Sense8 recap: 'A Christmas Special'
The sensates reunite to celebrate their birthdays
Can you believe it’s been more than a year since Sense8 last graced our collective screens?
Well, it would seem like the show can’t, either — it pulls a page from the Gilmore playbook and, in course of a two-hour Christmas special, tries its hardest to tell us “What’s Up” with our beloved sensates since we last saw them.
Of course, this being Sense8, it’s at once a whole lot of information and nothing at all. In other words, it’s perfectly Sense8-ional. So, let’s begin.
Lito and Hernando
Father Tomas Hernando is busy teaching his art history class when he discovers Joaquin (Dani’s ex) has kept his word: Images of him and Lito having sex are all over the Internet and easily available for his students to find. One pupil in particular, who somehow has access to the class projector from his phone, pulls up a photo and snarks, “Is this art, Mr. Fuentes?” before calling it porn.
Ever the consummate professional, Hernando turns this into a teaching moment. He points out viewers will always see what they want to see — if you consider this porn, you’re looking for this to be porn…which, in turn, says a lot about you. He ends the lecture declaring, “Art is love made public.” (And I drop the mic he’s not holding for him.)
Lito meets him after class and the two steel themselves to go back out into the world, an outed couple.
As it happens, all they feared has come true. When they arrive home, they can’t stand to get out of the car because of the paparazzi. Lito’s ensuing emotions are strong enough to cause the other “sensates” to pay him a visit (and to hear Nomi and Amanita call him a “drama queen”). It’s a sad moment as each sensate shares his emotion, with Nomi feeling guilty for potentially pushing him into this and Kala sharing in his anger that Lito’s not allowed to simply love who he wants to love.
Eventually, Dani — who has been hiding in the backseat this entire time — suggests he and Hernando come to her place. When Lito consults his agent, manager, and lawyer, they all say he should lie and go back into the closet. But Lito declares he’s tired of hiding who he is. To which his lawyer points out, “The audience is not legally entitled to the truth.” LOL.
When Lito and Hernando return to their place later, they find their passcode doesn’t work and the security guard won’t let them in. Lito tries to break down the front door, but when he fails, Wolfgang shows up and hotwires the keypad. Upon entering the apartment they find it cleared of everything, save for a letter stating the pair has been evicted for being “immoral.”
For Christmas, they decide to go visit Lito’s mom, whom he still hasn’t talked to about recent events. He, Hernando, and Dani enter with trepidation. And while she launches into a monologue about how her “friends” aren’t there for her (showing where Lito got some of his acting chops), she quickly reveals she not only doesn’t care, but she’s known all along.
With that out of the way, they eat and get to know each other. Lito’s mother invites Hernando for New Year’s Eve, but Lito reveals that’s when Hernando’s parents were killed in an accident. This is followed by Dani’s tearful admission that this her best Christmas ever, and she didn’t even spend it with family. To this, Lito’s mother tells her she’s always welcome at her house.On New Year’s Eve, Lito and Hernando make their way to the cemetery to sweep Hernando’s parents’ graves and leave flowers, with Hernando declaring that being with Lito makes him feel as loved as when they were alive. Aww…
On New Year’s Eve, Lito and Hernando make their way to the cemetery to sweep Hernando’s parents’ graves and leave flowers, with Hernando declaring that being with Lito makes him feel as loved as when they were alive. Aww…
Nomi and Amanita
Nomi is in hiding and putting her tech skills to good use as she dodges an Agent Bendix, who is not only harassing Amanita at her bookstore job but also monitoring the couple’s texts to each other — he doesn’t believe they’re not in contact. However, it would seem his surveillance skills are not up to par. Nomi actually has cameras placed inside the store (giving her a perfect view of her girlfriend), along with a receiver inside Amanita’s ear so they’re in constant communication. It should feel a bit much, but it’s actually quite sweet given the circumstances.
