June 13, 2017 03:38 PM Posted by juliannadouglas
At the beginning of this year, my husband and I started our own version of binge-watching certain TV shows. We’re still not like most people who watch several episodes one right after the other, but we do escalate our viewing from one episode of a particular show once every few weeks (We watch a lot of shows, typically about one per night, and that’s as often as we can get around to them, so we’re always perpetually behind.) to watching at least a couple of episodes each week. We started with Mr. Robot, because the hubs had been complaining that his geek friends were making fun of him for never having seen it, so I bought him Season 1 as a Christmas gift. After we caught up on that and were waiting for new episodes to be released, he left it up to me to choose the next show we would “binge watch.”
I had seen a trailer for Sense8 before Season 1 was ever released on Netflix and thought it looked really interesting. After carefully weighing my options, I chose it because I was intrigued by the psychic aspects of it (anything to do with the inner workings of the human mind fascinate me) and because it was created in part by the Wachowskis (we’re huge fans of The Matrix Trilogy). My husband, never having heard of it before, was initially a bit skeptical, but it didn’t take long before he was totally on board, looking forward to each new episode. I was quickly sucked into the storytelling as well. IMHO, Sense8 is arguably the Wachowskis best work since The Matrix, and it’s most definitely one of the most unique and intriguing shows I’ve ever watched.
Unfortunately, after Netflix’s decision last week to cancel the series, what was going to simply be a post in praise of Sense8 has now turned into an homage. But I hope that if you haven’t yet watched it, you might still considering giving it a try. Because of the untimely announcement, the finale certainly wasn’t as tight as it could have been, but I’ve seen much worse. Not to mention, it’s still more than worth giving it a watch. Knowing what I know now, I would definitely re-watch it or even pick it up for the first time. It really is that good.
The basic premise of the show is that eight characters – Capheus (Aml Ameen/Toby Onwumere), Kala (Tina Desai), Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Riley (Tuppence Middleton) , Sun (Doona Bae), Will (Brian J. Smith) and Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) – all from different countries all over the world – Kenya, India, Mexico, the U. S., Iceland, South Korea, and Germany – have been reborn as a Sensate cluster, meaning that they’re all psychically linked to one another. They can feel what the others in their cluster are feeling and are privy to their thoughts. They can “visit” one another, which means that it’s like they are actually present in another place to see and hear everything around the person they’re visiting. They can also essentially take over one another’s bodies. This means that a Sensate who has special skills (eg. martial arts, lock-picking, acting, driving, bartending, etc.) can use them to help another person in their cluster by temporarily taking over. It’s quite a sight to see when these characters band together to help each other out of sticky situations or team up against the bad guys. That would be BPO, a shadowy organization, and the man working for them known to the Sensates as Whispers, who is hunting them down.
What I love so much about the show is that it’s very much character driven. As a writer and life-long reader, I can say that the characterizations are extremely well-done. I’m very impressed with the writers’ (Lana & Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski) ability to make me care deeply about each and every one of the characters. They do this by keeping the sci-fi element ever-present, but not making it flashy. Instead, this is a dramatic human story about people who just happen to have some unusual abilities. Since the characters live so far apart, they each lead their own lives with jobs and loved ones they care about, while also being part of the cluster. I absolutely love the diversity of the characters as well. I don’t know of any other show that can boast the representation of this many different races, cultures, faiths, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and gender identities all in one package. And what’s ever better is that each of the Sensates accept all the others completely and without reservation, offering each other their full love and support no matter what. It’s exactly what family should be but so often isn’t.
As a long-time lover of romance, I also enjoy the fact that they don’t skimp in this area. In a few cases, the Sensates have fallen in love with each other, while the remaining Sensates may have romantic ties outside their cluster, some of whom become privy to their abilities and others who don’t. But no matter what, the romance is always deep and heartfelt. I can feel the emotional connections between the characters and totally believe that they are in love. Unlike other TV shows and movies where the writers feel the need to break up couples or kill off characters to keep things interesting, Sense8’s writers do nothing of the sort. They use smart storytelling to keep both the individual and overall story arcs moving, leaving our beloved couples intact. However, I will warn sensitive viewers that the sexual content is pretty explicit with M/F, M/M, and F/F pairings, as well as group sex scenes that are taking place inside the Sensates minds. Basically when one of them is experiencing the pleasure of love-making, the others sometimes feel it and give in to the sensations as well. I personally thought all these scenes, whether individual couples or the entire group, were tastefully and artistically choreographed, rather than coming off as misogynistic or tawdry like many shows with similar content. This only added to the sense of romanticism for me.
IMHO, Sense8 is a standout gem in a television landscape marked with a whole lot of sameness. There are a lot of shows I enjoy, but this is one that I’ve truly loved. The writing is intelligent and engaging, always leaving me craving more at the end of each episode and often giving me jaw-dropping surprises. The actors, most of whom are virtual unknowns, at least to a U. S. audience, are very talented at bringing to life these characters that I’ve genuinely come to care about. The show has a great balance between drama, sci-fi, and suspense, with some incredibly humorous moments that made me laugh myself silly thrown in to excellent effect. As a woman, I love that all the male characters show respect for all the female characters, and when they don’t, someone always seems to step up to make them show it. The production values are movie-quality and gorgeous, with the show filming worldwide in sixteen different cities for Season 2. While the show certainly had it fair share of both internal and external angst, it also showcased some of the happiest and most unadulteratedly joyful times for the characters that I can recall seeing in this medium. But most of all, it was all about inclusiveness, acceptance, and love, and that’s something that IMHO, we need a whole lot more of in both television and the world at large. I haven’t completely given up on the possibility of seeing more episodes or at least a wrap-up movie. But if I don’t get any more story, Sense8 will be deeply missed. It truly was a unique viewing experience, and one that I doubt anyone will be able to repeat anytime soon.
Categories: TV Tuesday