From the minds of The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski, who created The Matrix trilogy and Babylon 5 respectively, we have Sense8, a sprawling sci-fi epic that dares to tackle subjects often ignored by most science fiction works, creates a truly impressive, if slightly flawed, feat of television in the process
The series follows the Sensates, 8 individuals scattered across the world, all born on the same day of the same year, all connected mentally, yet only just becoming aware of it. With their newfound connection, the 8 find themselves being hunted by a mysterious figure known only as Whispers, who is determined to track all of them down and wipe them out.
I wasn’t kidding when I described this series as a sprawling epic, with the opening minutes devoted not only to introducing us to our diverse cast of heroes, but to showcase the myriad of locations in which the characters inhabit.
The series is truly international in scope, with episodes filmed on location all over the world, in varied locations such as Iceland, Kenya and South Korea to name but a few.
The sheer amount of location filming is a rarity for television, even most films don’t shoot in as many locations as Sense8 does, but it truly is a show of the confidence on the creators and allows them to tell a truly global story.
The choice of locations also allows for the creators to examine particular issues that relate to their characters.
For example, we have Sun who lives in Seoul, South Korea. She is the daughter of wealthy businessmen and aims to be taken seriously as businesswomen in her own right, yet has to contend with the sexism prevalent in Korean business circles. This, in turn, leads her to take part in underground kickboxing fights, where she still faces sexism from other fighters but is able to use her superior fighting abilities to overcome it.
The multi-national cast of characters is as appropriately diverse as they are fascinating, each with their own backstory, their own hopes, their own ambitions and their own particular set of skills. It is these skills, which the protagonists are able to draw from due to their shared mental links that allow for some really cool moments, especially in action sequences.
Such as in one episode in which Capheus, a bus driver in Nairobi, Kenya, pursues some muggers who have robbed him. Soon he faces a problem when they attempt to run him over, luckily over in Chicago, police officer Will is on the firing range, thus Capheus is able to use Will’s firearms skills against his attackers. This shoot out then leads to a hand to hand fight, which Capheus starts to badly lose, at which point Sun, over in Seoul, takes over and uses her martial arts skills to defeat the attackers.
This is just one way in which the series creatively uses the cast, with the characters often switching suddenly between shots, and then back to create a frenetic if initially confusing way of showing action.
The acting from the cast is, for the most part, excellent, with the principal 8 all making their respective characters likeable and believable, with each bringing their own particular strengths to the table, whether it be with dramatic moments, action sequences or bringing some much-needed humour to more serious moment.
The strongest moments though are when they interact with each other, often holding soulful discussions about their hopes and their pasts, often with thousands of miles between them, allowing them to understand each other’s plights and deepening their connection deeper.
The supporting cast is somewhat a mixed bag, but largely good, with the only slightly weak link being Freema Agyeman, who performs her role as the girlfriend of San Francisco-based Sensate Jamie, with an obviously fake and frankly unnecessary American accent. While some may not be too bothered by her decision to use an accent, in my view it does take a bit way away from what is otherwise, a fine performance.
While I enjoyed the series at large, I will admit that this first season did have some serious flaws, while not ruining the series in any regard, do take a bit away from my initial viewing of it. For instance, the first two episodes of the series, while otherwise fine, are a fairly weak introduction to the series, being somewhat slow and light on action. It’s not until the third episode that the show the pace quickens, and we gain insights into the character’s motivations and desire, with a greater amount of action and suspense.
While a slow introduction to the world and characters of the show is not necessarily a vice, it could potentially scare aware possible viewers, which would be a shame they would be missing out on a lot of great moments once series really begins to pick up steam.
In closing, Sense8 might not be everyone’s cup of tea; people may love it or loathe it for the same reasons. While in this first season the series does have a few growing pains, it ultimately pays off by the time the credits roll on the last episode.
With a fine cast of actors, impressive cinematography, excellent use of international locations, and some excellent action sequences, Sense8 is worth taking a look at; just give it a bit of time to get going.
[rating=4] | Graeme Robertson
Drama, Mystery, Sci-fi | USA, 2015 | 18 | Netflix Originals Series | 2015 | Dir. Lilly Wachowski | Aml Ameen, Doona Bae, Jamie Clayton,Tina Desai,Freema Agyeman, Naveen Andrews,Max Riemelt