Okay, here’s the cheesy sci-fi setup: When a woman named Angelica kills herself, she gives “birth” to a cluster of people who are psychically connected. Eight people around the world suddenly find themselves able to connect emotionally, take over one another’s bodies, and communicate. A nefarious organization sees this sister species of humans as threatening and ruthlessly hunts them down.
What follows is something of a masterpiece.
A creation of the Wachowksi siblings (who gave us THE MATRIX), SENS8, a Netflix original series, is done well on just about every level. The eight characters are richly drawn. They each have a particular ability that is something of a tragic flaw in their own lives but is occasionally extremely help to others as they face their challenges. Even minor throwaway characters who show up in a scene or two are given terrific dialogue and are played to the gritty hilt by good actors.
The theme of the show appears to be life’s a pageant, and we’re the players. The settings, which span nine cities in eight countries on four continents, are always beautiful, often taking us into local festivals and celebrations from the Fourth of July to the Ganesha Chaturthi. There are terrific setpieces such as each of the characters remembering their birth during an orchestra playing in Iceland; the show takes its time exploring the many facets of life. The characters interact with each other in touching ways, showing the beautiful side of human nature even as they each deal with its dark side in their personal lives. While extensive ruminations shared by the characters sometimes drags the show, the tension is always building, and there’s plenty of action. By the end of the first season, the antagonist is well defined, and pretty potent as a villain, and the eight sensates, now fully aware of who and what they are, have formed a strong union.
One of the things I like about the show is its matter-of-fact treatment of gay characters and visuals that might make some people uncomfortable, such as a baby crowning during delivery. The show often seems to say, this is life, deal with it or go watch something else that doesn’t make you feel icky. In particular, I like the way gay characters are treated. They’re not flamboyant stereotypes, nor are they misunderstood but noble souls, they’re just people who happen to be gay, so what.
Another thing that’s impressive about the show is the way it’s shot. The story unravels across cities and continents, and often scenes show characters interacting with each other in multiple locations at once. It’s just incredible–the production company basically travels from city to city, and the actors act out all scenes in that particular city before moving on. When you stop watching and think about it, the amount of planning and editing required boggles the mind. Whether you like the story or not, the overall production is a work of art.
Two thumbs up for Sens8, which I’ll be watching again when season 2 rolls out either later in the year or in 2017. It’s science fiction, but it’s much, much more than that.