Sense8: A Christmas Special (Happy F*cking New Year)
December 24, 2016 5:30 AM - Season 2, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Scandals and celebrations deepen the Sensates' bond as they rebuild their lives and try to outsmart Whispers.
posted by oh yeah! (50 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was SO EXCITED to see the "New Episodes" banner for this on Netflix, and SO CRUSHED to find it was only one episode (albeit a 2-hour-long episode), with the rest slated to be released in May.

Regardless. Loved this special. But someone needs to explain to me why Kala remains with Rajan.
posted by lizzicide at 7:22 AM on December 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


(yassaman, hope it's ok that I posted the new thread, I watched the show first thing yesterday when I got home from work and just couldn't wait.)

I don't like new-Capheus so much yet. Not that they gave him much to do in this episode besides that very meta 'faces don't matter' conversation and joining the cluster-fuck for the first time. But it was jarring seeing his unfamiliar face alongside the familiar ones in the Nairobi scenes. And he lacks that boyish charm & smile Aml Ameen had. What's done is done, and goodness knows I wouldn't want anyone to have to be involved in filming an orgy scene where some of the participants hate each other, but, I wish they'd all figured that out before they shot season one. Oh well.

I mostly agree with the AV Club recap that the special had all the things that make Sense8 great - some kick-ass 'by our powers combined' sequences, beautiful people being sexy, queer positivity, gorgeous location shooting; and the thing that make it less great - clunky/cringe-inducing on-the-nose dialogue. But, overall, I liked the special and look forward to the rest of the season.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:18 AM on December 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I didn't know about the recasting and was so confused. I kept thinking that I know I'm really bad at faces but I'm not usually this bad.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:48 AM on December 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


It emotionally pummelled me.

I loved every second
posted by Faintdreams at 5:52 PM on December 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'd forgotten how good this show was.
posted by idb at 11:51 AM on December 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sense8 is pretty amazing in how it can be incredibly powerful filmmaking and this Pepsi commercial at the same time. This was right in there. I think plot-wise it was a little disappointing because it kinda had to be a standalone thing. They moved some pieces into place for the next season, but I would imagine season two proper could start in a way where this is kinda skippable and is recapped with exposition.
posted by snofoam at 1:19 PM on December 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


Everything that was wonderful about the first season is here, but unfortunately so is everything that was stupid, boring and clumsy about the first season. Plotlines that go nowhere (the back and forth with Kala and Rajan is a pointless drag, e.g.), ridiculous clunky dialogue, and the fascinating larger story of the sense8 hunt taking a backseat to predictable soap opera stuff that is sort of colorful but not that interesting. I have very little interest in whatever that German gang war plot is, or Rajan's penis, or the dumb way the Van Damme was blown up and immediately replaced. The music video approach to major moments is fun, and who doesn't like a global dance party, but I felt the episode was stretched past what it needed, just treading familiar ground with a few clumsily tacked-on Christmas scenes at the very end.

I know this sounds like I don't like the show very much, but I swear I'm fascinated by the premise and love the positivity it's putting out. I just wish the writers were giving the characters more interesting and less cliched stories when they're marking time away from the central plot. Which they should do less, in fact, because watching folks with newly discovered abilities show almost no ongoing curiosity about how those abilities work and how they can protect themselves from a cabal of killers looking to destroy them is more than a little frustrating. I mean, homophobic condo boards are really not at the top of the list of concerns for Our Heroes.
posted by mediareport at 8:05 PM on December 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


The bit where Lito's mom was, like, "I always knew you were gay. No straight boy could dance like that." could have seriously done with one less sentence. The scene was touching as hell and I loved it, but that's one really bullshit note, IMHO.
posted by stet at 11:00 PM on December 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yep. That's a perfect example of the kind of clichéd line that brings the show down. I actually said "really?" out loud when that happened. It was like something from an earnest coming out scene in an early 90s TV show. All it needed was a canned "Awwwwww!" from a fake audience.
posted by mediareport at 4:02 AM on December 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


The dialogue low point for me was Nomi & Amanita's "why can't people see how hot it is" conversation about Lito and Hernando's sex photo. Oh, and their 9/11 reference, really could have done without that.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:08 AM on December 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love/hate this show so much! What I hated:
Nomi reading cheesy conspiracy theory books about 9/11.
Rajan, "I wanted you so much I forgot to consider you might not want me."
Watching ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE with your Mom on Xmas in Nairobi.
Daryl Hannah
Herion addict Will and his alcoholic dad.
Every main character's secondary friend/lover/buddy getting more screen time than Riley.

