|Capheus "visits" Riley in front of the coolest gravestone ever|
Where this series succeeds is its astounding visuals. It's "international" with a capital I, in a medium where "international" usually means bringing in a couple of actors from Europe. We spent a lot of time in Nairobi, Seoul, Mumbai and Mexico City, as well as London, Berlin, Chicago and San Francisco, with a huge climax in Reykjavik. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, even the self-consciously epic opening credits. Sense8 is colorful and fun to watch, and the characters are all appealing.
But the thing is, I kept waiting for the series to click in for me. And waiting... and waiting... and ultimately, it didn't happen. When it was over, I thought about why, and did a face palm. It's obvious. They were doing eight different stories, and that many stories at once is difficult to track, even with the characters "visiting" each other to spout exposition, or taking over each other's bodies to save the day. And those eight stories ranged from pretty cool to somewhat dull. I kept waiting for the eight "sensates" to start connecting in the real world, to do the logical thing like exchange phone numbers or take a flight and meet in real life, and it kept not happening. (Okay, the phone number thing did happen once.) But cheese and crackers, can anyone say "conference call"?
And a lot of this first season was centered on the characters' sex lives, so much so that the series started to seem soapy to me. The mental orgy was actually embarrassing instead of titillating. Or maybe that was just me. I have to be into the characters for a big sex scene to work for me.
Actually, the scene I liked most in the entire series was the eight of them singing "What's Going On." Certainly a sentiment that worked, since none of them knew what was going on. But the multiple childbirth scene during the concert in Iceland that was clearly intended to be the climactic and moving moment of ultimate connection made me gag. Maybe I just wasn't prepared for all of those shots of so many babies' heads crowning between so many different pairs of thighs. You kind of have to be prepared for stuff like that, not intersperse it with nice shots of each of them enjoying the concert.
Each of the eight sensates can be described with two keywords and their location.
-- Nomi, the transwoman hacker in San Francisco (Jamie Clayton)
-- Will, the nice cop in Chicago (Brian J. Smith from Stargate Universe)
-- Sun, the jailed kickboxer in Seoul (Doona Bae)
-- Wolfgang, the violent safecracker in Berlin (Max Riemelt)
-- Lito, the closeted actor in Mexico City (Miguel Angel Silvestre)
-- Riley, the Icelandic DJ in London (Tuppence Middleton)
-- Kala, the religious bride-to-be in Mumbai (Tina Desai)
-- Who did I forget? Yes, Capheus, the Van Damme-obsessed bus driver in Nairobi (Aml Ameen), who probably had the strongest story, but always felt as if he were the most disconnected from the group.
As the episodes progressed, I kept counting the eight sensates, and kept remembering only seven at a time. (Not the same seven.) That's not something you want your viewers to do when they should be caught up in the story. And everyone was, and I can't believe I'm saying this, too progressive. I'm a flaming liberal and would love it if the world was actually like that, where a straight Chicago cop was okay with suddenly finding himself in the middle of a gay orgy. But it made the series more unrealistic, and Sense8 is already too unrealistic to begin with.
I'm into characters. If a show doesn't have great characters, I won't love it. And you'd think that these eight diverse characters would be just my thing. But as I've mentioned already, I never truly connected with any of them, and that's a problem.
Nomi, played beautifully by transgender actress Jamie Clayton, was my favorite, although her initially exciting and upsetting plotline in which she was nearly the victim of a forced lobotomy segued into a less exciting role as a magical hacker. I liked Kala, mostly because she was just so utterly adorable and I loved her family, although her will-she-or-won't-she-marry-the-boss's-son was my second least favorite plotline. Capheus was extremely lovable because of the way he kept acting on his beliefs -- this is right, this is wrong, Van Damme always comes back -- and his touching quest for his courageous mother's AIDS medication.
|Sun arrived because serious ass-kicking was clearly needed|
|I did love how Lito the actor was brought in only |
when they needed someone to lie convincingly.
We were told that romantic love between sensates in a cluster was bad, bad, so very bad. And yet, Will the cop's romantic connection with Riley the DJ turned out to be the focus of the season, the motivation for all the action in the finale. I liked them together, but they were probably the least exciting couple in the story. I liked Wolfgang and Kala a lot more, probably because Wolfgang was so emotionally disturbed and pessimistic and Kala so bright and positive; they seemed like two people who could be very good for each other. Or maybe Kala would be good for Wolfgang, not vice versa. Although she seemed pretty warm for his form. (Full frontal male nudity. Surprise.)
|I loved Kala's yellow pants. Wolfgang does, too.|
|Neets and Nomi and the incredible colorful dreads|
I still don't understand what was going on with Naveen Andrews' character Jonas, and since I was totally immersed in Lost for six seasons, Naveen was a big reason why I tried Sense8 a second time. They also never explained how Daryl Hannah's character Angelica could "give birth" to our sensates by killing herself. I sort of got why the bad guy with the white hair was after them, but then again, maybe I didn't. To save the "real" humans? If the bad guy is a sensate, why is he targeting other sensates? Just so he can lobotomize them and then use their bodies when he needs a disposable assassin? Are all of the bad guys "Whispers" or is it just the white-haired guy? And why does he keep taking on the names of science fiction writers?
The show is supposed to be about empathy and mental connection, and yet the big stories all culminated with a whole lotta massive and bloody action sequences: Capheus and his enemies in the warehouse, Wolfgang and his uncle and many of his uncle's henchmen not to mention the rocket launcher earlier, the climax in episode twelve with all of the sensates helping Will rescue Riley. Very Wachowskis. But you know, I connect more strongly with J. Michael Straczynski and his powerful universe-building. I kept looking for his influence in this story, and not finding it.
There are so many other unanswered questions, too. Why is Riley still alive after the car accident that killed her husband and baby? Why was young Will "seeing" victim Sara Patrell? Was Lito's career destroyed when he outed himself to the bartender? Why is Angelica wearing only one shoe?
I guess it's a good thing that there will be a second season. And yes, I'll watch it. But I honestly have no desire to go back and write a detailed review of each episode, hence the season review. (I do love occasions when I can use the word "hence".)
What did you all think? Did you love it? Hate it? Will you tune in to season two?
Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.