‘Sense8’ is a rare science fiction success


“Sense8” (2015-)

Created by Andy and Lana Wachowski, J. Michael Straczynski

7.5/10  TV-MA

From Andy and Lana Wachowski, the minds behind “The Matrix” and “V for Vendetta,” comes “Sense8,” the latest offering from television’s most in-demand (and on-demand) channel—Netflix. Much like “Orange is the New Black” has done before it, “Sense8” achieves remarkable success with a cast that is not only large (with equal focus on eight primary characters and several others) but relatively unknown (Daryl Hannah…yes, from “Splash”…is the cast’s most recognizable name).

Eight strangers from around the world feel a sudden mental connection to each other, which allows the members of the cluster to switch places, or appear alongside one another, without the general population noticing. The eight men and women are as varied as their situations in life: Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), a closeted gay film star in Mexico City; Will (Brian J. Smith), a troubled young policeman in Chicago; Kala (Tina Desai), a bride-to-be coming to terms with her marriage in Mumbai; Nomi (Jamie Clayton), a transgender woman who, with the help of her girlfriend Nita (Freema Agyeman), tries to evade harmful psychiatric therapy in San Francisco; Capheus (Aml Ameen), a bus driver in Nairobi; Sun (Doona Bae), a fighter who takes the fall for her father’s crimes in Seoul; Wolfgang (Max Riemelt), a criminal in Berlin; and Riley (Tuppence Middleton), a DJ who moves home from London to Iceland to be with her father. Their link? All are struggling with hardships—romantically, professionally, or criminally. As their bond grows and the sensates learn about one another, they’ll begin to rely more heavily on a little help from their friends. When “Sense8” steals a page from “X-Men” and the sensates learn about a plot to eradicate their kind from the earth, their connections will be vital to their own survival.

Alfonso Herrera and Miguel Ángel Silvestre in Sense8 (2015)

Rarely does an original science fiction series find success on television. “Sense8” does so by telling the stories of its diverse cast (who, despite living in seven different countries, all speak perfect English) while neatly weaving their storylines into one cohesive plot. Understandably, the first three episodes of the season (the lowest-rated three on IMDb, it’s worth noting) are spent explaining the complexities of the situation—not only to the audience, but also to the bewildered members of the cluster, who received no training manual for their newly acquired powers. But as the context begins to clear up, the series begins to pick up the pace. The stories of the characters are hashed out, and our emotional investments in their storylines grow more intense. Then, the sensates begin building connections with one another and we see members lending a hand when their cohorts are in trouble. Finally, they’ll begin to come together on a more comprehensive scale to achieve the common goal of ensuring their own existence (it’s also worth noting that the final three episodes of the season are the highest-rated on IMDb). It’s the best way this intricate story could be told, but you expect only the best from the writers of one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time.

“Sense8” is more complex than a paragraph or two can explain. It demands your attention. It is not a series for casual viewing. That said, it’s worth the investment. “Sense8” is binge-worthy entertainment that not only feeds your brain but your heart as well. You’ll obsess over the incredibly well-developed characters, questioning from episode to episode what will happen to them next. You learn and grow with the characters. And their stories can be dramatic, comedic, or downright thrilling. Plus, sensational editing allows these stories to mesh seamlessly. I watched “Sense8” in two six-episode binges. And I can’t be the only one. When Netflix begins counting down the seconds until the next episode automatically starts, you’ll find it hard to say no. It’s true that the complex nature of “Sense8” makes it a very difficult first-season sell—like I said, it takes a little while to really come together. But an assumed Season 2 will be almost as highly anticipated as the fourth seasons of “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards.” “Sense8” is on that level. Find out for yourself.

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