In their spare time, they both read up on people who’ve displayed psychic abilities throughout history, pausing for a bit to discuss how hot Lito and Hernando are. A worried Nomi pays the other couple a brief visit to see how they’re doing and finds them safe and happy with Dani, doing each other’s nails and watching Legally Blonde.
However, she and Amanita aren’t safe for too long, as Bendix figures out they’re hiding at a women’s shelter and pays them a visit. Luckily, their friend sends them a signal allowing them to hide behind a chest of drawers. He searches the room and even threatens to pull the shelter’s funding, but their friend isn’t cowed and lies easily about their whereabouts. (Side note: If Bendix really wanted to find Nomi and suspected Amanita was meeting with her, wouldn’t he simply follow her for a day? It’s not like they’re being too careful.)
Nonetheless, Nomi and Amanita take it as a sign they should hide somewhere else; they don’t want the other women to lose their home. As a last-ditch effort, they go visit Nomi’s friend, Bug. While there, Nomi updates a visiting Sun about what her brother’s been saying in the news.
A little while later, Nomi and Amanita decide to keep their Christmas traditions, but with Bug this time. After attending a choir performance at which all the other sensates show up, the happy couple visits Amanita’s three dads, who invite them to stay.
He and Jela are tending to the “Van Damme,” with Jela saying they should have it repainted because “Jean-Claude” doesn’t look the same. Capheus says, “Faces change. But not the heart.” (Note: Toby Onwumere may be playing the role now, but Capheus is still the same.) Apparently, though, the show isn’t going to let this lie, as Jela really hits the nail on the head when she says Capheus himself looks different.
In any case, he finally brings up Capheus’ defeat of Superpower and his friend (with a little emotional support from a visiting support) tells him about being a sensate, or at least being visited by “spirits.” Jela may not get it, but he goes along with it. Unfortunately, the bus is less than cooperative as it goes up in flames. (More like just “damn,” now.)
For Capheus’ birthday, everyone he knows joins him for a giant celebration where his mother gives him a new sports coat and Mr. Silas presents him with a brand-new van, aptly titled “Van Damn.” Capheus says it’s too much, but Mr. Silas insists it’s the least he can do.
Capheus and his mother later have lunch with Silas and his daughter, with the rich man declaring he wants to build a medical center to offer free health care. Capheus points out it would be a way to smuggle drugs, but his mother hushes him. Silas then asks if a man can change.
Capheus and Jela continue their trips, only now they’ve gained a bit of a following, with people looking for the courage to do things in their own lives joining them on the bus for some motivation. Later, Capheus celebrates Christmas with his mother as they watch It’s A Wonderful Life.
NEXT: The threat
Everyone’s favorite fighter is in solitary confinement and continuously earning herself more time in there. Of course, being a sensate, at no point is she truly alone — as one of the others either pays her a visit or vice versa. This allows us to see different sides to the characters as they show off their commonalities and differences. The stoic Wolfgang offers to help her get air, while Capheus expresses his gratitude and makes her smile in return.
She eventually gets herself a new lawyer, Mr. Lee, who is convinced the law has failed and wants to do everything he can to help her. Only the court refuses to retry her without her father’s word to authenticate the documents, and because he’s been murdered, it seems like Sun will be in there for a while. So, poor Sun tells her lawyer to put the Lee in “leave” and go — but not before threatening her brother.
When her birthday arrives, one of her friends in prison bribes a guard to see her because she doesn’t want Sun to be alone on her big day. In a really sweet moment, she presents the former businesswoman and current badass with a drawing of her and her dog, which Sun puts up on the wall.
She later gets visited by a “lawyer” again, only it’s a bunch of guys in suits. Luckily, everyone is present to give her backup, though it doesn’t take a great detective (no offense, Will) to know these guys are clearly lying. Sun doesn’t fight them right away and instead draws upon the others’ skills — some (Lito’s ability to bluff) more useful than others (Riley calling for help). When that doesn’t work, she administers a Sun-patented beatdown and throws in some of Wolfgang’s down-and-dirty street-fighter tactics for good measure. It’s enough to make Capheus say, “Van Damn!” Unfortunately, that doesn’t answer the question of who sent these goons.
