TV Review - Sense8

Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, credited as the Wachowskis, along with J. Michael Stracynski, have created an original series that explores the lives of eight individuals who live in eight separate places all around the world. There is a sci-fi quirk that all eight individuals are psychically linked, meaning each one is totally telepathic and eminently empathic in the literal and strict interpretation. This is expressed in the extreme of each one being able to project themselves into the body or presence of any of the other eight.

The eight individuals are known as Sensates and Sensates come in clusters, typically eight people who are all born on the same day and possibly same year and same time. This series focuses on one specific cluster that was born on August 8. Yes, eight people were born on the eighth day of the eighth month, probably on the eighth hour.

What allows them to do what they do also makes them targets for imprisonment, experimentation and possible extinction. The organization known as BPO is after them. What leads BPO on the trail is that members of an older cluster try to protect or shield the August 8 cluster but the older cluster's actions end up accomplishing the opposite. BPO's key operative, a man nicknamed Whispers, played by Terrance Mann, is sent to capture them. Whispers is the Sensate sent after the August 8 cluster. Who better to hunt the Sensates than another Sensate?

The show follows how BPO is trying to find who the people are in this cluster, while the people in this cluster deal with the complications in their own lives. I like to think of this series as being a hybrid of other works by the Wachowskis. In fact, this series is as if The Matrix and Cloud Atlas had a baby. Consequently, Whispers would function as the equivalent of Hugo Weaving's characters in both The Matrix and Cloud Atlas. Whispers is a combination of Agent Smith and Old Georgie. When he's not in hot pursuit like a sinister machine, he's the devil on your shoulder.

Comparisons have been made to the TV series by Tim Kring, both Heroes and Touch, which is ironic because in my review of the second season of Touch, I basically said it had a lot in common with Cloud Atlas. This series trumps the work of Kring because it is far more ambitious. Not only do the Wachowskis juggle more, they also do so while competing in a triathlon.

Some have criticized this show for its slow pacing. Compared to Touch, it always did feel like Kiefer Sutherland's character was constantly out of breath from constantly running around. I didn't necessarily get an exasperated feeling watching this series, but there is a mental engagement that doesn't feel slowly paced at all. The Wachowskis dig deeper into foreign cultures than Kring and because the Wachowskis direct seven of the twelve episodes, there is no shortage of action, which they manage to make every action scene visually dynamic and beautiful.

One possible drawback is that every character speaks English. For about half the actors, English is their second language. Obviously, this was done in order to make the series more palatable for American audiences. However, narrative-wise it does serve a purpose. All eight individuals can talk to each other, despite each speaking a different language, so the show's short-hand is to have English be the universal language. There are moments when ESL characters will speak their native tongue. I would have preferred that the whole time, but it's easier and lazier of the producers of the show not to have to translate what would have been five different tongues for each episode.

Brian J. Smith (SGU Stargate Universe and Gossip Girl) stars as Will Gorski. He's a police officer in Chicago who's also the son of an Illinois cop. His work has him assigned to patrolling streets for gang activity. He's the one who realizes the BPO is after them and is first contacted by one of the members of the older cluster, a man named Jonas, played by Naveen Andrews (Lost), the Laurence Fishburne equivalent.

Tuppence Middleton (Jupiter Ascending and Black Mirror) stars as Riley, a female DJ in London. Yet, she isn't from there. She's actually Icelandic. She's the daughter of a Classically-trained musician. She's a tad bit dissatisfied with her life. She perhaps wants to be doing more with her music. She does drugs as a kind of escape. As such, she runs across shady drug dealers and gang activity too.

Miguel Ángel Silvestre (I'm So Excited and Velvet) stars as Lito Rodriguez, a very popular actor in Mexico City. He's in the process of shooting his next big blockbuster. He is very guarded when it comes to his personal life and even turns down sex with several beautiful women.

Doona Bae (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and The Host) stars as Sun Bak, a business woman in Seoul who works for her father's company in South Korea. Secretly, she is a highly-skilled, martial artist who fights in underground matches. Meanwhile, her father's business is under investigation for fraud and embezzlement.

Tina Desai (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) stars as Kala Dandekar, a scientist with various training in Mumbai She has an arranged marriage to Raja, a man who works at the same pharmaceutical company as her. Their wedding is upcoming and she's having doubts about the marriage. She also needs to reconcile her faith with those in it who protest the work her future father-in-law is doing.

Max Riemelt (Free Fall and The Wave) stars as Wolfgang, a German thief in Berlin. He and his best friend Felix are able to crack a safe and steal the jewels inside before some other thieves, which piss them off. The other thieves then come after Wolf and Felix.

