I recently watched the Netflix sci-fi drama ‘Sense8’. It didn’t strike me as being my cup of tea, but I’ve had it proven to me enough times now that I’m not as narrow minded in my genres of taste as I think I am (‘The West Wing’ and er… ‘Downton Abbey’—yeah still not sure what happened to me there…) I thought I’d give it a go.
Sense8 has an original plot revolving around 8 individuals all over the world, living their lives completely separately, until they are suddenly awakened to one another emotionally and physically. They can appear to each other, invisible and intangible to everyone else around them, and they can merge or switch consciousness’; inhabiting one another’s bodies. The series starts with their awakening and throws us into each character’s lives, but they are also working together to understand what they are going through—and the threat they are in from an organisation that is trying to track them down.
The characters are a diverse mix; gender, sexuality and nationality, and all varying shades of grey in character, and their personal stories outside of the sci-fi plot aren’t ‘B stories’ or padding—they are, as they should be, often the priority for them as characters, with the central sci-fi plot being an intrusion and disruption for them that gradually begins to shape their lives and it’s direction. The concept of 8 characters in 8 different locations, only tenuously connected, shouldn’t work—but it does.
I’m glad I’d read that it’s a slow burn, because it is. At first I was only giving it a little of my attention, I just couldn’t see where this was going, but then I found I didn’t care as I was enjoying the characters and their individual stories, but what drew me in was the emotional connection between the characters. The concept of being able to leap in and out of each other’s lives and bodies obviously bypasses the issue of having characters so split up geographically, but it is explored in so many ways; characters inhabiting another character’s body to share their skills, whether it’s driving, hacking, fighting, or turning on the charm, and there’s even an astral projection orgy. Yes, really. However, it’s not the sharing of skills at times of crisis that made this show for me, it’s that at their lowest and their loneliest points these characters can be of comfort to one another—like having an omniscient best friend.
Each character has a different and engaging life which gives variety to every ten minutes of an episode, and being able to split the plot between their regular lives and their sense8 connections you get a real sense of what’s at stake for the characters and how these skills could help them master or destroy their regular lives. There are also sense8 characters outside of the 8 the show revolves around, and they appear as guides, often with warnings but their motivations and allegiances are unclear—all except for the sinister ‘Whispers’ a Sense8 who is tracking them down…
I’ve never watched a show where I cared about all the principle characters, and most of the supporting characters as quickly as I have with Sense8. It’s engaging, well-paced, visceral, emotional, violent, exciting and well shot. We burned through this first series, and it’s definitely worth watching. If people aren’t talking about this much now, I imagine they will if the second series is as strong as it’s first. I’d give it four astral orgies out of five.
Go check it out. If you have, what did you think of it?