Here’s Why Netflix’s Sense8 Should Be Your Next Binge-Watch
If you’ve been on Tumblr at all within the past month, chances are you’ve seen this show reblogged on your dashboard—little snippets of scenes with particularly memorable quotes and GIFable moments. I didn’t have any of that when I was originally tuning into this show shortly after it was released on Netflix, or I might have had a sense of what I was getting myself into.
This was what I knew: Sense8 was a new drama TV show developed for Netflix by the Wachowskis (of The Matrix trilogy and Jupiter Ascending fame) and J. Michael Straczynski (who most people are likely familiar with as the creator of Babylon 5). But there’s so much more to this show than what lies beneath the surface.
The premise is this: eight strangers from different places all over the world discover they are now mentally linked to each other—but it doesn’t just stop there. These people, who we learn are called “sensates,” are also attuned to each other’s emotions, which means they often experience what someone else in their group, or “cluster”, is feeling. (This can lead to some fairly amusing interactions—say, if one person happens to be having sex, for example. One of my favorite scenes to date involved a male character experiencing the pain and emotional turmoil of a female character’s menstrual cycle.)
There’s Capheus (Aml Ameen), a van driver from Nairobi struggling to make ends meet so he can provide medicine for his sick mother; Sun (Bae Doona), the daughter of a South Korean businessman by day and an underground kickboxer by night; Nomi (Jamie Clayton), a transwoman hacktivist from San Francisco; Kala (Tina Desai), Hindu pharmacist uncertain about her engagement; Riley (Tuppence Middleton), an Icelandic DJ with a past she’s running away from; Wolfgang (Max Riemelt), a German safecracker who tangles with organized crime; Will (Brian J. Smith), a police officer in Chicago with a complicated family life; and Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), a closeted gay man who doesn’t want to disclose his sexuality for fear of ruining his movie career in Mexico.
These sensates have vastly different backgrounds, but they’re all brought together, or “birthed” into existence, by sensates from an older cluster named Angelica (Daryl Hannah) and Jonas (Naveen Andrews) who kickstart their connection to one another. Unfortunately, their activation as sensates also means they’ll have to face the threat of being taken out by the Biological Preservation Organization—led by a sensate named Whispers (Terrence Mann) who’s hunting down his own kind.
Not only do these sensates have the ability to tap into each other’s emotions and thoughts—they can also use each other’s skill sets. This especially comes in handy in the midst of the threats against them—Capheus steps in to help Nomi when she needs to make a quick getaway by car, Sun uses her kickboxing skills to help Capheus defeat some local gang members… and the list goes on. By the end of the season, the entire team of eight are working as one efficient unit to help one of their own after they’re kidnapped by BPO—and you’re rooting for each and every one of them along the way.
Sense8 is a slow burn, and with good reason—the show’s creators want you to become immersed in each sensate’s world first before their journeys begin to intersect. What’s even greater about this show is that everything takes place on location—nine cities in eight different countries: Chicago, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Seoul, Reykjavík, Mexico City, Nairobi and Mumbai. Using CGI to capture any one of these cities would have been taking the easy way out, but the fact that Sense8 strives for that level of authenticity only adds to its immersive storytelling. Each scene of dialogue between sensates was shot several times in each city—so that when two characters such as Kala and Wolfgang are stepping into each other’s worlds, they’re actually there—and as the audience we’re right there with them, making it seem as if the camera is a ninth sensate in a way.
While Sense8 could certainly be classified as a science-fiction drama TV show, that description doesn’t seem to do it justice. At its heart, it’s closer to a show about human connection, about relationships, about how we interact with one another and embrace one another regardless of gender, sexuality, race, religion or anything else that would potentially be a dividing factor. Some of the best scenes in the entire first season involve simple conversations between two characters, although I have to give extra points to a masterful music montage set to the tune of 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Going On?”. (And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the terrific supporting cast on this show, including a phenomenal turn by Freema Agyeman as Nomi’s girlfriend Amanita.)
These eight people couldn’t be any more different, but the way in which they come together in the face of overwhelming odds and a corporation that literally wants to kill them will leave you feeling pretty hopeful after you’ve watched it. The best thing about Sense8, ultimately, is that it makes this great big world feel just a little bit smaller.
Carly Lane is a writer based in New York City who specializes in obscure pop culture references and miscellaneous geekery. Her work has been featured onHelloGiggles, Obvi We’re The Ladies, Femsplain and more. You can find her on Twitter at @equivocarly.
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