Sense8 finale is live: 8 reasons you should have been watching

But you didn't and Netflix cancelled it and now there's only the feature-length final episode, live today. You fools.

Nick Hide Managing copy editor
Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
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One of Netflix's most high-profile, expensive, Hollywood-heavy TV series was cancelled last year, sending fans around the world into despair. Sense8 might not have cut through to the streaming mainstream like House of Cards -- how is that still staggering along? -- but its devoted following was devastated to see their beloved show end on a cliffhanger.

Netflix granted a reprieve, in the form of a feature-length special that you can watch now. You've just about got enough time to catch up. There are 23 episodes, all just under an hour long, except for the feature-length New Year's special in the middle. Here are eight reasons you absolutely should.

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It's fun sci-fi, set today

There's a lot of gloomy, distressing sci-fi around at the moment. Westworld and The Handmaid's Tale are genius, but they're not exactly joyful escapism. Sense8 takes place in a world that's recognisably ours, but with this secret underground culture of psychic families called clusters. These are groups of people who can see and feel each other's thoughts and feelings and experiences, wherever they happen to be on the planet.

Of course there's a shadowy organisation trying to hunt them all down, but there's plenty of time to help each other learn and grow and have fun and be happy. It's like a lovely warm global hug.

Murray Close/Netflix

It's diverse by design

It might have been more satisfying to have the finale go live on August 8 (8.8.2018, come on!) but it's only fair that it's here during Pride Month. Not only does Pride itself provide a backdrop to some of the series' most memorable, joyous moments, but this is a show with Pride at its heart.

Two of its showrunners, Matrix creators Lana and Lilly Wachowski, are trans women. One of the main characters is a trans woman in America whose identity is not recognised by her family. Another is a closeted gay man in Mexico who is blackmailed.

But it's not a show about sexual identity. It's a show about being psychically linked to other people -- who happen to be gay or straight or cis or trans -- and using those abilities to kick ass.

The locations

Sense8's concept means the show is set in the worlds of Kenyan politics, Mexican TV shows, the Berlin criminal underworld, big corporations in India and Korea, the London rave scene and more. Each character is effectively the star of their own genre story, be it cop show, telenovela or Bollywood drama -- and they're all filmed in those styles, which is super cool. (The Bollywood wedding is phenomenal.)

The portrayal of those settings can be superficial, no question, and no one would suggest it gives anything like a nuanced picture of those worlds, which leaves it open to charges of appropriation and insensitivity. But the bits set in America and Britain are hardly realistic either: It's not a gritty police procedural or a drug drama, and it wears those genres lightly too.

Murray Close/Netflix

You paid for it

As m'colleague Rebecca Fleenor argues about The Crown, even if this doesn't seem like your kind of thing, you might as well watch it. Why? Because you damn well paid for it. Sense8 is one of the most expensive TV shows ever made at an estimated $9 million per episode. That's an awful lot of subscriptions.

This was certainly a factor in its cancellation: "At some point if you don't have the viewership showing up to justify the expense of the series, you're going to want to end it," Netflix's Cindy Holland told the Radio Times earlier this year.

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It's spectacular

That budget? All up there on screen. There are car chases (and Nairobi bus chases) and explosive shootouts and tons of eye-popping martial arts. There are beautiful helicopter shots of some of the world's most glorious places -- Iceland in particular.

And the orgies. Don't forget the psychic orgies.

The sheer complexity of it

I cannot begin to imagine the spreadsheets behind the production of this show. Because the characters can see each other, the actors must all have been present for filming in each city, at least some of the time. It must have taken meticulous planning.

There's a brilliant making-of documentary that I watched after the end of season 1 that made me completely reassess everything I'd seen and gave me a sense of awe at how they pulled it off.

Murray Close/Netflix

So much heart

People all around the world love this show. When it was cancelled and when it came back, Twitter was awash with emotion.

"Improbably, unforeseeably, your love has brought Sense8 back to life," Lana Wachowski wrote. "The passionate letters, the petitions, the collective voice that rose up like the fist of Sun to fight for this show was beyond what anyone was expecting."

Being a part of that wave of feeling is a joyous antidote to the overwhelming, screeching cynicism of 2018.

Murray Close/Netflix

Doona is bae

Look, this list might as well have been one reason. Ignore the rest, scoff if you want, but you cannot ignore Doona Bae. The South Korean actress is phenomenal in Sense8, completely in control of every muscle. When there's ass to be kicked, she's the one doing the kicking, and that's amazing. But her face is extraordinary. You just have to see her, trust me.

The Wachowskis cast her in Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending, both widely derided. Maybe if Hollywood only knew her for Sense8 she'd be a huge star by now. If anyone had watched it, that is. Sorry! Didn't mean to be cynical. Love and acceptance. Let's go.

Originally published June 7.
Update, June 8: The series finale is now live.

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