I recently completed watching a show called “Sense 8” which is from the Wachowski siblings who brought us “Matrix”, “Jupiter Ascending”, and “Cloud Atlas” to name a few. They are type of directors who don’t just want to reproduce the same old thing for people to consume and come up with an inventive and imaginative way to tell a story.
Their work doesn’t always connect with some people though, which is why the siblings have recently taken the route that many blockbuster directors who have had recent bombs do –go to TV.
It worked very well for M. Night Shyamalan who after bombing with After Earth turned to TV and struck gold with his TV show “Wayward Pines” (which I strongly recommend you binge watch because the story is just so compelling).
Getting back on track, basically the Wachowskis realised that the movie format wasn’t working for them and so they went to Netflix to try telling their imaginative stories.
In my opinion, this was a damn brilliant decision.
Sense 8, which the Wachowski siblings executive produce alongside J.Michael Straczynski, telling the stories of 8 strangers from across the globe who become connected to each other.
As viewer, you embark on a 12 episode journey with these characters and each of their narratives as they help, console and teach each other. They have to learn how to cope with being able to have access to the knowledge, emotions, feelings and senses of 7 other people.
I have compiled a list of reasons why more people should be watching Sense 8. I am not going to lie that if you want something that will give you all the answers from episode one then you might struggle watching the show. The show takes the first half of the season building the relationships with each of the characters and establishing their own lives (which is no small feat). By the time the action gets rolling, you really feel connected to their story and your investment is rewarded.
Stereotypical Race Representation
The show delivers characters who you have seen across a few TV shows but never in one show, never mind them even interacting with each other. The show includes characters from America, Korea, Iceland, India, Mexico, Kenya and Germany. The cast varies in nationality, skin colour and language. The show tries, and succeeds to break down the stereotypes of characters that we usually see. You have a representation of Nairobi (Kenya) that depicts not only how gang dominated the country is, but also how complicated the characters that live there are.
They aren’t just stereotypes that we see on screen but rather people living complicated lives. The same goes for the Korean character, Sun.
Sun is working in a pharmaceutical firm run by her father and brother. You see that she smokes and she is not scared to beat someone’s ass, but yet, she sacrifices her freedom to protect her brother. Their narratives are something we would never typically see in an American produced TV show, never mind the fact that these characters even interact with each other.
Unlikely Character Interactions
Sun (from Korea) interacts not only with Capheus (from Kenya) but also Kala (India), Lito (Mexico) and Riley (Iceland). This is just how one character interacts with characters from across the globe within the show. Each character gets to “visit” (as the show calls it) the others sometime throughout the span of the 12 episodes, and as a viewer it is a joy to witness. Interactions between characters of colour or interactions with characters of different nationalities (that you would never typically see happen) occur frequently on Sense 8. This show doesn’t just do it to be a gimmick, but does it to tell a story, with exciting outcomes. As a viewer of colour from South Africa, I appreciate seeing someone like Capheus and his best friend interacting on screen because while I might not be from Kenya, there are some bits of their story that I as an African can relate to.
Sense 8 succeeds for me because it deals with how interconnected we are. We all want to believe that there is someone out there in the world that can relate to us, be it romantically or just another person.
Sense 8 takes that ideal and transcends it. Two of the characters sometimes are dealing with the same emotion in a different way but the show puts them together and when you witness how they learn from each other and are talking about their various challenges it is becomes captivating.
Sometimes someone close to you could be going through something that you went through already, and since you might know exactly how they feel, you can still relate to them. Sense 8 excels in this regard.
One of my favourite sequence’s comes from episode 4 where the Sense 8’s are singing “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes. They all share the experiences but in a very different way. Some happy, some sad, and one being drunk, but it just works in depicting how interconnected they are to each other.
There is some dialogue that Kala says in episode 7 that I just love because of how it describes their connection:
“If I was trying to describe this feeling – the sensation of experiencing the warmth of the sun, the smell of jasmine and marigold; while at the same time being soaked by a downpour at an outdoor cafe. Taste of strong coffee still in my mouth…I would say the word miracle sounds particularly appropriate. Wouldn’t you?”
The show also impresses me for how it fearlessly tackles LGBT themes, which I adore. Lito is a closeted telenova star living with his boyfriend Hernando. Nomi is a transgendered woman who has been with her girlfriend for a long time. Sense 8 doesn’t just have one LGBT character to fill some type of quota, but rather it has two whose stories are depicted equally as those of the heterosexual characters on the show. Sense 8 shows that LGBT live lives full of love, struggle and heartache. It is a complex depiction of the lives of those with the LGBT community that don’t fit into any particular mould.
