Review: Sens8

Wachowskis

This Netflix-produced drama has an otherworldly edge and is difficult to categorize, but represents a new tinge for US-based productions.

Created by the Wachowskis in tandem with Michael J. Straczynski, better known for his work on Babylon 5, is complex, dramatic, emotionally consuming, and rather awkwardly tackles some rather big themes and subjects. Oh, it is also very gay – as in LGBTQ-friendly and is boldly featuring some very diverse cast of characters, which includes gay men, women, and transgendered roles.

Sense8 is primarily about loss, lust, love, sappy sentiments, belief, and friendship. The narrative weaves a connection between eight protagonists who are connected, Matrix-style. Their ordinary lives are interrupted by an image of Daryl Hannah angelically appearing, and then dramatically dying.

The eight soon realize that their butterfly stage of adulthood is only beginning, about to take a different shape as they awaken to a new reality, one in which they begin to communicate with one another, co-op each others talents and skills, and seek each others support when needed. In more than one case, they even fall in love with one another, console each other, and serve as a coping mechanism for difficulties they face.

Without going into the details surrounding each and every character, one could argue that Sens8 is superbly pedestrian, somewhat boring, about as elegant as Adam Sandler’s “The Cobbler” (and if you think about it, the two sport quite a bit of similarities) – I found it difficult to retain any sympathy for the characters until I reached episode 9, which amounts to saintly patience on my part.

However, Sens8 does represent an interesting breakthrough in TV production, one that I have been also quite patiently awaiting: the attempt to tackle grand ideas on paper-thin budgets.

Thus far, for Americans, this is an unusual approach, practically unheard of, while for UK productions, it’s almost a given.

Doctor Who production, for example, does an amazing job at creating grandiose, awe-inspiring themes, on what one might consider a very mediocre production budget. Largely fueled by rich, orchestral music, and partly by the carefully built up anticipation and emotional charge, UK shows somehow manage to successfully convey complex stories with often supernatural or otherworldly themes by simply relying on good acting and the ability of the audiences to suspend their disbelief.

American shows, on the other hand, especially those mediocre ones, often heavily rely on flimsy CG effects, linear narration, and blunt, flat actors who leave us uninspired while rummaging through incredibly simplistic stories.

Sens8 heavily borrows these techniques and creates a fairly exciting, yet mediocre show, with some elevated complexities. Why, there re even a science fiction elements! There are the bad guys, composed of Icelandic researchers. There are the good guys, whom I find difficult to empathise with, yet I find interesting and varied enough to observe, and finally, there is growth, narration that does develop and intersect lives of our protagonists. The protagonists are an evolutionary branch of humanity, the destruction of which is a priority for a shadowy organisation that hides amongst the dark corptocracy.

Sens8 is a sign of things to come – ambitious ideas partially curtailed by money – yet it is also a sign of promise that we may yet see more competent storytelling adapted on flimsy TV budgets, and for that, the Wachowskis should be commended.