Sense8: A Feast For the Senses

By now, you’ve probably already heard about, read about, or binged (for the second or third time) the Netflix original series Sense8. Unless you’ve been living under a rock that doesn’t have Wi-Fi, you know that Sense8 has been compared to Lost, Heroes, and just about every other ensemble TV show or movie featuring a group of strangers with intersecting storylines. While it’s true that Sense8 can be perceived as a Lost/Heroes 2.0, like the show itself, that perception only scratches the surface of it. Sense8 is all of those things, and so much more.

While not the first of its kind to depict intersecting strangers with intersecting storylines, Sense8 breaks ground in the way that those strangers and storylines are experienced. As both a viewer and a character, being able to experience the lives of fellow characters by literally walking (kicking, punching, lying, hacking, or driving) in someone else’s shoes is something thats never been done before, let alone in this cerebral, intoxicating, out-of-body fashion.

That said, the most significant experience at the core of Sense8 is the human experience. These characters are not gifted with supersonic speed, superhuman strength, or fancy tech; they don’t have billions of dollars at their disposal or a private plane with its own hangar and full-time pilot. It puts ordinary people in ordinary circumstances, and, it’s when these ordinary people come together that the extraordinary happens. In moments of shared consciousness where the show goes off on supernatural/other-worldly tangents, everything is still grounded in reality, and, most importantly: humanity. In this digital age where we are both more connected (and disconnected) than we’ve ever been, Sense8 reminds us of our humanity, and even if one were to dismiss this as hippy-dippy nonsense or something brought on by the use of psychedelics, even the most cynical among us can be moved by this show. These 8 strangers are not strangers at all, they are our best friend, our neighbor, our co-worker, our ex (and current) lover, our parents, our children. I am a we.

This show will make you uncomfortable.

There’s no getting around it. Whether it’s the Transsexual/Gay sex scenes, the graphic violence, or the violation of some other highly held and subscribed to principle, you will be uncomfortable. Sense8 forces you to confront every bias or prejudice you hold, and, in true Wachowski fashion, it forces you to confront it head on: foot on the throttle and guns blazing. Sense8 is unapologetic in its depiction of social/societal taboo, it doesn’t shy away from asking the hard questions, instead, it powers through where other shows cower, provokes where others are paralyzed, not only pushing the envelope, but obliterating it. If Sense8 doesn’t make you uncomfortable on some level, it cannot move you, and, through sheer bravery and force of will, it will do both.

It seems a “review” cannot be taken seriously unless it adopts a negative tone and points out every single flaw, every chink in the cinematic armor, as it were. But, unlike a lot of shows with big budgets and heavy-handed CGI, Sense8 and its flaws are, in fact, a strength. It’s precisely because each character is flawed in his or her own way that they’re more endearing. These “heroes” are not heroes because they single-handedly save the day, but because they aren’t afraid to admit to their faults and ask for help when they need it. These heroes are human, and it’s their humanity and the universal struggle of the human condition that connects them all (even more than their Sensate ability). Its been said that we will all be judged by the courage of our hearts, and Sense8 has courage (and heart) in every color.

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