My “Hardout” Pick of the Week: Netflix Original Series: Sense8

I actually stumbled across Sense8 yesterday whilst bored and browsing Netflix. (Its first season became available for streaming June 5th). I did not even know it existed nor did I know anything about it – but as soon as I saw who the creators were? I was completely on board.

This Netflix Original Series – the brainchild of the Wachowskis (most famously known for the Matrix Trilogy) and J. Michael Straczynski (creator of Babylon 5), has become my new “must watch” show but I decided to put off writing a proper review until I had devoured the whole season. Four episodes into that season, I decided to go online to check out the buzz for the show and became extremely pissed off about what I read.

So here I am – it’s the hour of the wolf – and I’m writing a review turned rant because maybe, just maybe, it can make up for the apparent inability of certain reviewers to comprehend a show that doesn’t spell everything out to you within the first episode.

Here are some important but non “spoiler-y” details:

The title is based on the word “sensate” meaning to perceive or be perceived by the senses – the inclusion of the letter 8 pointing to the fact that there are 8 main characters from different parts of the world.
These characters’ lives will become entwined both emotionally and mentally through a shared and disturbing “vision”.
The show explores subjects that its writers feel science fiction shows tend to ignore or skim through such as politics, sexuality, identity, gender and religion.

Most importantly: This is a show that will engage you as a viewer and make you think. You will come to care about these 8 characters (the ensemble cast of both main and supporting characters are fantastic Yay Freema!) and yes, you will have questions along the way. But that is the point. It’s actually refreshing to have a premise that doesn’t treat the viewer like a complete idiot. There is this moment in Episode 3: “Smart Money is on the Skinny Bitch” where Lito (an actor) wants to change his performance to reflect the future duplicity of another character further along in the script. His director disagrees with him, explaining:

“The audience doesn’t know. The audience is with you. THEY are you. When you know, they know.”

To me this perfectly sums up Sense8. Instead of giving you a full explanation from the get go – they are taking their time and intelligently utilizing the TV medium to make you use that brain, to theorize on why these events are happening, to creatively imagine where you think everything is going. Good science fiction should do that. Hell, good television should do that.

The negative reviews have used words such as “murky”, “confusing” and “incoherent”. I can only assume those reviewers are so used to today’s tired TV tropes that when presented with an interesting premise told in an original way their brains just shut down. Or maybe they are just simply too lazy.  “Wait, you’re not going to wrap all the exposition up within the first 15 minutes? I have 8 main characters I have to get to know? Plus more side characters? But that’s too HAAARD…?”

Yeah, you know what mate? – try reading “A Song of Ice and Fire” or “Wheel of Time” series. Now THAT’s a lot of characters.

Another thing that gets my goat: People don’t seem to recall that this is a Drama. A Science Fiction Drama.
Ok, so this may not be Science Fiction in the sense of future technologies or space exploration but that is still the closest genre or label we have for the premise of this show… Phrases like “why did it take so long to get there” or “super-serious… might play better with a touch of camp” annoys the heck out of me but hey, I guess that could be seen as a stylistic difference of opinion. (Crikey! Let’s hope they never have to review a BBC drama 🙂 )

Using the word “illogical” or “incoherent” to review this show however completely confuses me – from the first 4 episodes that I have seen; the writers have done nothing to break the established universe nor have they blurred the flow and build of the show so far. I have not had any moments of “Ok, I’m lost – where am I?” (More along the lines of: “That was SO fraggin’ awesome!!”) Now granted I have not seen the whole season at this time but I would like to point out a lot of the reviews online right now are based on the first 3 episodes – the episodes given for press review purposes.

So that’s all for now. I will be back with a full season review soon but I really needed to get that off my chest. If you do want some spoilers – you can check out the trailer here.

Here’s to 7 more episodes to sink my teeth (and senses 🙂 ) into…

Kia Kaha!

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