If you’ve spent lots of time on Netflix in the last month, chances are you may have seen a mention of Sense8, one of the newest original series on everyone’s favorite streaming service. Sense8 is a collaboration between the Wachowski siblings (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5), and tells the story of eight strangers who are reborn into a “cluster” of sensates. The sensates can see each other and share feelings and skills with each other from wherever they are. Aided by another sensate, Jonas, they begin to tap into their newfound skills, while trying to avoid being captured by another mysterious sensate called Whispers, who works for some evil corporation. Rather than writing a review, Editors-in-Chief Sarah and Megan had a conversation about their thoughts on the show (including some spoilers!).
SJW: Okay. So. Sense8. How did you get drawn into it?
MEG: I found out about it from a queer friend who was excited about it because of Nomi’s character [Nomi is a trans woman and one of the sensates].
SJW: I found out about it from a queer friend of mine as well. He had a Facebook status about the show, and when I asked him about it, one of the main ‘selling points’ was the understated poly relationship. Obviously a cis couple needed to be at the center. *sarcasm* *kinda* But I love the overall representation of queer-ness.
MEG: Yes, absolutely!
SJW: I’m unsure about how I feel about Nomi being played by a cis woman.
MEG: She’s trans, actually.
SJW: WHAT. REALLY???? WAIT IM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW!!!
MEG: Yeah, that was part of the reason so many queer folks I knew were at least intrigued, because it was actually a trans person playing a trans character. You can watch this video she did and cry later.
SJW: That is successfully on my to-do list. The cast is absolutely outstanding. The direction and cinematography and editing is actually perfect. I’m shocked that I haven’t seen nearly enough advertising for the show.
MEG: Yeah, it really seems to be spreading by word of mouth, and I feel like the mixed reactions from critics haven’t been helpful either.
SJW: [Word of mouth] is great. But not enough. Why are critics mixed?
MEG: I think one of the biggest critiques is the pacing. Some folks have said the amount of story covered in the entire season would be covered in the opening two episodes of other shows. Not with the same amount of character depth, obviously, but in terms of plot movement.
SJW: But that’s one of the things I loved about this show: I really fell in love with all of the characters and really got to feel and understand them. That’s something current television is seriously lacking. I still think it all worked really well for the overall feel of the show. I think if they had tried to pull that together into just 3 episodes it would have been too epic and gotten into the issue that [Once Upon a Time] did with their first season being too good to top.
MEG: I agree, I did have some moments where I felt like things were dragging, but on the whole I appreciated the slow build, and the exploration of the connection between the sensates. I liked that they didn’t all meet at once.
SJW: Me too. I liked the gradual realization of “powers” as well. It gave it a sense of realism that I really appreciated.
MEG: Yeah, and it made me really appreciate those sequences when they came along, and then at the end when it finally started to feel totally seamless for them to jump in and out, it was even more powerful.
SJW: I totally agree. It made it much more exciting as well.
MEG: Speaking of exciting, I feel like we have to touch on the orgy scene.
SJW: Oh my god, my favorite bit of that was when the cop met Lito and they were all “Do I know you?” “Yeah, we had sex”
MEG: I loved that moment.
SJW: Me too.
MEG: Because yeah, in the moment, they all seemed pretty into [the orgy], even the characters you might not expect to be comfortable. Because they were all sharing the feelings, it was sort of contagious.
SJW: Totally. It was a bit weird for me to watch, just because from out of nowhere suddenly like 12 people were making out. But it didn’t seem out of place or forced, which was awesome, especially for a show nowadays.
MEG: Yes, and in that scene especially I started thinking about how, for the actors, you’re filming the same scene in different locations with who knows how much time in between, and yet they are so on point all the time.
SJW: They really are incredible actors. Netflix has been getting some incredible people for their shows. Also if I’m not mistaken, many of the main actors are ‘new’ to the scene. Except, of course, Martha (SHE WILL ALWAYS BE MARTHA) and that guy from Lost.
MEG: I also knew Brian J. Smith already from his role on Stargate Universe. Ironically, another show with body sharing addressed in an interesting way.
SJW: I really love the whole concept [of Sense8]. And how we don’t know how everything works, just that it does.
MEG: Yeah, although I would love in future seasons to learn more about that.
SJW: That’s part of the beauty of it. At least this season. I hope they go more in depth as well, but I love how we’re learning as the characters are learning.
MEG: It’s a good way to draw the audience in.
SJW: I also love how some of the characters are messed up by seeing other people, whereas some are crazy chill.
MEG: Yeah, I started questioning what my reaction would be if I suddenly started seeing people supposedly on the other side of the world from me.
SJW: Me too, and I still have no idea what I would think.
MEG: It would probably depend on who I was seeing.
SJW: I love how they speak in each other’s languages, and how kissing is so awkward.
MEG: Oh the awkward kissing was great. Although I felt like some of them should have gotten more weird looks on the street for talking to themselves.
SJW: Yeah. Do you have anything negative to say about the show?
MEG: I mentioned the pacing already as bothering me a little, but I think one of the other things (and I’ll admit I’m influenced somewhat by a review from Nerds of Color here) was that it felt like it pulled a little heavily on cultural stereotypes. It felt like a globalism that was very based in an American perspective.
SJW: Valid. I don’t think they were that offensive though. Like, it could have been a lot worse. But it was clearly from western viewpoint.
MEG: Yeah, and it wasn’t like I found the stereotypes offensive, they just felt a little cliched.
SJW: Yeah, the Indian arranged marriage, the Hispanic telenovela star…
MEG: The mother with AIDS in Nairobi.
SJW: OH MAN forgot that one. But I think overall, it’s clear the positives outweigh the negatives. At least in my book.
MEG: Yes, in mine too.
SJW: Like, I would recommend this to like every human ever.
MEG: Maybe not to someone who hates sci-fi.
SJW: Truth. But I really think there’s something for everyone in this show: Romance, sci-fi, culture, international, breaking gender norms…Those were phrased badly. But I think this show is REALLY amazing for queer visibility.
MEG: So amazing. I am in love with Amanita. I have never loved Freema Agyeman so much.
SJW: OH MY GOD ME TOO.Okay, big question: who’s your favorite character?
MEG: I think my favorite character changed a lot episode to episode.
SJW: Valid, valid.
MEG: I think Sun may be my favorite of the sensates. You?
SJW: See, that’s a question I’ve been seriously struggling with for a while, because I can’t figure it out. I’m REALLY GOOD at having a favorite character. But I can’t seem to pick one. Amanita might be my favorite character. But I think I like the boy from Africa just because he is in such contrast to all the other mains. I just love how each character isn’t whole without their family/friends. The writing is also superb.
MEG: Yes. I like that the show doesn’t sit with the heavy the whole time, but brings in moments of lightness. Because of how dark it is I feel like that’s super important.
SJW: Yes, there’s a lot of humor. But well placed and timed.
MEG: I think that was part of why Lito grew on me so much, because I really appreciated his humorous moments.
SJW: Yeah, and the cop [Will, played by Brian J. Smith].
MEG: I think I liked Will from the start because he reminded me a little bit of Smith’s Stargate character, so I felt an immediate affinity with him. But I really want to know more about the whole childhood story.
SJW: Me too. He also just is dripping with hero potential.
MEG: I really hope Netflix renews it.
SJW: Me too. It’s too good for them not to. We just need to keep spreading the word!!!
MEG: Haha, yes!
What about you, Geekettes? What did you think of Sense8? Let us know in the comments!