Three episodes were provided for review purposes.
After watching three hours of the Wachowskis’ maddening, mesmerizing Netflix series Sense8, I still don’t feel completely qualified to commend or condemn it. After all, one cannot fairly judge a tapestry on its artistic merit before the strands have been interwoven. And like Cloud Atlas before it, Sense8 is a work of sprawling ambition, one that must be absorbed whole to be fully understood. The series is globe-trotting, mind-bending science-fiction that flits between the lives of eight disparate individuals, all inexplicably connected through a shared consciousness, and it’s just as confounding and captivating as that description would suggest.
After three hours, the show is still taking its first steps. Some will instinctively tear it apart in its infancy, calling the series overblown and needlessly perplexing, and they may be proven correct. After all, the Wachowskis don’t have the best track record. The incredible, indelible Cloud Atlas aside, they’ve delivered a laughably scripted space soap (Jupiter Ascending) and a head-spinningly vivid, borderline-incomprehensible family film (Speed Racer) since the divisive conclusion of the Matrix trilogy, neither of which have exactly endeared them to critics or studios. But as stated, Sense8, at least after three hours, seems closest to Cloud Atlas (one of my favorite films ever) out of anything in the Wachowskis’ canon, and that’s an exciting prospect.
Throughout the first few episodes of Sense8, audiences are introduced to an ensemble cast of characters. Will (Brian J. Smith) is an honest Chicago cop, haunted by the one victim he couldn’t save. Riley (Tuppence Middleton) is a London DJ on the run from herself, fleeing a troubled past in Iceland with the aid of drugs, booze and the intoxicating nightlife. Across the world in Nairobi, bus driver Capheus (Aml Ameen) struggles to earn money for medicine to save his AIDS-afflicted mother but is confronted by the harsh realities of life in a lawless city. Mexican actor Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre) is hiding his homosexuality from the press out of fear that it will kill his career. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, a trans woman named Nomi (Jamie Clayton) is hospitalized and told that she requires extensive brain surgery that could lobotomize her.
And so on, and so forth. There are eight of these characters in total, all of whom find themselves psychically connected after witnessing the suicide of a woman (Daryl Hannah) in a shared vision. They’re called “Sensates,” though none of them know that yet or could even begin to imagine what their connection could mean for them. The enigmatic Jonas (Naveen Andrews) wants to bring the Sensates together to harness some kind of collective destiny, while the even less known Mr. Whispers (Terrence Mann) wants to wipe them out.