Things I loved:
Lito's mom
Every time Sun kicks ass.
posted by pjsky at 7:45 AM on December 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ah this was so full of emotions for me. I don't care how clunky the dialog got, I think that was kind of the charm because it's Christmas-ish and I'm ok with holiday specials being super cheesy. The scene with Lito's mom made me tear up.

I did feel like some of the scenes of all of them experiencing a thing together dragged a little, mostly because I wanted more of the main plot, but knowing this was kind of just a season opener it wasn't so bad. At least it moved them to the point of knowing they need to take action instead of letting Will deal with Whispers as best as he and Riley can.

All the side stuff though makes me love the characters and worry for them
- the new bus for Capheus surely comes with some conditions from that rich guy
- Sun's cellmates scene at the end had me feeling like her brother will use them to get to her
- poor Lito and his career, that is always terrible
- I really feel for Kala, the pressure of staying with Rajan really isn't helped any by him being so damn understand
- the Russian mob definitely won't leave Wolfgang alone
- Nomi and Aminita being on the run always has me on edge
- Riley has no one left but Will, but they're naturally tied to each other and the main plot so I'm not expecting more for her and him

May feels so far away!
posted by numaner at 10:00 PM on December 26, 2016


What's done is done, and goodness knows I wouldn't want anyone to have to be involved in filming an orgy scene where some of the participants hate each other, but, I wish they'd all figured that out before they shot season one.

What's the actual deal with changing the actors? I only read that Ameen has creative differences with Lana Wachowski and that's why he quit.
posted by numaner at 10:02 PM on December 26, 2016


watching folks with newly discovered abilities show almost no ongoing curiosity about how those abilities work

Yes, thank you. In fact, that's why I didn't mind Nomi's reading about people in the past who had claim to feel some kind of presence helping them at a difficult time, including the 9/11 conspiracy book — at least she's trying to understand what's going on between them. She may be going down the wrong path with reading about those other experiences, which don't sound much like what our sense8s are going through, but really, where do you start trying to learn about something like that? At least she's showing some curiosity about just what is going on between them, which is more than you can say for any of the others.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:52 PM on December 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


What's the actual deal with changing the actors? I only read that Ameen has creative differences with Lana Wachowski and that's why he quit.

I thought the details would leak out eventually, but I haven't heard anything beyond the initial speculation when the news was first broke and Jamie Alexander was tweeting about it like it was the best news ever. I don't know if he quit or was fired, the whole thing blew up when they were doing the season 2 table-read. I guess once we see what Capheus' season 2 storyline is we'll find out if there's something obviously objectionable.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:05 AM on December 27, 2016


So glad I took the time to re-watch the season before watching this, because it builds off a bunch of things I didn't remember. Like that Will and Whispers made eye contact - I'd totally forgotten that.

Yeah, mixed bag here just like the series, but I'm still totally into it. Keeping Will drugged up to avoid Whispers is gonna get old really fast, though. And none of the others seemed at all concerned about that or even really involved in that struggle much this time? I worry the writers may have painted themselves into more of a corner than they expected there.

And why has Nomi not yet turned some of her hacking skills toward aiding Sun's release from prison?
posted by dnash at 9:45 AM on December 27, 2016


And why has Nomi not yet turned some of her hacking skills toward aiding Sun's release from prison?

She has, near the end she talked to Sun about the possibility of hacking in a transfer request and having her escape during that.
posted by numaner at 9:49 AM on December 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


I haven't heard anything beyond the initial speculation when the news was first broke and Jamie Alexander was tweeting about it like it was the best news ever.

I think you mean Jamie Clayton, the trans actor who plays Nomi. At the time, she tweeted a few things like this:

..Hate is horrible. Intolerance is horrible. #Sense8 IS LOVE.

...Just know that we're all happy!


and

NOW THE WRITING & CHARACTER CAN SHINE AS THEY WERE MEANT TO!

A lot of folks interpreted that to mean there was something transphobic about Ameen's reaction to the season 2 script, but I'm surprised, too, that more hasn't leaked out since to clarify what went on. I don't think we've gotten any more than that brief, suggestive glimpse since then, but if anyone knows more, I'm sure I'm not the only person who'd like to hear it.
posted by mediareport at 9:50 AM on December 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think you mean Jamie Clayton, the trans actor who plays Nomi.

Yeah, sorry, that's what I get for not checking my lousy-with-names memory against imdb.

A lot of folks interpreted that to mean there was something transphobic about Ameen's reaction to the season 2 script

Yes - the other speculation was that there was something racist about the season 2 script that Ameen objected to (which seems possible considering some of the cringe-inducing stuff in season 1 with Will and the Chicago gang-kid storyline). But I don't think I've seen any actual reporting of the details. Maybe someday when the show is completely over there will be some tell-all or oral history spilling the beans.
posted by oh yeah! at 10:20 AM on December 27, 2016


Does anyone else find themselves overthinking the orgies though? Like are they meant to be literal or figurative? I think last season I just didn't question too much, but now that they're making Kala's issues around sex so front-and-center, it seems really weird.
posted by corb at 11:24 AM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Came in partway through my wife watching: saw a couple minutes of our Germans wandering around then a public execution with blood splashing at the camera, walked out.

There were things I adored about Season One: the births episode, the beautiful choreography and third wall peeling deconstruction of the action sequence when we see the Mexican film star at work, the way the actors showed such pleasure at experiencing deep empathy and connection, the overall humanitarian message and heck, even the overall zaniness. But Sens8 confirmed I am not and just won't ever be into watching action or gore. It always feels like the worst things about porn to me. (Said as someone who enjoys the best things about porn.)
posted by latkes at 12:27 PM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Among all the (many) reasons to decide not to continue watching Sense8, an excess of gore doesn't even make the list. Sorry you caught a minor moment of the stuff, but this episode is one of the least gory scifi thrillers on air right now.
posted by mediareport at 3:22 PM on December 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I know that intensive gore and terror has become the norm in TV land, (apparently torture depictions have increased by 700%!), part of why I can't watch much. Really enjoyed the Detectorists though! ( :
posted by latkes at 3:30 PM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


The episode may not have been gory, but I don't think there's anything unreasonable about finding the German gang gunfight amongst the Christmas-celebrating bystanders distasteful/upsetting. Obviously this special was filmed way before the latest killing spree in the Berlin Christmas mart, but there have been enough mass killings in public places by now that it does show a lack of sensitivity/foresight on the Wachowskis' part. It would be one thing if they were trying to make a statement or something, but without that it just becomes gratuitous.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:20 AM on December 28, 2016


When was it filmed? I had this idea that the Christmas special was given us by the Wachowskis as a way of creating hope in this terrible post Trump time, but then I realized that things can't possibly get to TV that fast, right?
posted by corb at 9:59 AM on December 28, 2016


The season 2 table read was back in April. Not sure when filming started but it finished in September. I'm assuming that they filmed this season the same way as the first season -- having all the scripts completed before shooting began, going country-by-country and filming all the shared scenes multiple times in each new location in order to cut them together in editing. So, even though this episode has been released first as the Christmas Special, it would have been filmed in pieces along with the rest of the season during the summer.
posted by oh yeah! at 10:12 AM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


In addition to the clunky dialogue.... The good guys are SO good. Like, they all have support systems filled with people who would risk harm or death for them. No one is judgy. Friends aren't fairweather. It's friend/family wish-fulfillment. Instead, in our lives, we have to block our rl friends on social media just so we don't irreparably damage the relationship and getting through a holiday dinner with our families is like hostage negotiation. I mean, I know this is a fantasy show. I don't blink at them sharing feelings. It's their unrealistic relationships that throw my willing suspension of disbelief out the window.
posted by greermahoney at 9:09 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Instead, in our lives, we have to block our rl friends on social media just so we don't irreparably damage the relationship and getting through a holiday dinner with our families is like hostage negotiation.
Daniella specifically talks about the walking on eggshells and sniping she endured within her family during the x-mas breakfast scene with Lito, as compared to the family she was with that morning.
posted by michswiss at 6:47 AM on December 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


Like, they all have support systems filled with people who would risk harm or death for them. No one is judgy. Friends aren't fairweather. It's friend/family wish-fulfillment. Instead, in our lives, we have to block our rl friends on social media just so we don't irreparably damage the relationship and getting through a holiday dinner with our families is like hostage negotiation. I mean, I know this is a fantasy show. I don't blink at them sharing feelings. It's their unrealistic relationships that throw my willing suspension of disbelief out the window.

Well, but I think the show is trying to say something about the importance of found-families. There are bad relationships on the show - aside from Dani's description of her family there's Nomi's terrifyingly awful mother, Wolfgang's abusive father, and while Sun's father may have been about to redeem himself he was a lousy father and her brother is actively trying to have her murdered.

Nomi's support system isn't something that just happened to her, it's something she actively worked to create. Like with Bug - one of my favorite awww moments in the special was Bug's expression when Nomi & Amanita invited him to come out and celebrate. He may be kinda weird, but he's someone who came through for them when they needed him, so now he's part of their family. Presumably all those women at the shelter who were willing to take the risk of hiding Nomi did it because they knew she would have (or already had) taken similar risks for them. And when she thinks she's putting them in too much danger she moves out.

Lito is kind of at the beginning of the process - he had Hernando, then Dani, and his mother, but he is finding out who his fair-weather friends are (all the movie-biz contacts who are dropping him). I was heartened to see (unless I'm mistaken?) that best-flirty-kiss-ever bartender dude made a brief appearance in the celebration montage, so maybe Lito's season 2 arc will be finding out what doors have been opened for him now that the 'straight mega-action-movie-star' door has closed.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:59 AM on December 31, 2016 [7 favorites]


A lot of folks interpreted that to mean there was something transphobic about Ameen's reaction to the season 2 script, but I'm surprised, too, that more hasn't leaked out since to clarify what went on.

I believe he's the only actor from the cast not a part of the season one orgy, so people have interpreted that a general objection to the content of the series. The orgy in this episode does feature every main cast member and is also more explicit.
posted by crossoverman at 1:35 AM on January 2, 2017


Ooh, I didn't catch this - observant viewers spotted that you can see Wolfgang and Sun in the same frame fighting two different guys at; jms confirms that it is not an editing error but rather something else going on that ties into S2 (link to tumblr screenshot of tweets).
posted by oh yeah! at 7:50 PM on January 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm so glad to read the ambiguity about this episode here. I felt it too. I loved it, so much crazy fun good stuff. I also hated it because it's kinda dumb and trite and silly. It's all just a big bag of Overflowing, and I'm kind of OK with that. I was particularly enthralled with Darryl Hannah, the Angel of Junkie Christmas Past.

At the time Ameen was recast out of the show it was reported to be some conflict possibly rooted in some sort of transphobic thing. See 1 2 3. Awkward. There's a funny throw-away line in this episode about how Capheus looks different and he shrugs and says it's his barber.
posted by Nelson at 10:08 PM on January 7, 2017


- poor Lito and his career, that is always terrible

I kinda didn't care for this, it didn't hurt Ricky Martin's career all that much and I got the impression that Juan Gabriel was an open secret. Ten years ago it'd be a shocking plot twist, now it certainly not an easy or simple issue but over blown. The mothers dancing quip seems more likely than having naked photos of her son on the coffee table, that seemed out of character.

I thought it was a bit heavy on the swimming and orgy scenes and a bit light on plot. But hey, Wachowski's!

They have great twists on clever ideas but perhaps could do with an editor. I'm a smidge worried that the fun scary global conspiracy will be stretched out into a pseudo-spiritual message like the machines of Matrix that turns out to just make no sense at all.

It's pretty great that it's world wide and not US-centric, but it'd be cooler it there was more intrinsic ties to the amazing locations and the actual plot.
posted by sammyo at 3:45 PM on January 11, 2017


I'm really curious where they go with the plot for season 2. Season 1 was basically "what is this kooky thing and who are these interesting people?" And it was great fun. I guess Season 2 is "uh oh there's this bad guy Whispers and a bad organization better run", which is plot enough.. Mostly I'm just reminded of Heroes, and how the first season was also full of discovery and fun characters and was great. And then, well, we don't speak of the rest of Heroes.
posted by Nelson at 4:14 PM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed the hell out of it, but the gappy internal logic sometimes made me go hrrrm. With all the group-sensate-sexysex times in this episode, how does this experience apparently have almost no impact on Kala's comfort with having sex in real life?

