Growing up in any decade with TV, we have all become familiar with the idea of what makes up a Christmas Special: the episodes themselves tend to be pure fluff — a fun distraction from the deeper plot of whatever TV show we might have previously been watching. These tended to fill an important role in TV before streaming, when we had to keep up with a show every week or risk missing something important. Series would release the "less important" Christmas special episodes air around the holidays for anyone who had to travel or make plans with family and might not be able to tune in that week, while those who could tune in received the benefit of a fun distraction for die hard fans.
Enter the world of streaming.
Now, with platforms like Netflix and Hulu, we can watch any show's Holiday Special episodes any time we want. And streaming networks (and some cable networks) are providing us with entire seasons of shows all at once, so we no longer have to wait week-to-week, and can instead opt to binge entire seasons in a day or two (and then wait months to a year for the next season to be available). As such, we might expect the idea of a Christmas Special to become obsolete. Perhaps, but if we've learned anything from shows like Black Mirror, streaming has only forced such ideas to evolve. Instead of filler episodes for those who are too busy to keep up with a weekly schedule, these specials fill a new and important role: teasers during the intermissions between seasons. For Sense8, however, The Wachowskis have taken the evolution one step further and given us something else we desperately need between seasons: resolution.
The two-hour Sense8 Christmas Special starts off by reminding us all where each of our favorite eight-some have ended up after the first season, giving us time to re-adapt to the fictional world and allow the memories of where the characters have all been to return as they will. From there, each character (with the help of all of the others) begins working through their own problems. While some problems are clearly more urgent than others (being a wanted fugitive vs. being in a loveless marriage, for example), each story arc is given a fair share of time and writing, really nailing the theme of connection and unity felt by all of the sensates. A struggle felt by one of them is a struggle felt by all of them.
But my favorite moment in the special happens in one of the very first scenes. It seems as though Aml Ameen, the actor who portrayed Capheus in the first season, left the show due to "creative differences" (some reports say it was amidst a "hate-filled rift" with Lana Wachowski), and had to be replaced by Toby Onwumere. While the Wachowskis could have treated this similarly to any other actor leaving a role in other shows and not mentioned it, they decided to have some tongue-in-cheek fun with the matter, using carefully positioned camera angles and witty one-liners during Capheus's introductory scene in the Christmas Special, all leading up to a special "reveal" of the new actor in Capheus's role.
Ultimately, though, this Christmas Special was executed nearly perfectly. Though I struggled at the beginning to recall what had happened in season 1, I thought this episode did a fantastic job of jogging my memory without recapping the whole story for me, while tying up some loose ends, but still keeping them loose enough to tie up tighter in season 2. As always, I'm extremely excited to see more of Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre) and Hernando (Alfonso Herrera), if you know what I mean (wink wink) in the upcoming season 2, being released by Netflix in May 2017.
Oh, and the Christmas Special has another orgy scene, so go watch it.