There is that moment we hunt for as an individual or better yet, as a lover of stories, emotions, characters and ideas, where everything just clicks and you think to yourself this is it! When I started watching Sense8 I had that moment in the very first episode and it was just the beginning. A season of twelve episodes filled with action, love and heroism in many forms focused on eight characters who are all unique and special in their own way. To say I liked the series is an understatement because for me, Sense8 is just the kind of story telling I enjoy and adore.
Before I start discussing the first season of the show I must confess a problem: it’s impossible to summarize Sense8 without rambling on forever. This is why this post has been in the works for so long, my original attempt was to eliminate ramblings but as I soon understood I was craving to share them too much to focus. So if you would like to get a quick what’s this about, this paragraph is here for you, and the rest, well, that might drive you mad. Therefore, in short, Sense8 is about eight people around the world who are mentally connected in a cluster. It would be a rather lengthy introduction if I included the explanation behind how the cluster works so I’ll leave it out for now. The bottom line is, these eight characters sense, feel and experience each other in a way that is humanly impossible, but through their connection they help each other in ways we all should. Like with anything supernatural, there are people who are determined to catch them, to destroy their minds and this while they all try to put themselves together.
The first and most important part of the show for me is its diversity. During a time where diversity is talked about not only in regards to laws that allow gay marriage but also in connection with violence, Sense8 shows a sort of reality that isn’t attacking anybody. We have two gay characters, one of whom is a closeted Spanish actor living in Mexico City, the other a trans woman in San Fransisco. We have a police officer in Chicago, an Icelandic DJ living in London, a bad boy German with a knack of opening up safes, an Indian woman promised to marry, a van driver in Africa and a martial arts expert in Seoul. The joy of it all is the fact that almost every actor living in this different part of the world is from that part of the world (except for the Icelandic DJ and African van driver – both portrayed by British actors). Considering the current casting, I’m very content, especially with the German actor who I need to keep my eye on for sure.
Anyway, the diversity is a very big key element in Sense8 and the show deprives itself to show acceptance towards everybody. Since these character are mentally connected, they seem to share the mentality of each other and well, if you have 8 minds there isn’t much room for hate and intolerance. Everyone is helping everyone, each member of the cluster brings something to the team. And when they happen to share their sexual experiences with each other, you can really sense the diversity being appreciated and enjoyed – not just by the eight, but also by supportive characters. In short, you can really tell that Sense8 deprives itself from hate, and promotes acceptance among each social group, each nationality and all of that through those eight individuals.
I’m certain if I paid attention to it, I’d see flaws in the logic of the mental connection but I’m enjoying this paradox too much to go that far. There are two connections the characters experience, the first is just mentally being connected to one another and being able to control each others physicality, the other, is visiting. The visiting aspect allows them to be together, even touch each other but of course, for everybody else outside the cluster, the visiting character won’t be visible. It is clear that some of the members in the cluster are stronger than others, some drawn to each other more and some only meet once or twice during the 12 episodes. It is also hinted that the characters actually speak their own language, for the viewer it is still English, but in their minds they are speaking either German or Korean. In the cluster they all understand each other and are able to therefore speak all the languages represented in their cluster.
The aspect of language, and the fact that Sense8 shortly approached it, making the statement that in fact, though we hear the characters in English, they are speaking a foreign language, was admirable. It adds a dimension, a sort of meta-level to the whole series and makes, in my mind, the mental connection even more understandable as I can view myself as a part of the cluster, translating their conversations into English. Granted, this is just me making a justification to a fact that the show is in English though it aims to be global but I think, in terms of this particular series, having subtitles would just make everything way too messy anyways.
