Sense8 is one of Netflix’s newest offerings, this time from the Wachowski’s. The title is stupid and the Wachowski’s have been batting a low average lately, so you were right to scroll past it on your way to Kimmy Schmidt. Fun side note–a friend once got really really mad at me for falling asleep when they made me watch The Matrix–not my jam. I got intrigued by a bunch of gif sets on Tumblr and gave it a shot, and am happy I did. (Side note–do you ever feel like you’re watching a show simply through the flood of gifs you see? Like, I’m basically caught up on Walking Dead at this point) The show is centered around eight people in their late twenties across the globe, whose consciousness begin to intertwine. As their ability to communicate and inhabit each others minds increases, they’re hunted by an evil biotech corporation, because TV shows need antagonists.
The big selling point on this show is the diversity of the eight central characters. Its diversity was oddly attacked by the New York Times, which suggested that the portrayal of a transgender character was done (well) both because it’s trendy and because Lana Wachowski is transgender, as opposed to being done because it is an experience shared by millions of people and art exists to explore the human experience.
The eight members of the “cluster”, all beautiful and from beautiful locals, include:
Capheus–a Nairobi bus driver and the loveliest person in the world
Sun–a Seoul businesswoman and kickboxer, who would be an irritating ‘strong female character’ were the actress not so talented and her fight scenes not SO FUCKING GOOD
Nomi–a transgender journalist in San Francisco with an unnaturally supportive girlfriend
Kala–an unnaturally beautiful scientist in Mumbai
Riley–an Icelandic drug addict and DJ, who shockingly did not drive me insane, despite the fact that I go out of my way to avoid watching movies about addicts and musicians.
Wolfgang–A German criminal who goes full-frontal a lot
Lito–a closeted Mexican movie star, who can flirt his way out of any situation
Who happens to have the hottest boyfriend ever–art lover, foodie, glasses wearer extraordinaire
Will–a sweet but dull Chicago cop with skinny legs.
The show has strengths and weaknesses. It’s got some easy to dismiss transhuman philosophy that I tuned out for, and it’s worth noting that for the diversity of the characters, they hit some cultural clichés–Capheus’ mother has AIDS, Sun is a martial arts expert. The criticism of the show on this fact are solid, however I guess I’d argue that in each case, these aren’t feeble plot devices, but fully flushed out elements of the characters that enrich the story–like, a major element of Capheus’s character development is exploring his relationship with his mother and their mutual sacrifices for each other, and for Sun, the physical violence she perpetrates against opponents is the only outlet for the lifetime of frustration bookmarked by the early death of her mother and her cold fathers’ obvious favoritism for her ne’re-do-well brother. I guess what I’m saying is that these cultural clichés are certainly questionable, but aren’t thrown in flippantly, and are perhaps indicative of how white americans conceptualize other nationalities and ethnic groups with set trope identities, even when we’re trying to be inclusive.
Sense8 really picks up by the 5th episode, when you begin to see the cluster come together–each person with a particular set of skills, to aid each other, leading to some entertaining action sequences
Sense8 is as beautifully shot as Marco Polo, with a far better script. The pacing is great, as is the use of music–it actually got me to stop hating the song ‘What’s Going On’ for 5 seconds, although the scene is a bit ridiculous.
Actually this scene is a good litmus test–if it makes you eyeroll so hard you get a migraine (Bri) avoid Sense8
It also features a solid orgy scene, and multiple shots of fetuses crowing–ain’t gonna see that on Game of Thrones.
In most ensemble shows there are characters you love (Margaery Tyrell, yas queen) and characters you fast-forward through (screw you Sam Tarley and your nerd hero redemption fan service). I found myself liking all Sense8 characters–even when Will is dull, his plot propels the story forward to such a degree that I was never bored with him. I’m going to go with Lito for my favorite character, not just because of his delicious boyfriend, but also because the show makes good use of his job acting in telenovelas to set up some fantastic set pieces
So yeah, one of you has to watch it so I have someone to discuss it with.