Netflix’s Sense8: Otherness Through The Societal Lens

This second season starts not long after season one ends, and the sensates continue to be psychically and physically connected to one another. They’re still hiding from the Whispers and the BPO. The chase is on, has no limit to its surprises and before I knew it, I had binged this eleven-episode season in a blink of an eye. This is a wild season that has leanings on the sociopolitical like its predecessor, such as in one episode which has a spectacular Gay Pride event, as well another with scenes in Nairobi of civil unrest and political instability, elements that puts this science fiction drama in the here and now on the world stage in the twenty-first century.

The BPO plot gives us more action than last season. Co-creators Lana and Lilly Wachowski (The Matrix) are all too familiar with stuff like this. Hand-to-hand combat in this show is just so badass. After Netflix series Marco Polo being cancelled after only two seasons, I needed to find my martial arts fix somewhere, and Sun (Doona Bae) gave me that fix time and time again with her epic skills against many different assailants. Hers is my favourite arc of the season. She wants revenge on her brother after he murdered their father for money and power. She is confined to a prison, but at the same time, she isn’t, as we see she joins her sensates in their worldly adventures.

Sun is angry at the world because she got dealt a bad hand, yet she is a freaking badass!!
(Sense8, Netflix)

The thing that makes these sequences so great is not the epic stunt coordination, but it’s simply the editing. I’ve not seen editing this good since Oliver Stone’s JFK. The main concept is that our eight protagonists can not only psychically communicate with one another, but utilise each other’s skills on a physical basis as well. Thanks to the outstanding editing, this is something to be commended. Much alike shows like Marco Polo and Daredevil, the fights in Sense8 are choreographed to perfection. They are a thing of beauty, as the series cuts from London to Mumbai to Chicago and to a great deal of other locations. This show just makes me want to travel!

Characters like Sun in Seoul, or Kala (Tina Desai) in Mumbai, or Will (Brian J. Smith) and Riley (Tuppence Middleton) in undisclosed locations are not bound to said places. Often they can appear next to one another having conversations, some of a personal nature. They feel each other’s pain, both physical and psychological. And it’s through things like this that show why this series is one of the best representations of the human spirit in recent years. Sun’s fighting skills save Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) in Europe from a sticky situation early on in the season. And from Mexico, Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) saves Sun with his bar-tending prowess in Korea.

Due to the editing, scenes like this are what literature buffs would call dramatic irony and it’s flipping brilliant 
(Sense8, Netflix)

Shots like the ones above could become a mess in the wrong hands, but the Wachowski sisters and J. Michael Straczynki have two hands on the steering wheel and are driving the show in a great direction, and I felt more included with each episode I watched. This time around, I felt the characters new what they were doing because they were more connected. They were more in harmony with their abilities. Whilst last season allowed audiences a whole season to get used to the show’s weirdness and awkwardness, the second season throws us straight in with the sharks, assuming that we’re ready for more strange happenings, and that I was. Great.

Nomi (Jamie Clayton) and Amanita (Freema Agyeman) also have a brilliant arc, carrying on the show’s perspective of otherness. We are shown two different families. Nomi shows us a snapshot of what it means to be transsexual in 2017, and how her family react to this. Her sister will always be her sister. Her father steps up when something occurs, and I won’t spoil why or how. Yet, other members of her family still can’t accept it. However, Amanita’s family are the opposite and I loved them for it. Her mother didn’t know who her biological father was so she was raised with three dads who all have an equal chance of being the real dad. This was oddly nice, in the best way possible.

Nomi (Jamie Clayton) and Amanita (Freeman Agyeman) in Netflix’s science fiction drama Sense8
(Sense8, Netflix)

The eight strangers of this series are as diverse as they can possibly get. From their race to religion to class to sexual orientation to gender to economic to status to even the politics of their countries, they are as different as can be. And this show continues to question how humans are the same, but also how we are different. Are we all under the same blanket of the human condition, or are we as different as the cultures we are a part of? Is it culturally constructed by us as humans who unconsciously and consciously split ourselves into us and them? Sense8 continues poke the societal bear, and ask “Is this how far humanity has fallen, and is it really necessary?”

It continues to critique the human ability to feel, whether those feelings are love, hate, happiness, envy and so on and so forth. We are viewers of characters in identity crisis and the bonds that our heroes share can ultimately have the ability to save their lives, both figuratively and literally. The show is at its peak when they experience each other’s trauma and pain, because that’s one of the things that makes us human. Not our anatomy, but our ability to feel. The show continues to crisscross through identities and nations via these sensates with different backgrounds. And regardless of these, it’s their differences that keep them together, not apart. Get the picture?

Will Gorski (Brian J. Smith), