Sense8: Amor Vincit Omnia

“For all the differences between us and all the forces that try to divide us, they will never exceed the power of love to unite us.”

“Amor Vincit Omnia” had the impossible task of bringing Sense8 to a satisfying conclusion after the show’s abrupt cancellation last year. Did it do its job? Yes. While it was overstuffed, with lots of world building and mythology crammed into two and a half hours, the finale did right by the characters, wrapped the story with triumph and love, and honored the fans.

BPO, allies and villains

BPO was the focus of the finale and a lot of effort was put into tying up the loose ends. When that effort paid off, “Amor Vincit Omnia” felt like an actual season finale that was bringing all of the season’s threads to a head. But sometimes it showed that this was a separate chapter of Sense8, especially when the movie threw in new elements out of the blue and expected us to care.

Jonas’ arc was the best part of all the stuff involving BPO. Season two did a good job portraying Jonas as a traitor, but, like Angelica before him, he was just waiting for the right moment to flip the script and deliver a decisive blow against BPO. He single-handedly destroyed BPO’s headquarters and killed the Chairman, which I believe were more important to the victory than Will blowing up Whispers and Lila. Not only did he redeem himself from his latest actions, Jonas was the great hero of this episode.

The Chairman, however, worked more as a plot device than as a character and I’m not sure his presence in the episode was necessary beyond giving Lila something worthy to exchange Whispers for. It’s always tricky to write well a villain who hides their identity. When the time to take off the mask comes, their identity could either be incredibly contrived or unimportant. When the Chairman reveals his face, the importance of the moment comes from what Angelica did to him, but he remains a shadowy figure whom we don’t know much of. I won’t drag the episode for this, though, because dedicating more time to develop the Chairman would’ve been a mistake. What I will say is that I wasn’t quite convinced that learning his identity was enough of leverage for Lila. How would she secure her cluster’s safety and protect their agenda by seeing the Chairman’s face?

Apart from that, the twist with Lila taking over as the main villain in the second half of the movie was indeed unexpected and well done. Valeria Bilello has tons of onscreen charisma, and I particularly enjoyed Lila’s meeting with Wolfgang and Will on the balcony / Napoli’s streets. Their banter was fun and the scene displayed the richness of scenery that Sense8 has always pulled off well – something I will very dearly miss. I also liked how Lila was annoyed by Wolfgang’s cluster as much as she respected them. She knew they were an actual threat to her agenda and didn’t take them for granted. In the end, Lila was more fun to watch as an antagonist than Whispers.

Having that said, the writers took a risk by keeping Whispers powerless throughout the entire finale. He was, after all, the Big Bad of the series. He had a couple of moments to shine when he taunted Will, and later Amanita and Daniela, but even then he didn’t land on top. This resulted in a very intriguing situation, as Whispers’ capture created more danger and chaos than a free-to-act Whispers ever did. As a response to his kidnapping, the Chairman ordered a massive hunt against the Archipelago, something that gave the movie a cool vibe of end of days. Several allies, both old and new, asked our heroes to take out Whispers while they had the chance, imbuing him with a grand evil status that he didn’t have before, at least not at this magnitude.


The Lacuna and its connection to Whispers were interesting ideas, but its presence in the finale falls into the category of the writers inserting new elements out of the blue. Okay, not totally out of the blue, since it tied with Bhodi, the sensate ninja of cool tattoo, but it felt like a piece of the story the writers had saved for another season and had to figure out a way to squeeze into the finale. I enjoyed meeting Whispers’ mother, though. Learning that he killed everyone from his cluster and how that clustercide shaped his true agenda added power to his villainy, but to what point exactly? Kidnapped and isolated, Whispers was treated as this tale’s Voldemort, only he never rose again for one final hurrah before his demise.

Heroes, sidekicks and sidekick’s sidekicks

Amid so many stories needing closure and considering that the finale was shot exclusively in Europe, some characters were bound to receive less screentime. Lito’s career was only mentioned in passing (Daniela was trying her best to keep him from getting fired) and Capheus learned that he was doing well in the election polls. Capheus was the one who suffered the most. Name one relevant moment with Capheus in the finale. There isn’t one. He didn’t have anyone from “his” world to interact with through most of the finale, and on top of that the writers decided to reduce his personality to super happy sidekick. He has always been cheery, but there is more to Capheus than that.

We don't have a lot of screentime, but let's party.
What surprised me, though, was how little Sun there was. Then I rewatched the finale and noticed that she had some relevant scenes, but they were all about her love life, which had never been the focus of her arc. The entire story with her brother and her condemnation was concluded with a couple of lines. Can I say disappointing? I understand that the finale wouldn’t have the time to fly Sun back to South Korea and give her arc a decent conclusion, but I don’t blame the finale at all. The problem goes back to “You Want a War?,” when the writers decided to needlessly drag Sun’s conflict with her brother into a third season. The juxtaposition of “You Want a War” and “Amor Vincit Omnia” will be so weird on rewatches (or for newbies): one features a major showdown between Sun and Joong-Ki that leads to nowhere; the following tosses the story away with a few lines. What a waste. Do I sound bitter? That’s because I am.


But this is it, let’s talk about what we actually got. Why did it feel like there wasn’t enough Sun in the episode? She was off, somehow, wasn’t she? She didn’t even play a pivotal part in the action scenes, and when we saw her fight, it was not awesome Sun being awesome, but cute Sun and Mun taking bad guys down together. On the positive side, though (I can’t be bitter forever), Sun deserved some happiness and I’m glad that she found someone who has her back, someone in whom she can trust. Sure, the writers took Sun and Mun’s relationship from B to L, something I’m usually cynic about, but my brain has been somewhat romantic lately, and during their video call I was arrested by their sudden openness towards their feelings for one another. There is something very powerful about someone as closed off as Sun, and who has been betrayed to the degree she has been, to allow herself to feel again, to be vulnerable. Her experience as a sensate has, of course, played a huge part in that regard, to allow people in. As she confesses to Capheus later, she didn’t survive prison alone, they all survived with her. Her biological family might have been a disappointment, but she found a great family within her cluster.

Will and Riley were at the center of the finale’s main plot, leading the charge against BPO. A lot of people joke that Riley doesn’t have any useful “power” or skill to help the cluster, but her connections were put to great use in season two, and it happens again in the finale. Will’s leadership comes to the forefront as he organizes Wolfgang’s rescue and later when he goes solo to take down Whispers and Lila before it’s too late. But with Riley’s and Will’s individual stories being pretty much wrapped up, they were never the emotional center of the episode. That honor went to Kala, Wolfgang and Nomi. As well as Rajan (!) and Amanita.

In the first half of the finale, Wolfgang had an arc that most resembled a typical episode of Sense8. I had no idea that his backstory could become even darker, but it did. Poor, poor mother of Wolfgang. What Anton did to her was atrocious, and the entire family pretending that nothing wrong was happening showcased, more than anything we learned before, what terrible people they were. No wonder Wolfgang hated them all. It was so heartbreaking when his mom said “I’m not worth it,” and he replied with “you are my mom” to ensure her that she meant the world to him. Did we ever learn what happened with her in the end? Her lack of self-worth echoed in Wolfgang all those years later, but Kala was there, as always, to keep him from self-destructing, from giving up. The entire cluster and their sidekicks might have rescued Wolfgang from BPO/Lila, but it was Kala who rescued him from his inner monsters.


And so, Kala and Wolfgang were reunited and finally free to consummate their love. Right? Well, not so fast, because Rajan was still around. I was really surprised by how much time the finale dedicated to Rajan. I kept expecting, throughout the entire series, for Kala to break up with him, but now it’s clear the writers had a different agenda all along. I watched the finale with two friends and they loved that Kala kept both Rajan and Wolfgang in her life, but I was initially more conflicted. If Sun and Mun went from B to L, Rajan went from A to Z. He is the best husband ever, sure, but he assimilated and accepted everything too quickly. Upon rewatching the finale, I liked the conclusion to the love triangle much better. I still would have appreciated one scene of Kala trying to work things with Rajan, but as a whole I liked the idea of polyamory that the show conveyed. I mean, this is Sense8, the show where two gay men accept a woman into their relationship, the show where all protagonists engage in pansexual orgies. Of course the resolution to the love triangle would be to turn it into a triple. Two men who accept that they love and share the same woman, who are not macho about it. One woman realizing she can’t chose because the two men represent different things for her: Wolfgang, passionate love; Rajan, commitment love. I wish the show had had the proper time to develop that and explore polyamory, but as it is, it’s a nice bookend to Kala's journey.

With so much love and positivity bringing the stories to an end, the emotional climax was left for Nomi and Amanita. Amanita has always been the ninth member of the main cast and during season two she asked herself just how much sensate craziness she could take in her life. She decided she could take all of it, but it still costs her a lot, and she shares the load with Nomi in the rooftop scene. Their moment alone is intimate and heartfelt, working as a perfect setup for the big wedding to come in the end.


What about the wedding itself? To paraphrase Nomi’s mother, leave it to Sense8 to turn a simple civil service into a spectacle. It was a blast to see pretty much the entire cast partying together. But forget that it was a huge party in the Eiffel Tower, with fireworks even. The beauty of that wedding was entirely in Amanita’s and Nomi’s vows. They were incredibly powerful, I’m tearing up just as I think of them.

A friend of mine uses to say that life is too short for us not to show someone we have feelings for them. I immediately thought of her words during Amanita’s vows. Feelings are often considered a weakness, we are supposed to control or deny them (and you should control them, if you are Donald Trump on Twitter). But feelings should be celebrated, and like Amanita puts it, they should be trusted. Sense8 always wrote its stories focusing on how the characters felt and how these feelings guided their path. And Sense8 was brought back to life for one final hurrah because of how much the fans loved the show. It’s no surprise, then, that the writers would use Amanita’s vows as an ode to feelings.


Nomi’s vows are more intimate, and she focuses on the temporary nature of life. Things change beyond our control, but Nomi ensures that she will be there with Amanita through every change. By saying that, she implicates that her love for Amanita is the one thing that won’t change. That’s her truth, that’s her vow. Is there anything more beautiful in this series than the love Amanita and Nomi have for one another? Unfortunately, we won’t be with them as they go through changes, through new challenges and victories. But at least the show had one final opportunity to wrap up the story and bow out on its own terms.

After celebrating feelings, tolerance and love, the finale proceeded to wrap up the story by honoring sex. The sex montage was gorgeously shot and put together. The color pallet and the music added to the beauty of the scene. I really liked how, this time, the focus was mostly on the couples and triples.

Loved this shot.
The scene was split in three phases, with Rajan (!) being the element dividing each phase. First, the initial stages of intimacy, as the characters undress and begin to love each other. Rajan and Kala are still fully dressed, though, but they let loose when Rajan accepts Wolfgang’s invitation to go to bed, thus beginning phase two: sexual intercourse. Everything is shot to convey the transcendent nature of sex, the ecstasy of the experience. This time, Rajan and Kala can do it, this time Daniela is more than a voyeur, Lito and Hernando have welcomed her as an active participant. The final phase comes when Rajan and Wolfgang kiss, symbolizing the rupture of the bounds of sexuality, which culminates in the pansexual orgy. At this point, we can’t distinguish anyone, it’s a sea of bodies, of skins, of pleasure.

This looks like a painting.
The very final seconds add flashbacks to celebrate each couple/triple, as the big sensate sex continues. Lito and Hernando, then Daniela. Will and Riley. Kala and Rajan, Kala and Wolfgang. Capheus and Zakia. Sun and Mun. And they save the best for last, because when they flashback to previous scenes of Nomi and Amanita, there is also new footage of the very first time they met. The buildup to that flashback was flawless, and the actresses played it so perfectly, especially Freema Agyeman. I just believed that Amanita fell in love with Nomi right there and then, I mean, that smile and look in Amanita’s face… That was my favorite shot in the entire finale. What a terrific way to close the story, by honoring sex and showing just how powerful it is when it’s filled with love and meaning.


Love conquers all. And Sense8 conquered us one last time.

Bits and Pieces

- There had to be a song montage, and it was a really cool one, wasn’t it? But what were Felix and Bug doing inside the train with the sensates? They are not sensates and Felix hadn’t even appeared in the episode yet. That took me out of the scene a little bit. Maybe the actors asked Lana Wachowski to be part of the scene? Anyway, I loved Sun’s movements, just so soft and free.

- I also spotted Bug in the orgy. Were TPTB trying to tell us that Bug was secretly a sensate all along?

- Lots of gun violence in this finale. I’m not a fan of it, and it bugs me when the enemies drop like flies while none of the good guys bites the dust. But, more importantly, the amount of violence displayed on Sense8 was always in direct contradiction with its message of love and unity.

- I must also add that the “Trojan Horse” tactic was too contrived. Lila’s cluster was literally expecting Wolfgang’s cluster to show up and they still let a bunch of “lost tourists” enter the Forcella? Yeah, right. It was silly, and not the good kind of silly. Except for this shot:


- I was certain before watching the finale that everyone was going to make it, but they really fooled me for a minute there after Kala got shot. The moment the sensates kneeled around her and Wolfgang was beautiful.


- The introduction of Ruth El-Saadawi’s daughter, River, tied nicely with what we had learned of Ruth’s work and her relationship with BPO. I wish the episode had devoted more time to discuss the sensates’ choice not to kill Whispers only to spare Wolfgang.

- The Mother said “we are in the world, but not of the world,” and also mentioned that she was part of a trinity of mothers. How very Christian of Sense8. Then again, not really.

- I loved the sensates joining Sun for a section of Korean Yoga Dawn Routine.


- Daniela really rocked that speech to Whispers. It was her best moment in the entire series. Go, Dani.

- Alfonso Herrera was missing from several scenes and they used a body double as his replacement.

- Kala stopped Wolfgang from killing himself by attempting to jump from the balcony. Clever.

- Mr. Hoy was, as usual, a hoot, and I loved that his friend stopped him from killing himself, mirroring what Kala did for Wolfgang.

- I loved the characters meeting each other and interacting for the first time, that was one of the highlights of the finale. Season two should have given us more of that. Bug’s reaction to meeting Sun and Lito in person was the best. Jela meeting the “spirit of Jean Claude” was pretty cool too.

- Nothing tops Amanita’s reaction after seeing Nomi possessed by the spirit of Jean Claude, though.

 

- Janet getting high and accepting Nomi as a woman was just the perfect quick happy ending the writers could have come up with.

- Sun’s dog returned for a cameo and to bless her relationship with Mun. But that was totally another dog, wasn’t it?

- I wonder if, when a sensate dies, their cluster can still access their knowledge and abilities.

- Anton saying Wolfgang's mother was also his sister was so over the top melodramatic. I was relieved when it became clear she wasn’t his blood sister. Anton was still totally despicable, though.

- There were a couple of lines referencing the events unfolding as “real” (as opposed to events in movies). They were all cringey.

Quotes

Wolfgang: “I’m not worth it.”
Kala: “You are. I know what love is because of you.”

Jonas: “Pain binds us better to one another than anything else.”

Jonas: “Life doesn’t always allow us to be the best versions of ourselves.”

Nomi: “Impossibility is still just a kiss away from reality.”

Capheus [to Zakia]: “Even pixelated, you are beautiful.”

Nomi: “I’ve been staring at this screen so long even my glasses are sore.”
I’m so stealing this line for everyday use.

Rajan: “Kala, who are these people? Have you joined some insane cult?”

Georges: “Vive la résistance. Or like you say in English, fuck off.”

Daniela: “My tía used to say that even assholes are useful for shitting and fucking.”

Whispers [re: Daniela]: “Who’s the sidekick’s sidekick?”

Daniela [to Whispers]: “I know your kind. Men that mistake cruelty for strength. Living your petty little lives, so limited. We both know that if I were to pull this trigger, not a single person would shed a tear. The smallness of your kind of life is nothing to fear, only to pity.”

Bug: “I can’t believe I’m actually in one of those planning scenes.”

Bug: “Since you can, in fact, be in more than two places at the same time, defying several laws of physics, I would suggest that there are no rules.”

Will: “Even after everything we’ve been through, would any of us go back to the world we’re used to?”

Bodhi: “Neutrality in the face of such evil is complicity.”

Felix: “I was in a hospital too. Terrible food, man. What happened to you?”
Rajan: “It’s probably the funniest honeymoon story you’ve ever heard.”

Amanita’s dad I: “And the book that Nomi was looking for was right there in Amanita’s hand.”
Amanita’s dad III: “Which is just about the best description of love we’ve ever heard.”
Me: “Amen.”

Amanita: “My love, we live in a world that distrusts feelings. Over and over, we are reminded that feelings are not as important as reason. That feelings are childish, irresponsible, dangerous. We are taught to ignore them, control, or deny them. We barely understand what they are, where they come from, or how they seem to understand us better than we understand ourselves. But I know that feelings matter. Sometimes, they’re little, like when I smell cinnamon toast and I miss my grandma. And sometimes, they are huge, like when I found out my girlfriend shares her thoughts with seven other people around the world. However, if you’re lucky, I mean, really lucky, a feeling comes along that will change everything. I remember such a feeling and how it walloped me years ago when this girl walked into my bookstore. It is the same feeling that I have right now. The feeling that this is her, my love, my wife. This is my future. And I trust this feeling more than I have trusted anything in my life.”

Nomi: “I’m afraid of things pretending to be permanent because nothing is permanent.”

Nomi: “Inside your arms is the only place I’ve ever felt like I was home.”


I’m not going to give this finale a rating. Among other things, it’s hard to be objective with this show. Instead, I want to use my final words to celebrate the series, just like it celebrated love and connection. When Sense8 was great, it wasn’t just TV, it was a healing experience. I’m so thankful for its relentless portrayal of love, diversity and empathy, and I will always treasure that museum scene with Nomi and Lito as one of the most precious scenes I have ever watched on television. So here is to Sense8. It didn’t last long, but may its legacy last forever.
--
Lamounier

4 comments:

magritte said...

@Lamounier, thanks for this. I agree that there isn't a fair way to rate this finale. Most of its flaws are an artifact of having to compress what should have played out over a season (or more?) into two and a half hours. They wanted to show us how all the relationships in the show were supposed to end, and I'll forgive the fact that we didn't get to see how they got there. Though I do feel like they shouldn't have tried to bring the Lacuna in.

In the sudden relationship jumps, I'd have to add that the presence of Nomi's Mom at the wedding seemed wildly unlikely as well...though it enabled a cute ending.

Even though you're right that it was ridiculous, I enjoyed the trojan horse. I thought it was very funny. It's too bad they couldn't have put Lila in a place where it would be more plausible to have it work.

Another part that was probably a casualty of the rush was that we never really learned enough about Lila's goals for her to work as the final big bad for me. And we never got to meet the rest of her cluster...it would have been fun to see the internal dynamics of a rival cluster.

Billie Doux said...

I loved it. Even though it wasn't perfect. There was way too much BPO crap. A lot of the explanations they stuffed in for everything felt exactly like several seasons of plot jammed into two and a half hours. I don't think anyone really cared about BPO, although Wolfgang stumbling on to that room full of zombies in hospital beds was a shock.

But they did give me exactly what I wanted, and a lot of it -- all of our sense8 cluster and all of their significant others interacting in a most delightful way: sharing living quarters and meals, and carrying out missions. And Kala and Wolfgang, finally! I wasn't sure I was completely on board with the two of them deciding to form a menage with Rajan, but it was totally in keeping with the inclusiveness of the show and it made me smile.

In fact, that was the point. Nearly all of this finale made me smile and laugh. The wedding on the Eiffel Tower was completely, unbelievably ridiculous, but I loved every single minute of it, including the improbable return of practically every character in the series. I loved the vows, the dancing, Nomi's mother stoned on brownies, the whole nine. It was like the hugest, best possible wrap party of all time. It was clear that they decided to end the series this way to make the fans happy, and they succeeded. They made me happy. And they made me want to rewatch the series someday.

Thank you so much for each and everyone one of your lovely reviews of Sense8, Lamounier. :)

Laure Mack said...

"it would have been fun to see the internal dynamics of a rival cluster."

Yes, this would have been really interesting. I'm still a little bummed that sense8 was cancelled at all but I really truly appreciate the way they've gone out and the conclusion we got. I agree with you all... some bizarre missteps but a great finale with the time they had to work with.

Lisianpeia said...

"When Sense8 was great, it wasn’t just TV, it was a healing experience." that is the best description of the show!!

Great review, Lamounier! Thank you for all the insights.

I agree with you and everyone, it's amazing what they did with the little time they had (even though I still wish they had moved moore of the plot in season 2). I was completely forgiving of any contrivance (like jumping Sun and Mun's relationship from B to L - great description, btw) and in awe of how the show celebrates connection, especially the last scene which was a marvelous way of honoring sex, as you put it.

I also loved everyone meeting everyone! It was one of the things I wish we could have had more time and smaller moments such as Amanita and Riley talking for the first time in season 2. Even if things were rushed, they still worked for me, which I think it speaks of the quality of everyone's acting. The incredible thing about this, for me at least, is that Whispers is all homo sensorium X homo sapiens, and the cluster defies this by embracing everyone's significant other in numerous ways. Which is way even if Felix hadn't shown up, I loved seeing him the song montage (full disclosure: I'm a sucker for song montages XD) or how Riley made sure everyone could be included by giving away headphones.

PS: They also fooled me with Kala, but I loved how that scene playd out “Well, is anyone going to do anything? Or are you going to just let me die in your arms?”