Sex, Drugs, and Being on the Run: The Highs and Lows of the sense8 Christmas Special

The next series of Netflix’s incredible sci-fi/fantasy show isn’t out until May, but their two-hour Christmas special is the perfect way to fill the sense8-shaped hole in your free time. With an emotional rollercoaster like that of Season One, a continuation of the high-stakes events, and just as much mind-bending skill- and body-swapping as before, this is the perfect way to continue the Wachowskis’ brilliant TV series.


The plot of the new episode follows on from the previous series, with Sun still in prison, Will and Riley hiding out in an unknown location in Iceland, and Nomi on the run from the police. Wolfgang is having more gang problems in Berlin, but the love triangle between him, Kala, and her husband is still unresolved. Capheus is putting his life (and van) back together, and Lito is waiting for his to fall apart. As with any show with so many main characters and intertwining storylines, there is a lot going on, but somehow it still works brilliantly.

As any avid watchers of the series might have already known, one of the major changes between Season One and the special is that Capheus’ actor is now Toby Onwumere, after Aml Ameen left in April. This potentially serious issue actually poses no threat to the storytelling of the show – Onwumere effortlessly fills the space and embraces his role wholeheartedly. The transition is noted by a cheeky reference that Capheus looks “different”, but otherwise the characters accept him as the same person – and his interactions with them are so genuine, that the audience believes it.

Throughout the two hours, the sensates and their closest friends and partners go through all manner of low points and challenges, with several tense moments, as well as the customary clever fight scenes. But there are also several celebrations: their birthday, 8th August; Christmas (of course); and finally New Year. There is another 8-or-more-person orgy, and some drug-induced highs in the case of Will, who is constantly medicated by Riley with heroin to close off the connection and prevent Whispers from discovering them.

But there are also several quieter moments, with real depth of feeling in them. One-on-one visits between the sensates – in particular Lito and Nomi, and Kala and Sun – offer meaningful glimpses into their relationships with each other. Partly through this, the special also continues to provoke the conversations that Season One began about such deep and complex subjects as sexuality.

The diversity of the cast continues to put Hollywood movies to shame, and the differences in cultures between sensates living in different countries still come through. Similarly, the incredible on-location shoots around the world are once again stunning, and definitely add to the feel of sense8 as a global event.

Verdict: If you haven’t seen sense8 yet, watch it now. It’s complex, diverse, and an amazing sci-fi/fantasy concept. If you have seen it, you definitely won’t be disappointed by the Christmas special. There are emotional highs, tension-filled lows, and those incredible sharing shots we all love. And the last section is festive, too!

Isobel Sheene

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