Crossing and challenging borders

Linda Kehoe reviews Sense8 – the latest offering from the Wachowski siblings.

Socialist Worker 381

Crossing and challenging borders

Linda Kehoe reviews Sense8 – the latest offering from the Wachowski siblings.

There is much talk about Sense8 – which is available on Netflix. It is a TV series about eight people who become connected despite those perceived borders of language, race, religion, gender and sexuality and the actual borders of continents.

We could be sceptical and imagine that the creators had taken this idea and started ticking the boxes on a list of “How to show the diversity of the human race?” Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian and African actors: tick. Straight and queer: tick. Atheists and devout: tick. Male, female and transgender: tick. Cops and robbers: tick. Rich and opor: tick. But after the first few episodes, it proves itself as more than that.

The eight “sensate” (from the latin gifted with sense) are ordinary people living ordinary lives until something extraordinary happens to them. This is a common theme for the Wachowskis, who brought us The Matrix and Jupiter Ascending. The first few episodes are confusing, we only see and hear what the sense8 themselves see and hear. And they are confused- they don’t know what is hapening to them or why.

Perhaps its drug-induced hallucinatons, perhaps the gods are speaking to them, Perhaps they are simply going crazy. There are no scenes shot outside of their experiences so we do not have any background knowledge.

We know what they know. From their birth as sense8, to the development of their understanding and the deepenings of their connections with one another the audience is brought along for the ride. Sometimes its fast and exciting, sometimes it’s slow.

There is the shadowy overhanging threat that someone, out-there, does not want them to exist. This is the storyline that has taken a back-seat to the portrayal of the relationships of the characters. We are shown the loves and hates, the ups and the downs of each of the 8 in their individual lives.

The most impressive character is arguably the transgender Nomi, whose mother rejects forcibly the notion that her “Michael” idenitifies as a woman, who has fought to gain acceptance within the gay community and acceptance of herself – and has overcome it all to find love with Amanita. This excellent portrayal of Nomi’s character can be attributed to the skill and  real life experiences of actor Jamie Clayton and by the direction  of Lana, formally Larry, Waachowski. Nomi is one of 8 characters who between them experience so many aspects of life, that the audience is sure to connect with at least one. As the empathy-based shared conciuosness of the eight develops we are brought along with them. From scene-by-scene step by step we develop a different view of gender politics and identity, which introduced in any other way would have seemed radical. Sense8 is worth the watch.

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