Netflix just launched its new original series, Sense8, but a third of the way into the season, I’m far from impressed. The show follows the stories of eight different characters in eight different cities around the world, all of whom are connected to each other through mysterious hallucinations and random space and time travel.
An Icelandic girl finds herself transported from a friend’s apartment in London to an abandoned church in Chicago. A girl in India swears she can hear the clap of thunder on a clear, sunny day, while thousands of miles away, a storm rages at a funeral in Berlin. A Chicago cop is startled by a desperate cry for help on an otherwise peaceful afternoon, while a transgender woman heads into surgery across the country in San Francisco.
The characters have no idea what’s happening or what these visions mean, and four episodes into the season, neither do we. How are all of these people connected? What’s triggering the visions? What was the deal with the sing-along montage at the end of the fourth episode?
Sense8 — created by the people who brought us the Matrix trilogy — is a divergence from the other Netflix original series, which follow only a small, core group of characters. And unlike House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Sense8 focuses less on plot and character development than it does on setting up a complicated, sci-fi conspiracy theory.
But for all of its pitfalls, the show still has some redeeming qualities. For example, while the ridiculous number of characters make the show hard to follow, it also allows a glimpse into perspectives not often shown on television. This is especially evident in the story of Nomi — the transgender woman who lives in San Francisco and writes about social and political issues facing the LGBT community. The first episode takes place on Pride Day and includes an argument between Nomi and another Pride attendee over the merits of the LGBT acronym. In later episodes, Nomi struggles to deal with her hateful, close-minded mother who insists on calling her by her birth name, ‘Michael.’
While Nomi’s story is a fresh perspective in a largely heterosexual television community, the other characters’ problems feel cliche and overdone. A Spanish actor filters through attractive female arm candy to hide his homosexuality from the press. A Chicago cop struggles to do the right thing in a city rife with crime and poverty, while also trying to live up to his father’s expectations. A young Indian woman is engaged to a successful businessman who’s perfect in every way, other than the fact that — wait for it — she doesn’t love him.
The feminist themes of Sense8 are another redeeming quality of the otherwise scattered plot. The first episode features a girl DJing at a crowded club, and when a man remarks to his friend, “She can spin for a girl, can’t she?”, his friend corrects him with, “She can spin. Period.” When a Japanese businesswoman is continually underestimated by the men in her life, she responds by punching a hole in her boss’s desk and literally kicking ass in a boxing match against a ripped, sexist fighter.
But the badass female characters and unique perspectives couldn’t hold me past the fourth episode. And while I realize all of my questions might be answered in episode five, it shouldn’t take almost half a season to keep a viewer wanting to come back for more.
Featured Photo- The Verge