7 reasons to watch Sense8
TW: Discussion of birthing process, the use of illegal substances
Sense8 is the new Netflix sci-fi series by the Wachowskis (Matrix, Watchmen), and it attempts to put something a little different on our screens. Very loosely, it’s a cross between Heroes (if all the heroes in question mostly spent their time talking, that is) and Lost (if it had the faintest idea what it was doing).
Sense8 is about eight people from the far-flung corners of the globe, all from very different backgrounds, who discover they have a telepathic/telekinetic link and can share their consciousness as ‘sensates’. So far, so sci-fi. Why is Sense8 so different from the pack? Why is it so interesting?
1. Trans positivity
One of the most relatable characters in the show is Nomi Marks, a transgender political blogger and hacker from San Francisco. As one of the main characters she has vital agency and her gender is neither overlooked nor stereotyped in the way it is handled. Her character is played by trans actress Jamie Clayton (Hung, Dirty Work). It’s heartening to see that this powerful role went to such a nuanced talent. With Lana Wachowski (herself a transgender woman) at the helm, it’s no wonder the casting has been so thoughtful.
2. The accents
A natural-sounding accent can make all the difference when it comes to story immersion. Sure, actors can phonetically learn a few lines, but the care taken with accents and casting in Sense8 helps us to get immersed in both story and message on a deeper level. Yes, it is a big world we live in. No, culture should not be homogenised. Seoul businesswoman Sun Bak is played by South Korean-born Doona Bae (Jupiter Ascending). Bus driver Capheus Van Damme, from Nairobi, is played by Aml Ameen (Kidulthood, The Maze Runner). Chemist Kala Dandekar, from Mumbai, is played by Tina Desai (Sahi Dhandhe Galat Bandhe), a Bengaluru born actress who debuted in Bollywood. Mexican movie heart-throb Lito Rodriguez is played by Miguel Ángel Silvestre (I’m So Excited!). German safe-cracker Wolfgang Bogdanow is played by Max Riemelt. And so it goes…
The Sense8 actors are not, in every case, native to their character’s land. However, their accents are fluid and consistent and they feel true. You’re left with the happy sense that a bit of care has been taken to avoid constructed accents. It makes a difference.
3. All that talking
There’s a huge amount of talking in Sense8. Apart from the trademark Wachowski action scenes, obviously (loving that wire work). But yes, much of this series is two people talking to each other. Feeling together. Discussing those feelings together. Discussing how it feels to discuss those feelings together.
The globe-trotting locations may vary, but much of Sense8 features two characters in coversation, trying to communicate their shared personal experiences.
It’s like that word, ‘sonder’. The one that means each passer-by has a life as vivid and complex as your own.
It’s like that word, ‘adronitis’. The frustration over how long it takes to get to know someone.
It’s like that word, ‘exulansis’. The tendency to give up talking about an experience because people are unable to relate to it.
The Wachowskis have taken these words and somehow made a sci-fi show about them.
4. That scene
Oh, whoa. That scene. That scene. If you’ve watched it, you know which scene. Just… whoa.
Go bold, Sense8. Keep doing what you do. Go bold.
5. Body positive
Everyone in Sense8 has won the genetic lottery (a reference to their classic good looks as opposed to the telepathic stuff) and that’s okay. However, there is such a pervading sense of body positivity in this show. You’ll get tender, naturalistic love scenes aplenty. You’ll get not one but EIGHT graphic births, all witnessed in an infectious state of delight by characters in the grip of both emotional and pharmaceutical ecstasy. You’ll get characters doing things that in lesser hands might look awkward, but here look… beautiful.
Tenderness for the human race in all its variety, strength and vulnerability is absolutely key to what Sense8 is about. Which is nice, because you don’t often get to say that about a TV show.
6. LGBT positive
Tokenism is wonderful absent from Sense8. LGBT relationships are portrayed in a very positive light, and the series also acknowledges that a stable love life can exist beyond the boundaries of monogamy. The message behind Sense8? Love is all.
7. Playing the Sense8 powers game
This one is heading slightly into spoilers territory, so feel free to skip to the next point if you would prefer.
See, very early on – in the first episode – we learn that the sensates are being hunted down, for reasons unknown.
SPOILER ALERT: As they increase their telepathic communications with each other, the sensates are suddenly in a position to help each other in some very dire situations. Martial arts? Hacking? Yeah, you can see how these would be useful. DJ-ing? Driving a bus? The build on this is absolutely excellent, and ‘guess the power and assess its levels of usefulness’ is a fun game to play.
Don’t do what I did. I spent a lot of time waiting to find out if beatmatching would have any use whatsoever in a life-or-death situation…
Never say never.
8. Daryl FHannah
Daryl Hannah (Splash, Kill Bill) is in it, so that means you have to watch it now. That is all.
Will there be a second season of Sense 8? Yes.
As of August 2015, a second season of Sense8 has been confirmed!
A lot of critics and viewers were left a little bewildered by what Sense8 was up to and producers initially made no sign that there would be a second season. However, Netflix has officially announced Sense8‘s renewal, and a second season is go!
The announcement was endearingly announced by the cast members singing ‘happy birthday’ to the sensates:
— Netflix US (@netflix) August 8, 2015
Sense8 isn’t perfect. There are still a few tropes tucked away here and there, for example… but, like all of us, it’s a work in progress.
It’s great to see it’s been given a little more time to grow.
For anyone thinking of watching show, please note that there are many triggering elements in it. For more information about Sense8 trigger warnings, you can visit very useful sites like http://triggering-tv.tumblr.com/ which have compiled lists of Sense8 TWs.