‘Sense8’ Series Finale Review: A Gloriously Wild End to One of TV’s Wackiest and Queerest Shows
This post contains minor SPOILERS for the Sense8 series finale, “Amor Vincit Omnia.”
This time last year, Netflix made an unfortunate decision: Canceling the Wachowski sisters’ Sense8 after just two seasons. It’s not hard to see why – the second season of the country-hopping sci-fi series reportedly cost the streaming service a hefty $9 million per episode, and the wacky nature of the concept, about a species of eight humans who are psychically connected, never expanded beyond a niche fan base. Besides the loss of show with a great original premise and one of the most diverse casts on TV, it was an especially harsh blow considering Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger. Thankfully, after fan protests and petitions, and even a porn site offering to rescue the series (I mean, this show is known for its orgies), Netflix gave the green light to one final, feature-length episode.
The series finale, “Amor Vincit Omnia,” is directed by Lana Wachowski – Lilly Wachowski stepped away from the series after the first season – and clocks in at a whopping two-and-a-half hours. Giving Wachowski and her co-writers, Cloud Atlas novelist David Mitchell and Alexander Hemon, that much room to play in is both a gift and a curse. The episode is overstuffed with ideas, and it races through more confounding storylines and characters than you can keep up with. But it’s also an absolutely joyous event, bursting with loads of thrilling fight scenes (watching Wachowski-directed shootouts are always a treat), glorious sensate sing-a-longs, emotional twists, sentimental celebrations, and, of course, one final massive orgy. The finale ends with the title card “For our fans,” and it definitely is. This messy, ambitious send-off is everything fans will want from one final outing with the beloved August 8 cluster.
The episode picks up right where Season 2’s finale “You Want A War?” left off. BPO is still on the cluster’s tail, Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) is still being tortured by the evil organization, and the cluster is still holding Whispers (Terrence Mann) captive. They need to find a way to rescue Wolfgang, put a stop to Whispers’ zombie assassins scheme, learn the truth about Angelica’s (Daryl Hannah) work at BPO, figure out Jonas’ (Naveen Andrews) secrets, and much, much more. It’s a lot to follow, even for fans – I had to hit pause and check the show’s Wiki page a few times to make sure I understood what the heck everyone was talking about. Watching it feels a lot like being inside the cluster’s hive mind, with eight people throwing a ton of information at you at once. If you binged the second season in one go last year and you’re a little rusty, I strongly recommend a rewatch before you dive into the finale.
As much as the episode is a wrap-up of the series, it introduces some new concepts and characters as well. It’s clear Wachowski and co-creator J. Michael Straczynski had plenty of ideas stored up to expand the Sense8 mythology, and the finale gives some hints to where they may have headed next. (Originally, the creators had a five-year plan for the show.) There’s an older sensate character introduced as The Mother and a realm called the Lacuna that would’ve provided some interesting opportunities for the series to grow into. It’s a real shame we’ll never get to see how much bigger the sensate world goes – unless that porn site’s offer is still on the table? – but I’m grateful we at least get a taste of it here.
The biggest change in the finale is that the cluster is no longer spread out geographically. In the episode, everyone is finally interacting in person in the same physical space, beginning with them hiding out in Rajan’s (Purab Kohli) Paris apartment. While the best part of Sense8 is watching the characters mind and body hop into one another from different parts of the world, the finale still finds clever ways to showcase their sharing and visiting abilities. Nomi (Jamie Clayton) gets to to embody Sun’s (Doona Bae) martial arts skills – “Hot damn, I’ve been waiting to see that!” Amanita (Freema Agyeman) giddily says, speaking for us all – Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) knocks out some henchmen with the help of Will (Brian J. Smith), and Kala (Tina Desai) turns into a badass with a handgun when Wolfgang takes over to show her how to shoot.
While “Amor Vincit Omnia” taps into the heavier and more violent elements of the series, with a heartbreaking backstory for Wolfgang and the cluster’s race to save their species from Whispers, it’s also full of celebratory moments. There’s a big queer wedding, set inside the Eiffel Tower, and what a joy it is to watch a lesbian of color and a trans woman get married as drag queens in fairy outfits feed the guests pot brownies. There’s also multiple scenes where the cluster just sit around a table and laugh and talk as they enjoy good food. You definitely get the sense that the actors are having a blast being together one last time, especially in a delightful sing-a-long sequence to Depeche Mode’s “I Feel You.” It’s not as great as Season 1’s 4 Non Blonde’s sequence, but it’s still a total blast that’ll leave you with a big smile on your face.
And then there’s that orgy I was telling you about. How do you top the magical sensate telepathic sex scenes of Season 1 and the Christmas special that found our cluster banging in hot tubs and on mountain tops? Make it a 14-person orgy that’s queer as hell, of course. It starts off as a series of slow, romantic love scenes between the various couples, then crescendos into a glorious sweaty orgasm fest. I cried! I laughed! I was hot and bothered by how damn sexy the whole thing was! And, as the final cherry on top, it ends with a shot that emphasizes just how brazenly queer and sex-positive the show is: a close-up of a wet rainbow strap-on dildo lying on a bed.
It’s no wonder Sense8 didn’t become a massive hit for Netflix; this show never aimed to please the masses, but to give a voice to outcasts. It’s a show for anyone who knows what it feels like to be marginalized, and to move through a world that ostracizes you for your differences. In two seasons of action-packed sci-fi nuttiness, Sense8 also told emotional narratives about the fears of a Mexican actor coming out as gay, a trans woman rejected by her parents, a South Korean woman betrayed by the men in her family, a German man born into a life of abuse, a Kenyan man fighting to better his city, a Hindu woman struggling to uphold religious traditions, and so much more. The show’s sci-fi concept gave the creators a chance to celebrate identities and stories rarely seen on TV, imagining an alternate world where all those weirdos didn’t have to be so alone.
The finale closes with a message about love and unity – the episode title is an Italian phrase meaning “Love conquers all.” And while that platitude may sound cheesy, placed in a touching monologue at the end of the series it perfectly encapsulates what makes Sense8 so special. This radically diverse and unabashedly queer show was all about the power of being seen in your difference, and the importance of finding community. Wachowski, Straczynski, and their sensates couldn’t have said goodbye to their fans on a better note.