Sense8 is one of the best science fiction shows around, and it should be. It is, after all, helmed by long-standing members of the geek pantheon J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, The Amazing Spider-Man) and the Wachowskis (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas). Rounding out this pool of talent are Wachowski collaborators Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Perfume), James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin), and Dan Glass as directors.
With this pedigree, there is bound to arise a sense of anxiety as to how the show will fare – a surfeit of excitement all too well translates into dread that the other shoe will drop. This exhibited itself in how critics received the show. It was lauded by sci-fi enthusiasts, from io9 to Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, however, it was hesitantly received by critics of less specialized inclinations.
This only means a more thorough look at the series is in order while waiting for the second season. Here at What’s A Geek, we provide just that, part review and part analysis, covering two episodes every week. Fair warning: spoilers abound.
Sense8‘s sci-fi concept is simple: evolved humans, called sensates, share telepathic links with each other in eight-people clusters, despite living hundreds of miles away. Through this link, they are able to see, hear, and feel what their cluster sees, hears, and feels. For verisimilitude, scenes are shot on location: whenever one sensate appears in another sensate’s surroundings, that means the actor was flown in from somewhere else. As a result, a whole season is shot in one country before it is shot again in another. This dizzying feat of planning pays off with a plethora of awe-inspiring images, from car chase scenes in Nairobi to getting lost in the Ganesh Charthuti Festival in India.
But while Sense8 expertly handles milieu, it is deeply preoccupied with character. The show unfolds the lives of its eight characters with a slowness that could only be confidence. The first two episodes, “Limbic Resonance” and “I Am Also A We,” tell us how to watch Sense8, that, while there is a mystery surrounding their telepathic connection, their lives, and how they help each other, is what matters. In other words, these episodes tell us that Sense8 is well ahead of other genre shows about conspiracies and mysteries: JMS and the Wachowskis have their hearts set on the characters. And they are compelling characters.
Kala (Tina Desai) is a doting daughter who becomes engaged because she believes it will make her family happy. Sun (Bae Doona), a stoic businesswoman, hides behind her steely demeanor a fire stoked by her family’s indifference. Capheus (Aml Ameen), matatu driver and ray of sunshine, powers through difficulties always with his mother in mind. Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre), a successful but closeted actor, stumbles from one hiccup to another. Nomi (Jamie Clayton), a lesbian transgender hacker, has to face the idea that her own brain might be working against her. They are all wonderfully cast, and they are all darlings.
Some of them, not so much.