Aml Ameen (Kidulthood and The Maze Runner) stars as Capheus aka Van Damn. He's a mechanic and bus driver in Nairobi. He has a sick mom whom he tries to earn money to buy medicine. The reason he's nicknamed Van Damn is because he's a huge fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme and all his movies. He and his best friend own their own bus in Kenya that is decorated on the outside with emblems of the Belgium action star.

Jamie Clayton (Transform Me and Hung) stars as Nomi, a transgendered woman with a lesbian girlfriend named Amanita, played by Freema Agyeman. She's a computer hacker and blogger in San Francisco whose family never accepted her for who she is. They still refer to her by her male, birth name. She's never had someone stand up and defend her before. Unfortunatley, BPO set their sights on her first.

Like Cloud Atlas, every episode of this series is an extraordinary achievement in editing. It starts out in terms of sound. Characters hear things that other characters are hearing hundreds of miles away. The Wachowskis interconnect sound ingeniously and then ups the game with interconnecting visuals. Frequently, the Wachowskis will have two Sensates talking to each other but each one will be in a different country and the way they cut back-and-forth, integrating the words and the locations seamlessly, as if you're in both places at once, should be taught in film schools everywhere.

One of the directors who did Episode 8 is Dan Glass. He was first the Visual Effects Supervisor for the sequels to The Matrix. He was also the VFX Supervisor to Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending. Interesting though, he was VFX Supervisor for The Master and The Tree of Life. Needless to say, he knows great images and effects. Aside from directing Episode 8, he is VFX Supervisor for this entire series, and it ends up looking as fantastic as all those previous projects, if not more so.

Memorable moments from each of the episodes are as follows:

Episode 1 - "Limbic Resonance"

Wolfgang has a House of Cards: Season 3 moment of pissing on his father's grave and a chicken appears on Sun's desk in her office.

Episode 2 - "I Am Also a We"

Kala watches Raja's Bollywood-style dance number. Lito has a woman jump into his bed with someone already there. Will jumps into Jonas' car. Amanita calls Nomi and proves she's the best girlfriend ever.

Episode 3 - "Smart Money is on the Skinny Bitch"

Will and Sun come to Capheus' rescue after his Van Damn bus is hijacked.

Episode 4 - "What's Going On"

Wolfgang leads all other Sensates in a round of karoake to the song "What's Up?" by 4 Non Blondes.

Episode 5 - "Art is Like Religion"

Lito has an incredibly fake but incredibly awesome shootout and Wolfgang crashes Kala's wedding, proving he is like an elephant.

Episode 6 - "Demons"

Will saves Riley from being killed by men who put a plastic bag over her head. Four of the Sensates participate in an orgy set to the song "Demons" by Fatboy Slim featuring Macy Gray.

Episode 7 - "W. W. N. Double D?"

Will meets with the gang leader and they help each other. Riley's dad serenades her at airport. Lito says, "I'm feeling very Whitney Houston right now." Nomi and Amanita have to escape Dr. Metzger's apartment. Wolfgang watches someone get shot in slow-motion.

Episode 8 - "We Will All Be Judged By the Courage of Our Hearts"

Wolfgang and Felix watch Conan the Barbarian. Sun takes down her fellow prison inmates. Will's partner Diego catches him kissing air. Will, Sun and Capheus help Nomi escape capture. Hernando quits Lito.

Episode 9 - "Death Doesn't Let You Say Goodbye"

Lito tells Nomi, "I took him in my mouth like I was taking Holy Communion." Nomi remembers being bullied as a boy in the shower. Lito spirals into depression to Antony and the Johnsons' cover of Bob Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door."

Episode 10 - "What is Human" - (*This is by far my favorite episode.)

Wolfgang reveals where he hid the stolen diamonds. Kala visits Capheus and they watch Lionheart (1990). Lito lies for Wolfgang. Wolfgang fights for Lito. All the Sensates watch the July 4th fireworks over Chicago. All Sensates listen to Icelandic symphony, while we see a montage of all of their births in slow-motion, graphic detail.

Episode 11 - "Just Turn the Wheel and the Future Changes"

Sun accuses her brother of another crime. Sun swaps places with Capheus and takes out rival tribe with machete. Will swaps places with Capheus and helps him escape, ensuing a crazy car chase involving his Van Damn bus.

Episode 12 - "I Can't Leave Her"

Will hesitates to ruin Porsche. Kala helps Wolfgang escape getting killed. Kala is shocked at Wolfgang's claim he's a monster. Riley kisses Will on a boat.

This show is one of the best of the year. I thought it was simply amazing.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA for sexual situations and full-frontal, male nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. / 12 episodes.
Available on Netflix.


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