Why the World Needs Sense8

If you haven’t watched Sense8 before, this post will be something of a spoiler in that I’ll be talking about the world the show has created (in the Welcome to Your Cluster section) as well as the characters as human beings (or variations of). I’ll also make general reference to the plot but I won’t talk about specific plot lines, and I’ll do my best to avoid giving away important “ah-ha” moments. If you have watched season one, I won’t be mentioning anything you don’t already know, and I plan to steer clear of the plot of season two.

Welcome to Your Cluster

In the Sense8 world — which is our world — there is another species of human called Homo sensorium, or sensates. Sensates are physically born in the same way humans are, but their sensate “powers” don’t manifest until another sensate births them as a cluster. (The details of how this works exactly hasn’t yet been revealed. For example, if no sensate births them, will sensates ever develop their powers?)

Sensates are born into a cluster of eight and are connected to each other in ways that regular humans couldn’t fathom. And remember, a cluster feels they are regular humans until they are birthed as sensate. So the following list are things they must learn, figure out, and/or have to grow accustomed to:

  • Cluster members are all born at the same moment (and so all take their first breath together), though they may be located across the world.
  • Cluster members can “travel” to each other in an astral way and be able to have a conversation and/or touch as if they’re in the same room.
  • Cluster members can give another permission to take over their body in order to use the other member’s skills (such as lock picking, fighting, computer skills, etc.).
  • Sensate can do the astral visiting thing with other sensate outside their cluster if they’ve made eye contact in real life once.

So once a sensate is born as sensate, their world changes forever. It becomes larger, more intense and, arguably, less private.

“Death doesn’t let you say goodbye. It just carves holes in your life…
and your future… and your heart.”
— Riley, “Death Doesn’t Let You Say Goodbye”

Characters

Kala Rasal – female – Mumbai, India – Kala is a pharmacist at a large pharmaceutical company. She is a practicing Hindu while at the same time being a modern, if somewhat innocently naive, woman. She struggles with personal wants versus cultural expectations and is often surprised at the brutality of the world, having been raised in an open and loving home.

Capheus Onyango – male – Nairobi, Kenya – Capheus is a matatu driver in Nairobi who, along with his best friend and business partner, worships Jean Claude van Damme. Capheus has a positive outlook on the world, even with the dire living and societal situations he often faces.

Will visiting Nairobi
Photo via screencapped.net

Will Gorski – male – Chicago, Illinois, USA – A Chicago cop, Will is the only one of the characters who felt a connection with another sensate at an early age, though he didn’t know it or understand it at the time. He is surprisingly open to weirdness, considering how he seems like the typical American white male. This openness is perhaps due to that connection he experienced as a child.

Nomi Marks – female – San Francisco, California, USA – Hacktivist and political blogger Nomi is a lesbian transwoman with a difficult past from both a familial perspective (in relation to being transgender) and from a legal perspective (in relation to hacking). She is brilliant — can do almost anything with a computer. While she strives to be happy and live a positive life, Nomi seems constantly wary of the outside world and its ongoing threats (with good reason).

Lito & Sun visiting Capheus (center). Visits don’t generally allow for any attire changes…

Lito Rodriguez – male – Mexico City, Mexico – A deeply closeted gay action movie star, Lito fears living openly, as the expectation of the Spanish action movie world is that men are straight, dominant, gorgeous, and brimming with machismo. He stands to lose everything if his deepest secret — the love of his life, Hernando — is discovered. Lito is both sensitive and much more introspective than one would expect from the stereotypical Latino action star.

Sun Bak – female – Seoul, South Korea – Sun can seem something like an enigma. She is a martial arts master and an economist (CFO of her father’s company), but also a woman in a deeply patriarchal society. She is quiet but tough. Clear-sighted but loyal. She constantly strives for her father’s attention and approval while struggling with the attention automatically given to her good-for-nothing brother.

