Sense8 (created by J. Michael Straczynski, Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski, Netflix, 2015-2018)
|Lilly & Lana Wachowski|
For those who missed both seasons of this now defunct Netflix series (and that includes everyone I’ve ever asked), it’s been a wild ride. Not just wild in content, which it certainly is, but wild in delivery. After 12 episodes of Season One were released in June 2015, audiences could never be sure any more would arrive.
It was 18 months later in December 2016 before the first episode of Season Two was released. Then a further wait of 5 months before episodes 2 to 11 started streaming in May 2017. Only a month later, in early June 2017, Netflix cancelled all negotiations for Season Three. There was a “huge outcry” from fans who had been left with a cliff hanger ending to episode 11: “hashtags were created, campaigns mounted and Netflix was bombarded with emails and calls”.
Netflix responded: “To our Sense8 family. We’ve seen the petitions. We’ve read the messages. We know you want to #RenewSense8 and we wish we could #BringBackSense8 for you. The reason we’ve taken so long to get back to you is because we’ve thought long and hard here at Netflix to try to make it work, but unfortunately we can’t. Thank you for watching and we hope you’ll stay close with your cluster around the world. #Sense8Forever”.
After an outcry of “clustercide!” from the fans, however, Netflix relented and commissioned a final 12th episode of Season Two “for the fans”. Lana Wachowski tweeted: “The passionate letters, the petitions, the collective voice that rose up like the first of Sun to fight for this show was beyond what anyone was expecting. In this world its easy to believe you cannot make a difference; that when a government or an institution or a corporation makes a decision, there is something irrevocable about the decision; that love is always less important than the bottom line.”
And there it was, Wachowski encapsulating what Sense8 had been all about: love can make a seemingly powerless individual take on the all-powerful institutions of The State, and win.
A year later, that victory has arrived and the “finale”, in typically extravagant Sense8 style, is a single episode clocking in at 150 minutes.
It’s an interesting phenomenon. As Wachowski points out, fans of the series have actually emulated her characters and carried off a similar victory “against an institution or a corporation”. In this case, forcing Netflix to give the Wachowskis the chance to round-out the series in a dignified way.
The two seasons have consumed a huge budget and it’s just as undeniably ravishing to look at as it is difficult to follow. The plot could probably just stretch to two hours if it was made for cinema release, but over 26 hours its multiple treads have developed like Medusa’s Head. Fortunately, following the narrative is not where the pleasure lies.
The Wachowskis have often used a simple scenario – individuals (or in this case ‘clusters’) fight for love, joy and meaningful connections while battling strangely amorphous and shadowy evil organizations. The plot contortions in Sense8 are abundant and sometimes the sugary messages grate, but it’s hard not to be caught up in the infectious struggle for the joy and meaning in everyday life. It’s been called a lot of things, mostly ranging from beautiful to incoherent. My favourite is the New York Times which affectionately called it “sublimely silly”.
For those interested:
Eight strangers from different countries are “birthed” with a psychic connection between them from a woman known as Angelica. They form a “cluster” of “sensates” who can communicate with each other non-verbally, transfer themselves into each other’s bodies or simply teleport and be beside each other and share their emotional states and languages. A rogue sensate known as Whispers who runs the Biologic Preservation Organization is intent on using the BPO to control the cluster of eight sensates for evil, zombie-like purposes.
The eight sensates are Berlin locksmith and petty thief Wolfgang; a hugely famous Mexico City actor Lito, who hides his gay identity but lives with his boyfriend Hernando; Riley Blue, an Icelandic DJ living in London; the trans woman and computer hacker Nomi who lives in San Francisco with her girlfriend Amanita; Chicago police officer Will; Korean kickboxer Sun Bak; Nairobi bus driver Capheus (who worships Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Kala, a Mumbai pharmacist.
Nairobi, Malta, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Naples, Mexico City, San Francisco, Positano, Reykjavik, Cambridge, Paris, Seoul, Amsterdam and Sao Paulo.