Before I rant about a social justice issue or reflect on the fact that I have just started my last year of college, I want to talk about something I watched over the summer—something that I urge you to hurry and binge-watch before schoolwork really starts to build up. It’s a new-ish Netflix show called Sense8. Disclaimer: if you don’t enjoy things that don’t really make sense, then you might not enjoy Sense8, because for the entirety of the first couple of episodes and honestly most of the season you will pretty much not have a clue what is actually happening. For me, that is half the fun of it, but that is coming from a hardcore Lost fan who was fine accepting that there were always smoke monsters and polar bears and bizarre time travel things happening. In fact, Sense8 reminds me a lot of Lost, partly for the aforementioned reason but also because of the depth of insight into the characters that it provides.
The show is about eight people scattered across the world that suddenly find their minds connected: a cop in Chicago, a bus driver in Nairobi, a businesswoman in Seoul, a hacktivist in San Francisco, an actor in Mexico City, a pharmacist in Mumbai, a safecracker in Berlin, and a DJ in London. These eight “sensates,” as they come to be known, start having strange visions in which their lives bleed into one another’s in unexpected ways—like some sort of shared consciousness or telepathy between all of them. As I said before, like Lost, this show takes its own sweet time to actually explain what the hell is going on with all this interconnectedness mumbo jumbo. This might make you want to abandon it, but I for one felt like I was too invested and having too much fun to give up on it. I promise that they at least kind of explain what’s happening by the end of the first season.
There are definite problems with the show. First of all, I was really annoyed that the dialogue of the show is entirely in English, even when following characters in non-English speaking countries. Yeah, there is apparently some weird thing going on where they can just all understand each other’s languages somehow. I get it. But I could have easily read captions! The whole point of this show is to immerse the audience in the lives of these eight unique individuals, and failing to include their native languages seems like such a counterintuitive choice.
This kind of ties into my second point: having the sensates all originate from different places across the world is great. The show embraces a diversity of people, cultures, experiences, and knowledge that you do not often see on television. I really like that. However, the presentation of these different places and cultures is obviously coming from a limited viewpoint—one that relies heavily on generalizations and stereotypes of life in non-American and non-western countries. I do think that by the end of the season, as the more intricate details of each character’s life is further explored and developed, some of these clichés are successfully counteracted, and that is when some of the more thoughtful and thought-provoking themes come into play. I hope that in its second season the show will be able to do more of this. You can check it out on Netflix now to be ready for that second try!