Nomi (right) visiting Riley.
Photo via screencapped.net

Riley Blue – female – London, England (originally from Iceland) – Our opening scene with Riley is her in her element — she is DJing at a London nightclub. Riley feels tragic from our initial meeting of her, as if she’s just moving through the world rather than living in it. It’s clear that she’s hiding from something, but whether it’s someone or something in particular or whether it’s just her past in general, we don’t know initially.

Wolfgang Bogdanow – male – Berlin, Germany – Wolfgang has always been an outsider. Even in the criminal world in Berlin, of which his family is a huge part, he’s an outsider, going against the grain, against the wishes of those above him in the hierarchy. It takes a lot to like Wolfgang. He’s a hard man. But he’s loyal and will give his life for someone he cares about. There’s a poetry to that.

“I take everything I’m feeling, everything that matters to me…
I push all of it into my fist, and I fight for it.”
— Sun to Kala, “Just Turn the Wheel and the Future Changes”

How Sense8 Relates to Our World

The characters in this cluster are from all different backgrounds. There are poor people, rich people, white people, brown people, gay people, straight people, cis people, trans people, law-abiding people, and criminals. From any perspective you view things, there are Sames and there are Others. From the general white, heteronormative perspective, Will and Riley are Sames, where Nomi, Lito, and the rest are all some version of Other.

But being sensate makes them all Other. It makes the Sames, who likely have had very little experience of otherness, perhaps see what being Other is like. Being sensate is like meta-otherness. They are different on a fundamental level, not just by skin color or income or criminality or gender. They are an entirely different species. This is the most Other they can get.

As a result, all the original things that make them Other become incidental. They no longer matter.

“That locker room might’ve made my father the man he is…
but it also made me the woman that I am.”
— Nomi to Lito,”Death Doesn’t Let You Say Goodbye”

Otherness in Our Time

The cluster at Pride.

Possibly more than any other time in U.S. history, Otherness is no longer content to stay in the closet or hide in the shadows. Being Other no longer means being quiet. Everywhere, people who are labeled Other are forcing the world to see them. They are organizing and mobilizing. Black Lives Matter, Women’s March, Gay Pride.

In truth, of course, there is no real Sameness. We’re all Other in some way to someone else. But that’s a topic for an entirely different (and significantly longer) discussion.

The point here is that all different types of Otherness are coming into cultural awareness — racial, sexual, gender, religious.

“What if something wonderful happens?”
— Capheus to Riley, “W.W.N. Double D?”

Why Sense8 is Important

If you look at the list of characters above, you’ll see at least one representative of almost every sort of Otherness in the world. Sexual Otherness, Racial Otherness, Religious Otherness, Cultural Otherness, Economic Otherness, Gender Otherness. There are a few common Others that are missing (differently abled comes to mind), but overall, the cluster is symbolic of today — of the diversity of our communities, of the globe.

The interactions within the group show some of the tension inherent in Otherness when interacting with the world. The criminal, Wolfgang, has an initial distrust of Will, the cop, and vice versa — both Others in each of their worlds. Sun, distrustful of most people, especially men, holds Capheus at arm’s length, even as he offers an ear to listen when she must make a hard decision. Kala, who is simultaneously repelled by and fascinated with Wolfgang, both his environment and him personally, must deal with her own prejudices and repression, much like we all have to do when faced with someone who is Other to us.

Problem solving.

In the end, being in a cluster together forces each person — each Other — to look at themselves and those around them as people, individuals, first, and as Other second. They learn about their clustermates, seek to understand how each works, and work together at individual tasks and at overarching goals.

This is a lesson the world needs right now. Desperately.

But It’s Over Now…

Because Sense8 seems not to be a big money maker and is expensive to create, Netflix has chosen to cancel it, sadly. This is a situation where I get pretty bitter about how the value of a thing always, always comes down to the fast money. But I’ll leave that part out here, because there is at least a little joy, in the end!

