Rating 4.5/5 – I’m a big fan of Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski so when they came together to make Sense8 I was all over it. The first season of Sense8 was a nice balance of character, action, science-fiction and mysticism while delivering surprising doses of nicely choreographed action. Sense8 is about 8 individuals around the world going through their different lives when they find that they connect with each other on every level. These individuals are an offshoot of homosapien referred to as Sensates by the show’s narrative. The one thing that I admired about Sense8 Season One is how it throw away the whole “you are the one” convention that seems to plague the Wachoski large budgeted efforts. Instead, they’ve gone back to their Bound roots letting character dictate the story. The Wachowsk’s and Michael Straczynski are among those rare creators who know how to juggle multiple characters within a story. In Sense8 their skill at handling a large cast shines.
Sense8 is a Revelation
The one thing that impressed me about Season one of Sense8 was how it throw away a lot of tropes of this sort of story. They did not include the character who refused to believe or accept what was happening for the entire series. They did not include the will they/won’t they stupidity that tends to plague many other movies and TV shows. The main characters find themselves living their lives then suddenly they are thrust into the enormous conflict and they just accept it. One of the best things about those lives is they are all personal stories, none of them intersecting by ex-machina coincidences that tend to plague a lot of bad TV and movies.
The main characters make mistakes but not stupid mistakes. Sense8 season 2 not only moves the main story forward but everyone’s personal story. There was on logic burp involving Kala’s story. In season one her husband and father-in-law make a big deal about preventing the illegal practice of drug companies selling expired medicine to people, yet in this one there’s a sub-plot where the husband is involved with this process. I noticed it because I’ve watched season one more than once. However this was only a small flaw in an otherwise great second season of Sense8.
Sense8 Smart Heroes
There is nothing else that drives me more crazy in any story from TV, movies, books or comics as when the writers make the villain so all-powerful defeating them is next to impossible. For instance when you see the classic devil vs the minions of God story, the devil’s legions are super powerful and God’s people are a bunch of weak assholes. It makes me think “is God all powerful? Wouldn’t the legions of God be at least. . .competitive.” This often leads to a sort of “love conquers all” bullshit where the hero wins through some kind of influence or luck. Next to this idiot plot device comes that stupid character tropes. This is used in to bad effect in horror movies, because in order for 90% of the red shirts to become toast they have to be the dumbest people on the planet.
Sense8 throws this out the window. The main characters realize they are not only up against a big corporation with deep pockets determined to hunt down, control or destroy Sensates with a villain whose one of them but on the side of the big bad corporation. So they used their combined talents to fight back. Sense8 plays a shell-game with the story where you are lead to believe the protagonists are in one place only to find they were actually thinking and planning smartly. This did not diminish the danger they are in, but it does show that they can use their ability to fight back effectively. The cliffhanger at the end of the season was refreshing, compelling and completely earned. I almost applauded.
Everyone mentions how the Wachowski’s are great at deep stories, but never mention their mastery at directing action scenes. Many directors are good at action, but few are good are weaving action tightly into the story. While there is a vague feeling that there’s a demand on the show to have an action set-piece for every episode, the action was part of the story. I’m glad they left the African-gang story from the first season, it got too much into stereotype territory. This is not to say gangs are not a problem, but it is to say that how they are painted over blows their influence. However bring the gang-leader back and giving him the redeemed villain treatment was a nice stroke. It wasn’t like they made him a undeveloped villain, his back story does make his feelings towards Silas somewhat justified, but the American version of dirty Africa is a bit old. They have electricity, internet, stores – not every are is made up of throw together junk while the inhabitants wear up-to-date and clean clothing. They do live in actual building and houses. However the action is a little different in Capheus’ story which took a more political turn for the second season.
Of course, Sun is the stand-out. She’s a take action woman who will break you in half, and even if you manage to win you’ll know you’ve been in a fight. And the fight feel real. She earns every win and you can feel every punch or head butt.
Sense8 Where’s Wolfgang?
I’m not sure if it was an edit that was missed or meant to be part of the season cliffhanger, but it’s sparked a bit of discussion on social media. What happened to Wolfgang. After his encounter with Lila, Wolfgang gets captured by Whispers. When the gang moves in and do their thing, it involves Whisper who was, in the previous scene, interrogating Wolfgang. So why didn’t they rescue Wolfgang. There wasn’t a scene of Whispers people moving him, nor was it clear that the room where Whispers and Will have most of their conversations was not in the same place, so I’m not sure why this was missed. Maybe season 3 will clear this up but I feel it should have been made clear within the final episode of season 2.
Sense8 The Verdict
I’m not saying this is a perfect show but it does stand above a lot of others. The characters are compelling, the conflicts are interesting and the action was fabulous. Doona Bae needs to be given a shot at action movies. I was bothered by some character turns, such as Nomi’s family, or the change with Kala’s husband, but some of these are simply nitpicks. This is a well done show with a great story and characters you want to visit again and again. I found the ending satisfying and want to see where things go next. I hope they make the 2-hour Christmas special an annual event so I don’t have to wait an entire year for the next installment.