Netlix’s latest original offering has landed, and it’s quite possibly their most exciting and essential yet. A science fiction drama co-created by J. Michael Straczynski and the Wachowskis, Sense8 posits the existence of extra-sensory empaths able to share experiences, knowledge and skill sets with other like-minded individuals — known as sensates — within their exclusive cluster of eight.
These include DJ Riley (Tuppence Middleton), cop Will (Brian J. Smith), actor Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre), locksmith Wolfgang (Max Riemelt), chemist Kala (Tina Desai), hacktivist Nomi (Jamie Clayton) , businesswoman Sun (Doona Bae) and bus driver Capheus (Aml Ameen). Their connection is activated by Angelica (Daryl Hannah), a mysterious woman who reaches out to them individually, while another, stronger sensate named Jonas (Naveen Andrews) reaches out across clusters to bring them together.
Here are eight good reasons you should be watching Sense8:
1. It’s the Wachowskis
While neither as popular or as prolific as they once were, Andy and Lana Wachowski are still unrivaled visionaries worth paying attention to. The problem, of course, is that having alienated casual moviegoers with arcane actioner The Matrix and disenfranchised fans with its inevitably less singular sequels, it seems that precious few people are giving them their due.
Their most recent releases have been all but ignored, both by critics and audiences alike, while even the once groundbreaking and influential Matrix trilogy has largely faded from the collective consciousness. (At least beyond my own cluster of one, anyway.) Proven multimedia proponents, having pioneered short film, comic books and video game tie-ins to their feature-length projects, the siblings have now turned their considerable talents to television in a production that might be even more complex than Cloud Atlas, arguably their finest film of all.
If the Wachowskis deserve a second chance, and they do, then Sense8 should be their redefining moment.
2. It’s not just the Wachowskis
Admittedly, some viewers will likely take a little more convincing than that. Left to their own devices, there’s no denying that the Wachowskis have a propensity towards esoteric philosophy over recognisable psychology; Neo, Speed and Jupiter were archetypes before they were personalities. The obvious exception, of course, is the aforementioned Cloud Atlas, a film that broke down personal, geographic and temporal boundaries in order to follow its heart across almost the entirety of our species’ existence.
Notably, Cloud Atlas was co-directed by Tom Tykwer (who has returned for Sense8, directing two of the series’ best episodes, alongside V For Vendetta director James McTeigue, who directs another two). Babylon 5 creator and showrunner J. Michael Straczynski has developed Sense8 alongside the Wachowskis, and acts similarly as something of a stabilising influence for the series.
Formerly famed for being ahead of their time, Sense8 is really the first time that the Wachowskis have felt of the moment; Sense8 is high drama just as it is high concept.
3. The cast are exceptional
A combination of past collaborators and relative newcomers, Sense8 eschews big name American actors in favour of a refreshingly multinational cast. It would of course be remiss to suggest that diversity is an innovation in and off itself, but it’s still hard to think of a series that is quite as committed to accurately, authentically and indiscriminately representing genders, nationalities and cultures onscreen as Sense8.
On the surface the characterisation may seem crude or cliched — a German named Wolfgang; an Asian trained in martial arts; an Indian woman discontent with her marriage prospects — but the actors work to make their characters exponentially more interesting than they might at first seem — not least Jamie Clayton, who convinces entirely as a transgender activist living in San Francisco.
Naturally, there’s the odd Brit approximating a foreign accent — most notably Tuppence Middleton as an Icelandic DJ and Aml Ameen as a Kenyan Matatu driver obsessed with Jean-Claude Van Damme — but for the most part the filmmakers have used locally-sourced talent to terrific effect.