After a very vocal and, in many cases, emotional outcry from Sense8 fans, Netflix has announced that they will be producing a 2-hour movie to wrap the story up. There are no real details yet, but fans can know that the cliffhanger season 2 ended on will at least have some closure!

Do you (did you, rather) watch Sense8? What are your thoughts? Comment below!

Featured image and non-attributed images are official promo shots via SpoilerTV.com. Quotes provided by Sense8 Wiki.

10 Comments

  • J.L. Gribble July 13, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Some of the best television and storytelling out there. Probably ahead of it’s time considering production values, which made this show incredibly gorgeous, but so obviously expensive. I’m happy we’re getting a wrap-up to all the plottiness introduced in season 2, but obviously I wish for more.

    Reply
    • Venessa Giunta July 13, 2017 at 11:01 am

      I agree, 100%. I’m sure it was the multiple global sets that spiked up the production costs. Although what I do find strange is that Netflix canceled the show immediately after the second season was released. I mean, within days, which tells me the decision to cancel was likely made before season two was released. I would have liked to have seen them at least give the second season a chance to get more viewership. There was so much buzz about it coming out, at least on my feeds, I can’t imagine that the show wouldn’t have attracted more viewers as season one viewers watched and talked about season two.

      I guess I just wish they’d have given it a little bit more time.

      Reply
  • Shara White July 13, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    I still haven’t seen season two yet (I know, I know… shame on me), but I’m so glad Netflix at least decided to wrap up it with a two-hour movie. I think what burns for me, though it’s not quite like comparing apples to apples because of who owns the property, is something like IRON FIST got renewed, and that’s one of the worst Netflix shows I’ve watched, and yet SENSE8 got canned? I get that it was expensive to produce, but invest in one more season and ask the writers to wrap it up. Netflix as a different model than the networks. It’s something they can DO better than anyone else, you know?

    Reply
    • Venessa Giunta July 14, 2017 at 11:00 am

      I would have even been happier (not happy, but happier) if they’d waited til after season 2 had a chance to be viewed before canceling it. They canceled within something like a week of season two dropping. So, so frustrating.

      I think we *think* they can do it better, but in the end, it’s always down to the money. They think exactly like the network stations so they’re going to end up being exactly like the network stations.

      I might have woken up on the pessimistic side of the bed today 😉

      Reply
      • Shara White July 14, 2017 at 1:17 pm

        Oh, I get that it always comes down to money. The thing is, it took them forever to renew Sense8 for season 2 to begin with, so it’s not like they didn’t have time to make the decision, as you said. They could’ve had meetings to find out how it could’ve been made more cheaply, etc. So yeah, they pulled the trigger too fast. They don’t HAVE to act like network execs, and I think the backlash to the cancellation may have reminded them of that, because you’re right, they should’ve given it MORE time for the second season to be out there.

        Reply
        • Venessa Giunta July 14, 2017 at 1:28 pm

          Yes. I actually was having that exact same conversation with someone yesterday, about not seeming to have even looked at ways to make the production more cost efficient, or giving the Internet time to entice more readers. There was so much buzz over the new season coming out, if they’d have just given it time, they likely would have seen an increased viewership.

          For me, I found myself really emotional about this cancellation, which is really, really out of character for me. Disappointment is expected, but the emotional reaction I’m having is not. I suspect it has to do with the low-level panic that seems to be ever present in me due to the current state of this country. Which is, of course, exactly why we need this show.

          Reply
          • Shara White July 14, 2017 at 3:00 pm

            Maybe that should be the next roundtable…. the hardest cancellation?

          • Venessa Giunta July 14, 2017 at 3:05 pm

            Well, this would probably be mine. Well, this and the West Wing 😉

          • Shara White July 14, 2017 at 6:26 pm

            I thought West Wing ended, which wouldn’t count for what I’m thinking. Oh, and also it’s not Speculative! 🙂

          • Venessa Giunta July 14, 2017 at 7:20 pm

            I know. Still one of show’s I’m most sad about not being there anymore 😉

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