You Want a War?
Sense8’s second-season finale wastes no time thrusting the cluster into high gear. At Joong-Ki’s party, Sun awaits behind the bar in her costume like a panther ready to pounce. The rest of the cluster hope she’ll settle for forcing her brother to confess, but when Joong-Ki gives a wildly disingenuous speech about their father, the plan changes. Sun sets out to take down her brother for good, a climactic showdown that Sense8 has been building toward since last season.
The cluster often has to work outside the law. Corrupt politicians, oppressive institutions, and overreaching government agencies have been a thematic through line this season. As sensorium, the cluster is not protected by the law, so they have to take matters into their own hands and push against the systems that attempt to control them, giving Sense8 a sense of urgency and real-world relevance. The cluster operates outside the conventional systems as a means of survival. Villains like Joong-Ki use those systems to their advantage, furthering their self-serving, tyrannical goals. After Jong-Ki thwarts Sun’s detective pal, squashing any chance of justice outside of Sun’s fists, the cluster steps in as the tension erupts into an all-out shootout. Nomi, Bug, and Amanita become their anti-establishment hacker dream team to help Sun out.
I’m a little perplexed by the fact that Sun is always fighting in her underwear, which seems like unnecessary sexualization of her strength and an instance where Sense8 gives in to the tropes of its genres instead of challenging them, but watching Sun fight is still one of the most enthralling aspects of this show, especially when her cluster is there to amplify her abilities. Even Kala gets in on the action during this battle, shooting out a gas tank. Wolfgang reminds her that cars don’t blow up like they do on television, and she reminds him that she’s smart as hell, having calculated the slope of the parking garage to determine where the gas would leak so she can set it ablaze. The fight carries on from the parking garage to the streets, Capheus stepping out to help Sun drive a motorcycle in pursuit of Joong-Ki, whose “My sister’s a fucking Terminator?!” exclamation is one of the most delightful parts of the episode, especially because of how earnestly Lee Ki-chan delivers it.
Wolfgang spears his steering wheel with a piece of rebar, flipping the car and sending a bloodied Joong-Ki across the pavement. Sun wields the rebar as a weapon, as flashbacks effectively recap all the little moments that led to this big one, starting with her brother begging her to go to prison in his place. These flashbacks add to the emotional gravity of Sun’s decision. Her cluster folds out of her, ready to support her no matter what. Sun asks herself “Who am I?” repeatedly in flashback, her cluster folding back into her. Mixed into the flashbacks are reminders from her mother and her prison friend. Who is Sun? She is not her brother, that’s for damn sure. Killing him would make her like him, so she drops the weapon, surrendering herself to the cops. But thanks to another assist from her cluster and a last-minute save from Puck, the wily, salacious sensate obsessed with Riley, Sun escapes law enforcement rather easily once again.
Sense8 begins with this beautifully fought battle and ends “You Want a War?” with a declaration of war. When Whispers snatches Wolfgang and begins the very painful process of forcing him to reveal the cluster’s whereabouts, Will puts his brewing plan into action. With the help of blockers and the element of surprise, they outmaneuver Whispers, who doesn’t realize Will is really sitting in front of him and not just visiting. Jonas, with his ever-murky motivations, tries to stop the cluster by making a call to the B.P.O. chairman, but they show up at his doorstep too. The plan all comes together a little too quickly and perfectly, but it’s still satisfying to see the cluster take down Whispers together, and Will’s promise to deliver a war sets things up for an invigorating third season (which has yet to be announced).
Nevertheless, I’m much more satisfied by the ways Sense8 shows its enormous heart in this finale. “You Want a War?” has a lot of fun with fight scenes and twisty thrills, but like so much of Sense8, it sets itself apart from the rest of television with remarkable warmth and sincerity, especially when it comes to how openly its characters talk about their emotions and wear their hearts on their sleeves. Admitting that the past year has been terrifying, exciting, maddening, enlightening, confusing, and unpredictable — all adjectives that aptly describe the Sense8 viewing experience — Amanita tells Nomi it’s all worth it. She might not be able to totally understand Nomi’s experiences as a sensate, but she has a little voice in her own head telling her to never let this woman go. When she proposed, her bursting, magical love moved me to tears. And then Nomi pulls out a ring, too, showing that she feels the exact same way. I can barely describe the wave of joy that crashed over me in that moment, their queer love transcending all obstacles. Nomi and Amanita have always been one of my favorite parts of the show because of their striking lack of conflict. Through them, Sense8 acknowledges that queer relationships can be normal, drama-free, sustainable, and inspiring. The empathy and support they feel for one another mimics the ethereal, complex bond of sensorium.
They’re not the only ones feeling the love in this finale either. Kala gets a convenient out when Rajan tells her that his involvement in a political-corruption investigation has put them in danger, insisting that she move to an apartment in Paris while he sorts things out. We don’t get the full story from Rajan, so there’s a sense that he isn’t entirely forthcoming with this feeble explanation, but that’s a problem for another time. All that matters is that Kala and Wolfgang are running away to Paris together. While packing, they visit each other, both confessing how much they love one another as Wolfgang shows his soft, romantic side. Their anticipation of finally be in the same room is fully felt in the scene. Even though it’s cut violently short when Lila shows up with Whispers, ensnaring Wolfgang in the trap that sets Will’s plan to start a war in motion, Sense8 doesn’t kill hope for their future entirely. Tied down and tortured by Whispers, enduring immeasurable pain felt by his entire cluster, Wolfgang’s first thoughts are of Kala. Their bond is unbreakable, like the ties that bind all eight of the sensates. The cluster is largely victorious in the finale, which again signals Sense8’s hopeful, rewarding approach to storytelling. It lets its characters win. They’ve felt stuck all season, but the finale ends with a definitive feeling of freedom. And on Sense8, feelings matter even more than actions.