— Guest post by Wolff —
Alrighty folks, this is it. My last guest post. And boy did I pick a whopper. This is one of those things that I thought was a great idea right up until I sat down to write it; this is an incredibly complex and vague show at the same time so it’s a little complicated to talk about/explain. Bear with me please! If you have any questions ask in the comments and I will do my best to explain myself. Now that that’s out of the way, Sense8 is a Netflix Original Series that premiered this month. The basic concept is that 8 people from across the world suddenly find themselves mentally linked to the other 7. This is apparently the next step in human evolution, but you guessed it, evil people are looking to hunt down “sensates” and experiment on them, or something. Spoilers lurk ahead!
Now, like I said, these people are literally all over the world. Each of the 8 have their own storylines that continue throughout the 12 episodes, along with the main storyline that links them. To make things easier I will list the main 8 here for reference, along with where they’re primarily located.
Sun Bak (Bae Doona) – Seoul, South Korea
Wolfgang Bogdanow (Max Reimelt) – Berlin, Germany
Riley Blue (Tuppence Middleton) – London, England and Reykjavik, Iceland
Capheus (Aml Ameen) – Nairobi, Kenya
Kala Dandekar (Tina Desai) – Mumbai, India
Will Gorski (Brian J. Smith) – Chicago, Illinois
Nomi Marks (Jamie Clayton) – San Francisco, California
Lito Rodriguez (Miguel Angel Silvestre) – Mexico City, Mexico
The series starts with a man and a woman (Jonas – Naveen Andrews and Angelica – Daryl Hannah) in an abandoned building. Rather, Angelica is in the building and Jonas is “visiting” her in her mind. A mysterious bearded man (known as “Whispers” – Terrence Mann) is also “visiting” her, but he seems to be a threat. Angelica “gives birth”, with encouragement from Jonas, to a new “cluster” of sensates then kills herself just as Whispers arrives in real-life, which all of the new sensates witness in their mind’s eye. Each then dismisses the incident as a vision, a hallucination, or a dream and attempt to continue with their lives. However, each begin to experience snippets of the others lives. It sometimes occurs as flashes of seeing a stranger they recognize, or seeing someone else in the mirror, or experiencing emotion that they have no reason to.
Fortunately Jonas shows up to explain some things. Apparently sensates naturally “visit” people in their own cluster, but sensates from other clusters have the ability to visit if eye-to-eye contact is made. Jonas establishes such contact with Will and Nomi, but as Jonas is supposedly a terrorist of some kind and is wanted by the US government, Will (who is a cop) gets him arrested. This is unfortunate as Nomi (a trans woman who is estranged from her family) passes out in the middle of a pride march and wakes up confined in a hospital room with a doctor promising brain surgery to “fix” her “serious condition”. What is actually happening is the doctor intends to perform a surgery for Whispers that will effectively lobotomize Nomi and allow her body to be used as an empty vessel for Whispers to control. Fortunately Will is a quick study and manages to allow Nomi to escape with the help of her girlfriend, Amanita (Freema Agyeman).
Elsewhere, the other members of the cluster are helping the others in similar ways. When Capheus finds himself and his van (he drives a taxi van for a living) being held up by a local gang he is able to fight his way out with the help of Sun (who is an accomplished business woman leading a double life as an equally accomplished kickboxer). Wolfgang (a skilfull safecracker) and Kala (a devout Hindu promised to another man) find themselves drawn to each other, as do Will and Riley (a DJ from Iceland). On set, Lito (a popular leading man who is actually gay) finds himself experiencing mood swings that make it difficult to get through scenes, especially when he is going through Sun’s menstrual cycle with her.
As the 8 draw closer and become more sure-footed in their abilities, one of their number is captured by Whispers. Now it is up to the other 7 to free their cluster-mate before Whispers gains access to all of their minds and begins to hunt them down.
Spoiler section stops here. Like I said, this show is a tad difficult to explain in words; it’s much easier to understand the “visiting” and how the sensates are able to help each other when it is visualized. That being said, it’s a really cool concept in my opinion. I loved the idea and how it was carried out. And the amount of effort that went into this is staggering; the entire show was shot on location in 9 different cities across the globe. Because of the nature of the “visits” basically the whole cast had to be there too, it wasn’t just shooting a bunch of different places at the same time. As a result of the varied locations, the visuals are stunning; the cinematography is gorgeous as well.
I do wish that with the varied location they had made the choice to have the actors speak in the native languages of the countries where they were. They had the capability to, most of the actors are the genuine article, that is to say they are actually the nationality they are playing. The only exceptions are Temperence Middleton and Aml Ameen who are both English rather than Icelandic and Kenyan, respectively. I personally would have been fine with reading subtitles for 5 of the characters, 6 once Riley returned to Iceland, and I think it would have enhanced the whole concept. But alas.
The show had other issues, it took a bit to get any kind of understanding of what was happening, or what was supposed to be happening. And even then we are only given a general idea of the concept. Some of the personal storylines got a little preachy, Nomi’s notably in the beginning, though I understand that was a personal thing as one of the producers is a trans woman and the character is semi-autobiographical. I’ve also seen complaints that the series was difficult to keep track of if it was being watched episodically, or at least in parts. I will freely admit that I binge-watched it so I really can’t comment on the lack of structure independently. I can see where the argument comes from though.
There was also an issue with balancing the 8, ultimately Will, Nomi, and Riley got noticibly more screen time than the other 5. This is a problem because all 8 actually had really interesting storylines (with the possible exception of Lito, his felt very forced to me which was a shame, I feel that a lot could be done with his character). What was done well, in my opinion, was integrating the individual skills of the 8 into helping the others in the cluster, but the overall balance needs a lot of work.
Though the show has it’s problems, I really enjoyed the concept and I can’t wait for a season 2 to hopefully flush it out a bit more. Be warned, there is full-frontal nudity found within, along with some pretty explicit sex and violence scenes. But don’t let that stop you if this sounds like your kinda thing, steal your friend’s Netflix password and give Sense8 a try!
“I see you with your fucking villain mustache!”
–Guest post by Wolff —