Sense8: A Slow Burn With A Rewarding Boom
At first glance, Sense8 doesn’t seem like a show that’s going to live up to its hype, much less bring back the former glory of The Wachowskis. Though they changed movies with The Matrix, they haven't had a hit in a while.
Boy, am I glad that first glance is wrong.
If you’re not familiar with the premise of Sense8, eight people, referred to as “Sensates,” experience a moment that establishes a psychic link among all of them. There’s a mysterious and nefarious organization that threatens their lives and an ambiguously ethical mentor who may or may not actually be an instrument of the evil organization.
Each of the Sensates come from very different worlds: one is a cop in Chicago, another is a trans woman living in San Francisco with her girlfriend, a bus driver in Nairobi, a gangster in Berlin, a Korean business executive, a closeted gay actor, a biomedical researcher in Bombay, and an Icelandic DJ living in London. Their differences are what ultimately help them understand one another.
This show is gorgeous. The cinematography in most Netflix shows is excellent, but Sense8’s is particularly lush and gives the settings an ethereal glow. San Francisco is one of the principle settings and it has never looked so beautiful as it does in Sense8.
Secondly, the writing is tight, slowly burning until everything explodes. Since it’s on Netflix, the format allows the writers to fully explore each character. You’re drawn into the story, getting invested in the outcomes.
Lana Wachowski’s experiences come out in Nomi, the trans woman, whose voice is authentic and speaks to the struggles of being transgender. As someone who comfortably lives in between “normal” and “deviant”, the sheer number of minority characters is fantastic and heartening.
Three of the four Sensates are people of color and two are LGBTQIA characters. They’re all represented as fully fleshed out characters, even if they’re not in every episode.
And, finally, the great writing would be nothing without the cast. What a cast it is. Naveen Andrews plays the mentor, Jamie Clayton plays Nomi, and Freema Agyeman plays Nomi’s partner. They all are great in their roles, bringing nuance to their performances. They bring the characters to life and deepen the impact of the story. The combination of all three elements boosts the show to a higher level.
I went in to Sense8 with low expectations, but I’m so glad I gave it the chance. If you’re looking for an engaging and thought provoking show that’s good either binged or in bite sized portions, Sense8 is the show for you.
Yes, the pacing is slower than most shows on television, but so is Daredevil and House of Cards. They set it all up so watching it come crumbling down is so much more rewarding. I honestly recommend everyone giving Sense8 a shot. You might just like it more than you’d expect.
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