Netflix Originals have never failed to amaze me. When I first started watching Sense8, I wasn’t sure as to what to expect from the show. A mixture of sci-fi, romance, comedy, thriller, all genres that you could possibly fit in one show. The greatness of it was that it played justice to each genre that it stood for. This show has been executed in the most effortless way possible, it roots for diversification and unification all under one plot. It is a wonderful depiction of what true humanity stands for.
The premise is that eight people, dispersed around the globe, suddenly start having visions and sensations as they become psychically connected. They learn that they can communicate with each other, experience each others experiences, and even share their expertise. The eight characters on the show are:
- Nomi Marks – is a transgender woman in San Francisco. She’s a former black hat computer hacker. She lives with her girlfriend. Her family doesn’t accept her transgender identity.
- Lito Rodriguez – is the star of macho action movies and novelas in Mexico City. He is gay but hides that from the world because he fears it would destroy his career.
- Sun Bak – resides in Seoul. She isn’t accepted by her father. Sun is lonely and has internalized a lot of anger. She releases her frustration through martial arts.
- Wolfgang Bogdanow – lives in Berlin. He grew up with a terribly abusive father and has fallen into a life of crime.
- Will Gorski – is a cop in Chicago, trying to live up to his father’s reputation on the force.
- Kala Dandekar – lives in Mumbai. She is engaged to be married but is struggling with the cultural expectations and differences between her religious family and her fiancé’s secular family.
- Capheus – drives a bus in Nairobi. He has grown up idolizing Jean Claude van Damme. Today he is caring for his AIDS-stricken mother and facing harassment from gangs.
- Riley Blue – who, after a terrible family tragedy, has fled from her home in Iceland to live in London where she finds herself in dangerous trouble.
As you can notice, it is a real life rendition of people from all around the world in a wide spectrum of gender, sexuality and nationalities. It does not glorify the lives they live. For example, I can relate to Kala’s life in Mumbai as a 20 something year old. They have, in no shape or form, glorified it with the Bollywood style drama. It is the life of a young woman in Mumbai in the rawest form.
In the first season, the eight—Capheus, Sun, Nomi, Kala, Riley, Wolfgang, Lito, and Will—are shown trying both to live their everyday lives and to figure how and why they are connected. Meanwhile, a sensate named Jonas, who was involved with Angelica (a woman that all eight of our main characters are related to), comes to their aid, while the Biologic Preservation Organization (BPO) and Whispers, a high-ranking sensate inside BPO, attempts to hunt them down.
In the second season, the characters have grown accustomed to their connection and help each other on a daily basis. They learn more about Homo Sensorium (the scientific name of sensates), the history and goals of BPO, the role of Angelica in it, and their powers and how to temporarily suspend them. They also meet other sensates, not all of them are friendly. At the same time, Jonas attempts to both aid them and look after himself after being captured by Whispers, who is now involved in a cat-and-mouse game with Will, each of them trying to outsmart the other.
A few aspects of the show that I absolutely adore are:
- Filming and Cinematography: The efforts put into the making of this series are mind blowing. The cinematography is so focused on authenticity. A few facts from the documentary of the making of this series state that the international aspects of the story, filming for Sense8, took place almost entirely on location around the globe. In the first season they filmed in nine cities located in eight countries; Berlin, Chicago, London, Mexico City, Mumbai, Nairobi, Reykjavík, San Francisco, and Seoul.Netflix required the production to shoot with 4K cameras to make the look of the show future-proof.The show had on board John Toll who outdid himself with his work as a cinematographer. Toll’s cinematography in the third episode of the second season was recognized with a nomination for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (One Hour) during the 69th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards.
- Editing: The first season had a total VFX shot count of about 1200. The show had scenes throughout every episode where the transitions had to shift between locations and the characters had to be present in each location at the set time in the set look that they were supposed to be in when they initially start out. The time and effort that must have gone in for the editing of each scene at each location to shift to the next scene with the same sort of vibe is tough to achieve as someone who has had a hand at editing basic videos. Kudos to the team, they definitely deserve a lot more credit for the work that’s been put in.
- Direction: The show’s directors were attached to locations instead of episodes and with several countries appearing in every episode. In reality, none of them has a single director. During the first season the Wachowskis were responsible for directorial duties in scenes shot in Chicago, San Francisco, London, and Iceland. McTeigue worked on the Mexico City and Mumbai parts along with some in Reykjavík, and Tykwer helmed Berlin and Nairobi. Dan Glass made his directorial debut in the Seoul part of the story. Every episode and location was divided among the included directors and thus each of them had their style involved with each of the sets provided to them. This makes the show extremely diverse and interesting to watch.
- Casting: The actors in their respective characters are the perfect choices. They have the exact nationalities and ethnicities that the characters demand to be played as. It is raw and a naked reality to the audience as to how the lives of these characters play out, as the actors have probably grown up living the same kind. This kind of a series does not require method acting as they create the method out of the actor and their lives.
- Background Score: The background score of this series is to be praised highly. Each season’s score was written up to a year and a half before filming began, allowing the production to play it back to the actors before shooting a scene, hence giving them an idea of what energy is to be put through while performing. For the series’ almost two-minute long title sequence, Karin Winslow rented a car and with the help of a camera assistant traveled in the eight featured countries of the first season and captured over a hundred shots. He said, “My directive from Lana was to go out and describe each country by what you see; find the nuances, find the food, find what people are doing, get a feel for the place.” The show received a nomination for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music during the 68th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards.
Sense8 holds an extremely special place in my heart. It is a show that opened my eyes to the actual world and it’s ways with a twist of my favourite genre; science fiction. The show is extremely powerful, as when Netflix announced they had cancelled the series after two seasons, fans created online petitions, called Netflix, and the hashtag #RenewSense8 was trending all over, in an attempt to bring back the show (I stood as a supporter too). In June 2017, the official social media accounts of the show posted a letter by Lana Wachowski which announced the release of a two-hour special targeting 2018.