Sexuality is EXTREMELY apparent in this show. We see the transgendered woman making love to her girlfriend within the first episode of the show, but it is really in episode 6 where this particular aspect of the show takes off because it does this to show how connected the Sense 8’s are. When two of the Sense 8’s simultaneously happen to be having sex, and another is feeling horny, it ended up having a ripple effect which the show handles by showing some of the Sense8’s engaged in not an orgy. But an orgy that is simultaneously taking place in Germany, Mexico and USA, all while none of them are in the same place. It is less trippy than what it sounds. They feel each other’s pleasure to such an extent, one of the Sense 8’s who is in America orgasms while working out but another Sense 8 in Mexico exclaims that “I just had one the best orgasms of my life.” It is really just a spectacle to watch, and it is really enjoyable to watch because you understand their connection to each other in a way that you may not have before.
The show does not shy away from show religion either. Kala in India is shown to be a scientist who is also a devout Hindu. We are often shown scenes in which Kala prays to the Ganesha (a Hindu god) to help her with a particular problem that she is seeking clarification on. It is refreshing and as someone who knows very little about the Hindu religion, it is extremely exciting and engaging to watch.
In episode 7 she says:
“My love for science doesn’t preclude my faith. For me, science is another language we use to talk about the same miracle that faith talks about.”
Also with the whole idea of 8 people being connected, the show deals with how it has an impact on science. The Sense 8’s are suggested to be another form of homosapien, and it goes onto much further elaboration than I will here. The show isn’t pitting these two sectors against each other but rather, allowing them to work in cohesion with one another as it pushes the seasonal arc forward.
The show has the longstanding relation between Nomi/Amanita at the start, and the reason why their relationship is engaging because you see a gay woman of colour in a long term relationship with a white transgendered woman; Lito and his boyfriend Hernando are the two Mexican gay men also committed to each other. The show then has the romance of Riley (the DJ from Iceland) and Will (the police officer from USA), in the fore front driving the story following their newfound connection. Their story has major consequences for the plot and is lovely to watch.
Kala’s romance saga proved to be equally exciting for me as you have an Indian woman who is about to get married to a guy who is perfect for her, but can’t help falling in love with the German diamond thief (who enjoys being naked) but also has a heart of gold. I loved becoming engrossed in their love story because they represent two people who couldn’t be more different from each, yet can’t help taking a liking to each other.
Of course like any show, Sense 8 is not without its flaws. Sometimes throughout the show the 12 episodes does feels like a limit given that if the show had more time, they may have been able to flesh out the connections a bit more. There’s also one or two times when Sense 8’s who have never met, take to meeting each other without much fanfare, and like it’s no big deal.
Maybe the show could be saying that some of the Sense 8 took to their newfound connection to strangers with ease, but that seems like a stretch. Sure we do meet some people who feel like we have known them forever but sharing thoughts and feelings with them would at least be a “WTF” moment regardless of who you are.
The villain of show also needed to be more 3 dimensional and less like a guy who wants to just kill them. Hopefully the second season of the show will get into giving the villain a substantial expansion if we are to truly feel threatened for the Sense 8’s. What made him want to kill the Sense 8’s? Power? Control? Or Scientific reasons?
The show did a good job of interweaving of the stories of the Sense 8’s but they could be handled better. On occasion when watching it does feel like the show is struggling to find a way to connect the characters but for the most part, it does well.
Some people have complained about how the show excluded some of the non-white characters from the orgy scene. However this may have been a scheduling issue or logistics. The show films across the globe and as a result, they may not have had all the actors present and available at all times. Perhaps not everyone was available to shoot the orgy scene, or opted out of being the scene for personal reasons but this seems like a minor flaw given how the show is doing more for representation of non-white heterosexual characters than almost half the TV shows from America these days.
Despite its flaws, Sense 8 is a show the likes of which is hardly if ever seen. I finally get to see complex characters of colour and sexuality and not just the typical white characters that are so often fed to us from Hollywood.
I strongly encourage each and everyone to give the first 6 episodes a watch. If after that you aren’t feeling the show, then at least you tried.
As for me, I will impatiently wait for season 2 to find out more of the story about these interesting and never before seen 8 characters.
I hope that Season 2 stays focused on these 8 characters and not want to introduce too much too soon.
Theo Over and Out.
PS – Here is the trailer to Wayward Pines if you are interested. (BUT ONLY AFTER SENSE 8 !!!!!)