Every year, the Golden Globes hand out a prize for Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. The award’s gotten buzzier the last few years, as the explosion of anthology miniseries produced a steady stream of high-quality, celebrity-stuffed dramas. This year promises to be no different. I assume the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has its eye on the Amy Adams-fronted Sharp Objects. I assume the mere presence of Emma Stone and Jonah Hill pushes Maniac into the category, ugh, Maniac. Nominating Jesus Christ Superstar means a John Legend appearance, which means unofficially hiring Chrissy Teigen as the night’s pro bono social media manager. The Assassination of Gianni Versace already won a boatload of Emmys, so expect an appearance by Darren Criss, all hail the new Prime Darren. My Brilliant Friend lurks ahead, so classy, so Italian. Perhaps, good lord, The Romanoffs? Or Genius: Picasso, you strike again!!
Is there room for one more? Room for one cluster more? 2018 also saw the release of the Sense8 finale film, a televisual bazooka blast of woozy sex-positive romance and travelogue action and sincere odes to our collective humanity and an actual bazooka blast. Directed by Lana Wachowski, co-written with David Mitchell and Aleksander Hemon, starring a cast of adorables and one Eiffel Tower.
Need we must get semantic about whether this 150-minute chunk of what seems like four seasons of unfiltered mythology counts as a “TV Movie”? Need we must remember that the as-yet-unlimited prestige Britporn odyssey Downton Abbey won the Limited Series prize in 2012 before competing as a Drama for the rest of its fifty-seven seasons? Needn’t we must better find a moment to celebrate the brazen singularity of Sense8‘s existence?
For surely, the global vision of Sense8 must appeal to the membership of the HFPA. Here was a show about the common thread that unites people from all around the world: A cop in Chicago, a trans activist in San Francisco, a bus driver in Nairobi, a famous actor in Mexico, a businesswoman from Seoul who also knows kickboxing. For two seasons they did various things, plotty things, kickbox-y things — many things that seemed to always take far too long to happen, because this was a Netflix drama after all. The finale was a gift for fans, but also an all-but-explicit attempt by Wachowski and her collaborators to squeeze in what feels like four seasons’ worth of mythology.
The result is sui generis, unlike anything else on television this year. The Sense8 finale begins in Paris, onramps into a nightclub gunfight, road-trips to Naples for a heist sequence, returns to Paris for a wedding ceremony on la aforementioned tour Eiffel. Along the way there is a high-velocity dance-along to Depeche Mode’s “I Feel You.” There are sudden appearances by mysteriously demi-cosmic new groups of people, secret societies who could’ve theoretically sustained their own too-long story arcs in some theoretical fourth or fifth season. The ultimate showdown involved a Neapolitan assassin empress, or something, so there’s the possibility of a Naples showdown with My Brilliant Friend.
It was a lot of TV movie, no doubt. Executive producer Grant Hill told my colleague Shirley Li that the breakneck act of filming this wrap-up film was “all very sort of chaotic, but very high energy, you know?” You can spot the chaos, but you also feel the high energy. Wachowski and her sister Lilly (who co-created Sense8 along with J. Michael Straczynski) have been working toward something like this ever since their messianic Matrix sequels. The effusive message of the finale is blissfully obvious: People are People. The film concludes with one of the show’s trademark sex fantasias, perhaps the first orgy in history you could describe as “adorable.”
There’s a political meaning, unmissable in a 2018 context: Here’s a TV film about breaking down all the old barriers, tossing fading notions of gender and orientation and nationality to the wind. There’s a lot of good TV circling those notions lately, but the Sense8 finale crams those themes into a ravenous B-flick about exploding helicopters and the mob and post-theistic religions and fireworks in Paris. The HFPA is, itself, a kind of cluster, uniting journalists from around the globe. I don’t know if they regularly engage in what the wikipedia plot summary for the Sense8 TV movie describes as “a transcendent sexual experience.” (Whatever’s all good, man!) But I hope the Golden Globes voters can find room in their hiveheart for one of 2018’s least likely small-screen cinematic experiences. Here’s a sweetly optimistic vision of a world united in common purpose. Kaboom, bazooka!
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