“I see them”
The latest Netflix Original Series is Sense8, a TV series developed and devised by the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski. The concept sold the show to me immediately. Eight people from around the world being connected? Coloured me tickled pink! A science-fiction TV series that spans the globe? Colour me tickled pink again! After watching the first episode, ‘Limbic Resonance,’ I can say two things about it: I’m intrigued, very intrigued…but I’m not sure whether or not my intrigue will be rewarded…
Our first scene demonstrates the sheer scope of the show. We see a woman (played by Daryl Hannah) writhing on a dirty mattress inside a derelict church. A man called Jonas appears, but he isn’t really there. “I see them,” she says, and we get our first introduction to the main eight characters. They’re only on the scene for a few seconds each, but each one is a short and sweet introduction. In turn, they see her in a fleeting vision. An mature man enters with a few armed men (one presumes he is the villain of the piece?). The woman shoots herself. For an opening scene, it definitely sets the scene for what lies ahead. Plenty of questions (who is she? Is she an experiment? Who is Jonas? Who is the older chap?), plenty of characters, and heavy amounts of concentration required!
Sense8 demands your attention from the beginning. I briefly wrote a comment on Twitter at one point and when I looked up, I had missed several vital plot points. This show is not for those with a short attention span. The episode flits from character to character, to story to story, that a momentary lapse in attention will be punished. Of course, it’s a gift and a curse. Sometimes, you just want to chill out and watch mindless rubbish. Sense8 is most definitely not mindless rubbish (well, for the moment at least. Shows that pose as many questions as Sense8 often don’t live up to their huge promises…).
“Who am I?”
Lito Rodriguez, a Mexican actor, asks himself that question in the mirror whilst preparing to film. When we first see him, he’s armed with a gun inside a church. He’s about to murder a priest, but all is not as it seems…but the director calls the shot to a halt. Misdirection and deception define the opening episode. Are the characters who they say they are? What secrets are they hiding? For example, Wolfgang Bogdanow, a German thief, attends a funeral. Someone advises that he visits his father’s grave, as Wolfgang was very close to his dad. At the grave, Wolfgang proceeds to urinate on his dad’s grave. At least three of the characters are not only haunted by visions of the woman in the church, but their childhood. Wolfgang sees his father laughing at him after Wolfgang choked during a choir recital. But what else has shaped these characters?
The main problem with the opening episode is that it is difficult to keep track of the main characters. Each main characters has friends/lovers that we have to keep track of as well, so I ended up naming the characters after famous roles they had played (for example, there was Alex out of Misfits, Martha Jones out of Doctor Who…and mentioning Martha Jones, I don’t think her first scene in Sense8 will ever leave my mind). Even paying full attention to the screen left me in ignorance about some characters. But, then again, it felt quite liberating not to be handheld and guided like a child through a TV show. The showrunners have high expectations for the audience, just as we have high expectations about their show.
“You’ve cracked the uncrackable”
Although there’s so much to plough through even in the first episode, everything comes together beautifully. Scenes merge into each other using the ‘limbic resonance’/psychic connection, and little hints here and there unite the stories that take place in different places across the globe. Riley Blue, an Icelandic DJ in London, is told that a a man will give her the power (read: drug) to blow her brains out. This, of course, takes place after her vision of the woman in the church. While there is some obvious exposition, like the explanation of ‘limbic resonance,’ it’s sandwiched between humorous dialogue.
However, after the first episode, I didn’t feel the need to immediately watch the next one. I was too exhausted from watching the first one! But it’s the kind of show that demands a binge-watching session. A slow-burner like Sense8 would probably die a slow and painful death on regular TV. But Netflix is ideal for shows like Sense8. And, while I wasn’t overly impressed by the first episode, I was suitably intrigued by it. My appetite was whetted, but I always take TV shows that pose lots of questions with a pinch of salt. Too many questions often means that the showrunners have no idea how to progress their story. And half of the questions don’t get answers. But only time will tell on Sense8…
VERDICT:7/10. A confident beginning that sets the stage for an attention-demanding, globe-trotting story full of questions. Good, but not great…