When I learned a couple of years ago that Joe Michael Stracynski (Babylon 5) was teaming up with Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix, Jupiter Ascending) to create a new science fiction series it was all that I could do to keep my enthusiasm contained. Despite the fact that the Wachowskis had some movies come out that didn’t quite capture the vision or imagination of The Matrix, I still viewed them as visionaries in both story and direction. Now, after the long wait, we are finally given Sense8.
This 12 part series for Netflix does start slow. You might even say that the first episode, on its initial viewing, redefines ambiguity. It’s opening is both confusing and intense at the same time, and from that point on this series relies on something which is a hallmark of Straczynski, and that is universe building. We meet our primary protagonists and the people that surround them, and it is only through patience and diligence in working one’s way through the first three episodes that the viewer finally gets a payoff. If there is a fault in this series it might be that. We, the viewer, are already cognizant that our cast is more than just mentally connected, and we become anxious in seeing how far this connection will go. Still, patience is a virtue, and for those people who were able to muscle their way through the first three episodes do get the beginnings of that payoff that is so desperately desired.
From this point on the series is an emotional roller coaster ride. Straczynski and the Wachowskis have not only crafted emotionally charged storylines, that range all the way from what it means to “live in the closet,” to being hunted by some mysterious corporation all because of the “gift” an individual may possess. Along the way we become more intimately familiar with our cluster of talented heroes, partly through his and her own unique storyline that each one of them is going through, but also through the sharing of minds and experiences that being a Sense8 brings, and as the series progresses we get less of the former and more of the latter. And yet, the series never forgets that these characters are human, each one going through their own personal trial. As a gay man myself, the story of Mexican actor and superstar Lito Rodriguez was one that touched my heart in ways I didn’t expect. His own personal journey of loss and heartache pushed so many buttons in me and reminded me of my own personal struggles. Lito, as played by Miguel Ángel Silvestre, beautifully captured the emotional turmoil that so many in the gay and lesbian community struggle with. The anguish he gives off when Lito’s life has hit rock bottom is truly award winning, and his personal victory when he finally accepts responsibility for who he is and what he needs to do to find happiness in his life brought a tear to my eye as well as made me stand up and cheer for him.
Every one of our actors is brilliant in the character each one of them brings to the screen. There is genuine honesty in who they are, and for this series that is a difficult thing to achieve. Many of the scenes, especially in the later episodes, are filmed in multiple locations depending on which of our heroes is sharing the scene together. Even with that, there is a seamless continuity between each of these POV changes, which again is a difficult thing to achieve when one scene is filmed in Iceland, but is also a “shared experience” with a scene happening in San Francisco. It is because of that seamlessness that not once did I ever find myself taken out of the overall story. It held me all the way through to the very last scene of the final episode. It is for this that I say, there are very few TV series which I can call perfect, and while some may criticize the slowness of the first few episodes of the series (which do make A LOT more sense when re-watching them), the pacing through out this series is deliberate and done intelligently. There is not one weak character in this series, and from a technical standpoint, this series has clearly raised the bar in television series writing. Then again, this is coming from the combined genius of Straczynski and the Wachowskis, so should I be surprised? No, and this series IS perfect!
It has been said that Straczynski wishes for this series to have 5 seasons, and that he has already crafted the final episode. I can only hope that Netflix will give him, and the Wachowskis, as well as the brilliant cast and crew, that well deserved green light.