Speaking of messy, the plot for the first season sure feels like a cluster of events if you start to think about it. Sure, we have the connection element that is shortly explained and then explored throughout the series, but then we have the individual back stories of each character AND their common storyline. All together, it’s a lot of stories to combine and yet, it sparks so much emotion and feelings. Besides, it’s always nice to have a bigger group of characters because that allows for favorites and man, do I love that feeling when my favorite pairing is happening. Luckily for me, Sense8 is about many favorites because as much as I want it to be all about the Spanish actor and the German bad boy, other cluster members can just swoop in and steal the spot light. For instance, it wasn’t until the final episodes in the first season when I started to love the Icelandic DJ more and more as her back story was gradually revealed.
The more I think about it, the more it makes sense that having so many main characters is Sense8’s own downfall. Though this statement isn’t always the case, shows like Game of Thrones thrive on a big casts, yet, sometimes having a certain amount of characters could rip away from the connection. Granted, with every show that has a big cast, the ability to connect to some characters more is inevitable, but it’s interesting to know that it seems critics don’t seem to be connecting to Sense8 at all. Why this is, is beyond me but with a show that is aimed towards acceptance and tolerance, it’s a little ironic that it’s getting such a bad rep from the critics. I’d hate to see a show tumble under pressure because some professional critic doesn’t seem to like it, when clearly, the regular viewer such as myself is eager to see for more!
Then again, as a criticism, I must admit that some back stories got a lot more attention than others and yet, it doesn’t really annoy me than it just upsets me. Sure, there could have been more about the German character but the fact that the Spanish actor’s plot was so compelling, made up for the absence of the others and the overuse of the DJ. Besides, as some story lines were tied together by the end of season 1, I assume others would merge in the second season and become more prominent. And I know that I’m most of all looking forward for some characters to meet in real life as well, just like a pairing was finally brought together in the finale. This was a spoiler, sorry for that!
Anyway, speaking of the finale, I think it’s time to wrap up this post though it feels like I haven’t even discussed what the show is all about. Well, as I said in the beginning, there is a mental cluster of 8 individuals and they are hunted by bad guys. This is pretty much the premise of the first season and will hopefully continue to be such in the second. The individual plot lines are just as interesting, some even more than the main issue, but it’s all subjective. We have characters who have been mentally connecting and visiting for many times, others who meet right at the end. Then there are two ultimate pairings and one of whom needs to get happening soon because my feelings will be hurt otherwise. In short, there is too much in Sense8 to summarize, too much to discuss and too many feelings to maintain a level of sanity and I love every bit of it!
This part is optional because I made this post too long and now I can’t stop.
1) Wolfgang (Max Riemelt), by far, is my favorite character because he is just so precious. Also, I liked the little detail of pairing him up with a darker skinned woman in the beginning because it makes his affection towards Kala (Tina Desai) oh so very realistic.
2) I’m not completely thrilled about the overall bad guy arc which is too dominant over the whole plot. Like, the way the finale ended makes me think, well, how are you going to defeat a villain who is now 100% connected to Will (Brian J. Smith)? It’s too much hassle for season 1, just, take it easy Sense8.
3) I watched Sense8 group hangout and it made me appreciate the series even more. For us, it was all linear, but for the show and the actors, it was a bundle of scenes where they shot things in different sides of the world. Like, Game of Thrones happens in different places too, but imagine now how in one episode Jon Snow is mentally visiting Khaleesi, and then vice versa – it puts a lot of pressure on the actors as well as the show runners to keep it not messy.
4) I like how Sense8 might bring more attention to actors from different countries, such as Miguel Angel Silvestre and Max Riemelt who have had big careers in their own country but might be getting a bigger audience now. Especially Miguel, he seems like such a talented actor who shouldn’t just be doing Spanish soaps.
5) As a general criticism, which I guess I sort of mentioned already, I think the first season was too fast to show too much too soon. Maybe it’s the format, all released at once, but I partially think that the development of the plot was too quick to end up where it did. It left us with a mess to be honest and maybe the rushing is the reason the second season is under a question mark.
6) Did I mention Max Riemelt? I kind of did but I have to again because he is so precious and I love him!