Another prison buddy eventually visits Sun, handing her a new uniform and telling her to stop making more trouble or else she’ll never get out. It seems she takes this advice to heart, as we see Sun returning to her old cell and embracing her prison family.
Will and Riley
Riley is taking care of Will, but the former cop is having a very hard time. He’s not only developed a heroin addiction to cope with Whispers visiting him in his mind, but he’s also begun seeing Angelica, their sensate mother, in his dreams. She tells him she, too, developed a drug problem to avoid Whispers before eventually killing herself to escape.
Later, Will realizes he can visit Whispers back and sees him with his daughter. That’s where he runs into Jonas — who’s also visiting — and learns Whispers, himself a sensate, takes pills that act as blockers to keep his mind safe. His cluster is since dead, Jonas explains, but Whispers still talks to them in his sleep. He and Will then discuss BPO, the company hunting sensates (“They’re afraid of us”), and Jonas warns Will there are other hunters out there.
Will tells Jonas he’s been seeing Angelica and some kind of cabin, which the older sensate explains is one of her real memories — sensate births transfer “sense experience and memory.” Therefore, a bit of her “consciousness” exists in all of them. However, he also notes they weren’t her first cluster.
Some time later, when it’s their birthday, Riley brings Will to a cabin her friend owns — the same one supplying them with drugs — and they take a bath together.
Unfortunately, Whispers eventually finds and visits Will. When Will tries to hide where he is, the older man says he doesn’t care where Will is, but rather how he is. Will then taps into his own cop skills and deduces Whispers has a wife (wedding-band tan line) and was put on leave following the events in Iceland. That’s when Whispers threatens Will’s dad and mentions how Riley reminds him of Angelica. Back in the real world, Riley is administering some heroin to help Will escape. He passes out.
With a little help from Nomi, Will is able to contact his dad, who’s relieved to hear from him…since it’s THANKSGIVING. (At this point I, like Will, have also lost all sense of time.) It turns out government agents inquiring about Will have been saying stuff about him. I wonder if it’s Quantico-related. In any case, his dad gets upset and asks him to come home.
And he really should have gone. When it’s Christmas and he and Riley are ice-skating on a frozen pond, Whispers visits him and shares that he’s with Will’s dad, who appears to be drunk and prone to possibly making a mistake. Will’s father says he simply wants Will to return home, and that’s what he ends up hearing as he passes out, once more, in a heroin-induced haze.
Felix is still in the hospital, with Wolfgang visiting and talking to him regularly. He tells him he’s messed up something good. I assume he’s referring to how he wasn’t able to patch up his relationship with Kala at the end of last season, based on the fact they keep visiting each other but not saying anything.
This keeps happening, of course. Like on their shared birthday, Wolfgang sees Kala dancing with Rajan. Their eyes meet yet again, and this time, the look on their faces is enough to make me want to reach into the screen and force them to actually talk it out. But TV doesn’t work like that, so we must suffer through this some more. Wolfgang uses a dating app and hooks up with a girl, which Kala happens to walk in on.
However, Wolfie’s dealing with some non-heartbreak-related stuff as well. Aunt Elke and her consigliere, Fischer, pay him a visit and say that because his uncle and cousin paid for their crimes, she’s not going to put a hit out on him. She just needs him to take his uncle’s place to prevent a war between all the other territories, because there’s now a power vacuum. Wolfgang turns it down and leaves.
Back at the hospital, Felix wakes up. He and Wolfgang return to the store before going out to grab a drink. At the bar, a group of men buys Wolfgang a drink, presumably in relation to this incoming territory war. When both friends return to Wolfgang’s place, he sees the toothpick he left as a marker has fallen out, meaning someone is in his apartment. So, Wolfie does the obvious thing and summersaults in like a badass.
There, he’s greeted by Volker Bhom — one of the territory bosses — and his bodyguard. He offers Wolfgang money, power, and women, which results in this amazing exchange:
Volker: “You could own this city.”
