Guest Reviewer: Edgar
The Once Upon a Time, Orange is the New Black, and True Blood podcasts
Who: “Sense8,” is a Netflix original series, always available on Netflix.
What: “Sense8,” a science fiction drama created by the Wachowskis (The Matrix) and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5). The plot revolves around eight strangers from different parts of the world, who suddenly and inexplicably become mentally and emotionally linked, and explores themes of religion, politics, identity, gender, and sexuality.
When: All twelve first season episodes became available for viewing on June 5, 2015.
Where: The action is set all over the world.
Why: I started watching this show after seeing it heavily advertised on the radio and TV. Also, the creators are connected to The Matrix trilogy, so I figured it couldn’t be half bad. I was motivated to write a review because I felt a strong connection with this show quickly. I haven’t had a connection with a show like this in a very long time; the last time I felt connected to a show like this was when I watched Lost. Also one of my favorite actors from Lost is in this show, i.e. Naveen Andrews, who played Sayid.
How – as in How Was It?
The pilot/premiere rating scale:
***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING. HOLY SMOKES!
**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing. I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.
*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens. There are things I like, and things I don’t. We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.
** – I will give it three episodes. Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together. No matter how unlikely.
* – Pass on this one, guys. It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.
Sense8 = *****
Sense8 tells the story of eight strangers: Will, Riley, Capheus, Sun, Lito, Kala, Wolfgang, and Nomi, each from a different culture and part of the world. While living their everyday lives, they suddenly have a vision of the violent death of a woman called Angelica and discover that they are ‘sensates’: otherwise normal humans who are mentally and emotionally connected and who are able to communicate, sense, and use each other’s knowledge, language, and skills. While trying to live their lives and figure out how and why this connection has happened and what it means, they are aided by another sensate, Jonas, who is trying to protect them from “Whispers”, another sensate, who is similarly empowered and who is hunting them down by tapping into their psychic link.
Sense8 is a very complex show due to the number of characters involved in the story line. In Episode One, “Limbic Resonance,” we are introduced to Angelica Turing (Daryl Hannah). who is in the process of giving birth. Throughout the season, the show refers back to this moment and the act of Angelica giving birth. Within minutes during the first episode, though, we also learn that eight other people can sense this act, together, though as people find out about their ability, it is not easily accepted.
Mr. Whispers (Terrence Mann) appears to be the villain; he has the same ability as the “8” and wants no one else to share his ability. The 8 include Capheus (Aml Ameen), Sun (Doona Bae), Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Kala (Tina Desai), Riley (Tuppence Middleton), Wolfgang (Max Riemelt), Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), and Will (Brian J. Smith). These 8 characters live nowhere close to each other; however, they all share a mental connection. They quickly learn that they also share the strengths that each person possesses, though each character lives in 8 different locations around the world from San Francisco to India to Iceland. Each of the 8 characters brings a different dimension to the connection. For example, Sun is an award winning fighter; Lito is an acclaimed actor in film. As the 8 are mentally connected, they can use and channel each other’s strengths or other attributes, like language.
From an audience perspective, it was very interesting to see how the show developed the characters in ways that they learned to help each other, whether by Nomi helping Will with her spy equipment or by Will, on the other hand, helping Nomi to break free from being held hostage. I fell in love with this show not because of the element, the “gimmick,” specific to the show, i.e. the mental connection between the characters, but because of the original state of each of the characters and what they uniquely brought to the “sensate” table, which made them feel more real and more like normal human beings. Nomi, for instance, is a transgendered woman who is fighting for her right to be able to be who she wants. Lito is seemingly a “man’s man;” he is a famous actor, complete with money, cars, nice house, and of course plenty of women to feed his image. Deep down, however, he has a secret that even he, himself, hasn’t come to grips with: he is gay and has a lover, but he is unable to love his lover because he has been unable to love himself.
What Sense8 does particularly well is showcase powerful themes of power, gender, identity, and sexuality. On the other hand, the biggest problem with the show is that, due to the number of characters and the associated complexity that covering so many main characters entails, there are many episodes devoted to exposition and explanation of who each of the characters are and what they do. It took at least three or four episodes, which is a quarter to a third of the opening season, for this viewer to truly grasp who everyone is, which I believe compromised the show’s future because the show takes so much time to lay the groundwork underlying its characters and its vision. Season two renewal was not automatically announced as with some of Netflix’s other original series; Netflix waited until August 2015 to indicate that Sense8 would be green lit for a second season.
The show itself is packed with drama, action, and lust, though it sometimes lacks a beat, a consistent pace that propels the story forward. In some episodes, the pace or forward motion felt as if it died very quickly. At times, it felt like, in one minute, I was focused on one thing but then was switched to a whole new adventure without forewarning. The show’s direction lacked meaningful transitions at times, as the story lurched sometimes from setting to setting and character to character.
In the program’s defense, much of the chosen direction and pacing is devoted to developing how the 8 are connected. It’s clear that the writers want the audience to understand that the characters are deeply connected in a mysterious way, and the editing team does a wonderful job of showcasing scenes that take place around the world but at the same time in a manner that is both meaningful and engaging.
Overall, I am hooked. I rated the “first look” show five stars because, not only does one have to watch all the episodes to get a handle on all of the character and plot detail, but the characters’ individual story lines are well developed, interesting, and so good! I have enjoyed getting to know these 8 people and how they tick and work. It’s going to be interesting to see how Straczynski and the Wachowskis move forward. The creators have already announced that they plan to produce no more than five seasons, which seems short but for how television works today.
Though the renewal announcement for Sense8 took longer than usual, Netflix is advertising the show again. For now, we know we will be reconnected with our Senses. Till we birth again.
Questions Going Forward
1) Mr. Whispers went into Will’s mind; throughout the show, all of the 8 were warned: “Don’t look at him, or it’s the end.” So what has happened to Will?
2) Why is Angelica connected to all 8 people? How did she give birth to the 8?
Sense8 is recommended to people who like action-packed shows. Although the show is considered science fiction, it is not rooted in much science, but for the fact that the 8 main characters can all connect their thoughts, actions, and minds. This viewer sees the show as more of a suspense filled mystery. Sense8 is also recommended to those who like trying to figure out what is going to happen next and to Lost fans because Sense8 reminded this viewer of Lost.
THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:
Sense8 was renewed for a second season, slated to premiere on Netflix in June 2016!