly the best move. And thus the series finale is literally a service to the fans, and it delivers.
“Sense8” already had a happy ending, thanks to the announcement that there would be a series finale. But what’s been delivered will not disappoint.
The “Sense8” series finale premieres Friday, June 8 on Netflix.