Wolfgang: “If I was interested, it would already be mine.”
Later, when Wolfgang is silently drinking by himself, Kala shows up having never seen snow. They flirt a little and Kala points out there’s something good and beautiful inside him, just like she has something dark in her. He tells her they’re perfect for each other. (I agree vehemently.) Sadly, she thinks they’ve changed. (I take out my charts and graphs illustrating otherwise.) But Wolfgang asks, what if he doesn’t want to? They almost kiss but have a snowball fight instead, which is interrupted when Felix brings over some girls.
On New Year’s Eve, Felix and Wolfgang attend Volker’s party and run into Fischer, who warns them the war has already started. He tells Wolfgang to hide, but Wolfgang doesn’t believe him. A little while later, Fischer is shot by Volker’s men and Felix and Wolfgang are forced to hide. He tells his cousin to leave, but Felix refuses. They split up, with Wolfgang hiding behind some cars, but eventually he’s pinned.
That’s when Sun shows up and helps him kick some butt this time. Once he’s done, he looks up and sees the others have also arrived — including Kala, who looks concerned about Wolfgang’s current situation.
NEXT: The orgy
Turns out Kala did go through with marrying Rajan and now they’re on their honeymoon — only they haven’t had sex yet. It’s stressing him out enough to talk to her mother about it. But Kala gets mad, pointing out, “We may be married, but my body is mine. It is not a piece of land to be purchased and plowed, or for you and my mother to gossip about.”
Rajan apologizes, but she’s a little distracted by Wolfgang’s presence.
She’s also a little stressed; she’s still a virgin and she’s nervous about this being her first time. Her anxiety sees her visit Sun (a running theme in the special). That’s when she tells Kala about her first time, which saw her sleep with her competitor after she not only beat him in a tournament but also after he’d complimented her for doing so. Sun says she learned more about him in that locker room than if she’d fought him 100 times: “We exist because of sex. It’s not something to be afraid of. It’s something to honor, to enjoy.”
Inspired, Kala sets out to seduce Rajan…only to instead participate in a cluster-wide orgy (a literal cluster f-ck, if you will) and later walk in on Wolfgang bedding his hookup. This only makes her anxious when she attempts to bed Rajan, thus leading him to injure himself in the groin. Ouch.
After a day of shopping, Kala comes back to their European villa to find their bags packed. Rajan says he was so blind by his wanting her, he didn’t realize she didn’t want him back. He suggests it’s not too late for a divorce. I’ve never loved him more than in this moment. But Kala has other plans. She tells him they shouldn’t make any hasty decisions and kisses him. I just sit there, shaking my head.
Eventually, they return to India and go house-hunting, but while they seem closer together, it’s clear Kala’s still distracted by thoughts of a certain German sensate. First, she sees him swimming in a prospective swimming pool, then she visits him and nearly kisses him in the snow.
On New Year’s, Rajan tells her how happy he is with her and how different his life would be otherwise — not that she hears him fully. She’s also over in Germany, regarding Wolfgang post-fight. Smh, girl. SMDH.
Sense8 is at its best when the sensates are actually interacting with each other and sharing not just obvious skills, but life advice, too. Like in the case of Kala and Sun, or even Nomi and Lito. And this time around, there was plenty of said sharing — especially an extended birthday-dance sequence that saw everyone participate in each other’s birthday celebrations. Though it didn’t result in a mass sing-along, it did underscore the fact they all took their first breath at the same time. (As the show loves reminding us.)
Of course, it wouldn’t be Sense8 if there weren’t an eight-person orgy. And even in a two-hour Christmas special, it managed to fit it in. Only this time, it seemed like every member of the group was definitely participating — though this also seemed to highlight the idea of “birthday sex,” which multiple characters and couples brought up in their own individual story lines.
Overall, it was nice to see our beloved sensates again and progress a bit in terms of the larger threat and the series’ mythology. Thankfully, we will be getting more answers when the show returns for a full second season in May.