Sense8

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay

TV Series Review

It can be hard enough to figure out your own brain without a lot of other folks trying to shove their way into it.

It’s a recurring problem in Netflix’s Sense8. Each of the eight main characters is the same age and was born on the very same day (Aug. 8). Each comes from a different part of the world and holds, at least ostensibly, a different worldview. All of them were, in a sense, reborn at the beginning of this series when they psychically experienced the suicide of their mind-mother “Angel” Turing, who kinda-sorta gives birth to their abilities to hop into one another’s minds.

If all that doesn’t make a lot of (ahem) sense to you, don’t worry. It doesn’t to them, either.

Initially, they have no clue they’ve been “reborn” as sensates. They’re in the dark about the other folks who are like them. All they know is that they start seeing people who aren’t there, feeling things they shouldn’t be feeling and, occasionally, are pursued by evildoers who want to either kill or lobotomize them.

Psychosis? No. Just another entertainment offering from the Wachowski siblings.

On one level, Sense8 (its first 12-week season released en masse, as Netflix is wont to do) is a sci-fi thriller with a compelling premise—not so unlike The Matrix or Harry Potter or any number of franchises that give ordinary blokes extraordinary powers and then manufacture a dark, nefarious entity with which to do battle. And while the Wachowskis have had difficulty in recapturing the magic they found in their freshman movie hit The Matrix, neither sibling shies away from mulling big, provocative themes, like religion, politics and identity.

But there’s a fine line between mulling and preaching, and at times the show gallops headlong past it.

Though Gallop reports that 3.8% of the population would classify itself as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, a full 25% of this class of sensates come from that self-identity pool: Lito, a closeted gay actor from Mexico; and Nomi, a transgender “hacktivist” living in San Francisco. While co-creator Lana Wachowski has become highly visible in the transgender movement, she says she was not behind the creation of Nomi (played by transgender actor Jamie Clayton). But the character does make for a convenient avenue through which the Wachowskis might express their own feelings on sexual identity. So it’s suggestive that Nomi was raised by conservative Christian parents who continue to call Nomi by the birth name Michael, refuse to let Nomi’s girlfriend visit in the hospital and, unwittingly, are working in league with the same shadowy forces who would like to see their child disappear altogether.

(Lana Wachowski’s upbringing as a boy named Larry involved going to a Catholic school and the contemplation of suicide.)

It’s against that background that Nomi unleashes a virulent scree about Thomas Aquinas—Mom’s favorite saint—on the eve of a Pride parade. Nomi says that pride was the worst of sins in Aquinas’ eyes. But hate and shame—two grave sins in Nomi’s view—weren’t on his list at all. “So go f— yourself, Aquinas,” Nomi concludes. Nomi’s girlfriend roars in approval.

Which is exactly the kind of language one comes to expect from Sense8. Raw sex scenes (be they straight, gay or transgendered) come complete with graphic nudity and grunting gyrations. Bloody violence can be an issue, too. With their show given a TV-MA rating by Netflix, the Wachowskis are given no reason to hold back gratuitous content. And they don’t.

Episode Reviews

Sense8: 6-5-2015

“I Am Also a We”

Nomi and girlfriend Amanita ride a motorcycle in San Francisco’s Pride parade before Nomi falls off in a dead faint after seeing a mysterious man from a dream in the crowd. Meanwhile, Kala and Chicago police officer Will experience strange manifestations of their new abilities, while Lito’s beautiful escort Daniela discovers his secret—and Hernando, his lover.

Lito and Hernando engage in explicit foreplay, Lito wearing just a pair of underwear briefs (in which Hernando places his hand). In a heterosexual couple’s coupling we see bare breasts and backsides during their explicitly rendered movements. Nomi and Amanita kiss romantically and passionately. Daniela, wearing just a bra and thong bottom, does her best to arouse Lito (including ripping off his bathrobe tie) until seeing Hernando, after which she decides that this arrangement could be a wonderful “career opportunity” for the three of them. She plops on the bed between the two gay lovers and serves them all champagne.

The opening theme sequence features two burly, bearded men suggestively sharing an ice cream cone. We hear crude references to some unfortunate habits of dogs. Nomi’s Christian mother is cartoonishly villainous. Will and a mysterious figure fight in a convenience store and then engage in a high-speed car chase, ending in a crash. A doctor wishes to lobotomize Nomi, and Nomi’s parents lock their child away in the hospital to facilitate that end. Spiritual references are made during an Indian engagement party. We hear crude comments about breasts, wet dreams and defecation. Cigarettes are smoked. Characters say the f-word about a dozen times and the s-word three or four times. Other swears include “a–,” “h—” and “b–ch.” God’s name is misused close to 10 times (once with “d–n”); Jesus’ name is abused twice.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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