‘Sense8' offers new perspectives with a unique premise

With engaging characters, an exciting premise and impressive production values, Netflix’s newest drama is changing the game.

By Gabriela Velasquez | Sept. 2, 2015

Tags: Netflix TV

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I’ve watched a good deal of television in my time, ranging from “The Wiggles” to “Degrassi,” from “NCIS” to “Daredevil.” Because of this, it’s become hard to surprise me.

Successful shows, the shows that networks don’t cancel after a single season, follow formulas. Whether it’s a case-of-the-week crime drama or a wannabe quirky sitcom about an attractive outcast just trying to get by, I certainly am not judging people who enjoy these shows — I’m one of them. Every once in a while, though, a new show comes out of the woodwork and changes the game.

Netflix’s “Sense8” is one of those shows.

Bold, entertaining and completely unique, season one of Sense8 premiered in its entirety on Netflix on June 5. The premise is anything but simple: eight people from around the world (Berlin, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Mumbai, Seoul, Nairobi and Mexico City) who share nothing but a birthday suddenly develop a strong telepathic connection after all receiving a disturbing vision of a woman’s suicide, making them “sensates.”

Their connection, they soon discover, is more than a mental one — it’s an emotional one, as well. They learn that they are able to communicate in situations of emotional distress or mortal peril. They can visit, essentially appearing in front of each other; share, where they virtually take over each others’ bodies; and exchange languages, skills and knowledge.

There is a lot we can talk about where “Sense8” is concerned: the crazy-complex plot; the fact that it was filmed in eight different cities and four different continents; or even the star-studded cast of characters.

The sensates in the show are the definition of diverse.

There’s Wolfgang (Max Riemelt), a quietly tortured German jewel thief stuck in a violent crime family; Will (Brian J. Smith), a good-natured Chicago cop; Nomi (Jamie Clayton), a transgender lesbian woman and reformed “hacktivist”; Riley (Tuppence Middleton), a British DJ caught up in a drug deal gone awry; Kala (Tina Desai), a devout Hindu pharmacist stuck in an unhappy engagement; soft-spoken Korean businesswoman by day and underground fighter by night Sun (Bae Doona); cheerful bus driver Capheus (Aml Ameen) who is trying to provide for his sick mother; and closeted gay actor Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre), trying to navigate the Mexican film industry without revealing his sexuality.

Each of the sensates have their own individual stories — it’s like watching eight different shows at once. But while the sheer amount of storytelling can feel overwhelming at times, each story is worth watching on its own. The actors find ways to tell large stories in a series of intimate moments.

“My feeling has always been that the more global you want your story to work, the smaller you go. We can't always write to the big stuff, but the small stuff, you can relate to,” co-creator J. Michael Straczynski said in an (interview with Indiewire)[http://www.indiewire.com/article/sense8-co-creator-j-michael-straczynski-interview-netflix-season-2-20150605].

I’ve come across other reviews that claim it’s a mess, an idea too complex for audiences to connect to. These reviews are not completely without merit: The exposition is slow, and the dialogue can be stilted at times. But I must respectfully disagree with those who say these flaws make the show undeserving of a watch. While imperfect, “Sense8” is important. It tackles issues of body autonomy, religion, trans- and homophobia and even gender inequality, and tackles them all with sincerity.

Perhaps what makes “Sense8” so special is what it suggests. Despite their cultural or religious differences, the sensates all find common ground in their shared human experiences.

You would not expect people with such differences to get along, let alone become like family to one another. But throughout the series, they learn that their differences are what make them complete, and even despite them, they have more in common than they realize.

“Sense8” has something to offer for everyone: thrilling action sequences, picture-perfect editing and even (a delightfully strange montage of all eight sensates singing alone to “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes.)[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRJYCW_dCN4]

Despite its darker moments, “Sense8” is, above all, a show about hope. It acknowledges fundamental differences within mankind, but offers eight strangers who are able to connect because and despite of them. The world can be awful, messy and confusing, but we’re all trying to navigate it together.

And in this day and age, that’s something I think we could all learn from.

Season one of “Sense8” is available for streaming on Netflix.

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