And in order to borrow skills from a fellow sensate, do you need to be visiting with them or not? In more climatic moments, the appropriate sensate shows up in the nick of time to take over driving/lock-picking/fighting, etc. But Nomi can just understand Korean without channeling Sun.
posted by desuetude at 9:24 AM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Also, the Rajan dick-sprain thing was horrendously dumb. Just fucking awful.
posted by desuetude at 9:26 AM on January 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


Speaking of Rajan. Was he re-cast also? He just looked really different to me. Like, season 1 he looked really flashy and suave. Here he looked kinda shlubby?
posted by dnash at 11:54 AM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


I think they're doing that on purpose, to make the choice easier? Which honestly kind of sucks. Choice between a good, loving, sexy, stable guy who loves and shares values with you but whom you're not in love with, and between a sexy unstable guy with a killing complex who loves you but you don't share any values with - that's an interesting choice. Choice between two neurotic guys, one you love and one you don't, is boring.
posted by corb at 12:19 PM on January 13, 2017


Rajan was the same actor, according to IMDB
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:28 PM on January 13, 2017


Sorry, I meant "making Rajan less attractive", not necessarily a recast.
posted by corb at 2:31 PM on January 13, 2017


Friends aren't fairweather. It's friend/family wish-fulfillment.

I think this has been successfully rebutted here but I'd also like to say, what's wrong with some damn warm fuzzies and good friends on TV drama?

I've honestly had it up here (!) with the golden age of televison's obsession with shows having to be relentlessly dark and horrible to be taken seriously and all genre having to be post-apocalyptic and drama characters being giant tools all the time who would sell out their moms for $10.

I appreciate that the Sense8 creators know some of us still want to see bad guys get an ass-kicking, and world-wide dance parties, and couple in love having romantic kisses. and then there's Wolfgang for all the nihilists, so it works out.
posted by Squeak Attack at 4:24 PM on January 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


Vote 1 Lito's mama!
posted by Coaticass at 4:04 PM on January 23, 2017


Man, Lord Merton's life really went downhill somewhere in the middle there, didn't it?

I agree, part of me liked all the fan service and part of me found it really draggy. But you know, it's a Christmas special. If there's any time to be self-indulgent and do a two hour episode with maybe a half hour of plot and the rest of it being vulnerable characters getting respite and a few moments of sappy, on the nose joy, that would be it.

The new Capheus does bounce me out right now. His look just doesn't seem to go with the character somehow. But I'll get used to him, I expect. I'm just amazed that I've actually caught up with a show despite the baby. My god, a show has a high bar to clear to rate watching time these days. This one still does.
posted by Naberius at 9:18 AM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


> But you know, it's a Christmas special. If there's any time to be self-indulgent and do a two hour episode with maybe a half hour of plot and the rest of it being vulnerable characters getting respite and a few moments of sappy, on the nose joy, that would be it.

Agreed. Plus the hot multiracial omnisexual underwater orgy sex, don't forget that.

The new Capheus seems so much more reserved and mature in his approach to the character? But eh, I'm sure I'll get used to the change.
posted by desuetude at 1:23 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


I really liked this episode. It gave us a taste of where it was going, but it was mostly a celebration. It was a celebration of these people, as well as life itself. It allowed the characters to enjoy themselves.

The compassion of this show is its magic.
posted by mountmccabe at 5:58 PM on January 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


The rest of Sense8 Season 2 has arrived! I'm going to start binge-posting tonight after work, if nobody else beats me to it.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:21 AM on May 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


I think that this episode is down as Season 2, episode 1 as "Happy F*cking New Year" as if it were a new episode. I was confused at seeing the same episode twice, thinking maybe I'd miscounted seasons.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:48 AM on May 5, 2017


Yes I needed that.
posted by corb at 8:30 AM on May 5, 2017


Huh, didn't notice that. I've asked the mods to revise the thread title to include both names.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:04 AM on May 5, 2017


Rewatching the series and just noticed that Lana strolls by Wolfgang and Felix just before the big shootout at the end of the episode.
posted by kokaku at 9:30 AM on February 20, 2018


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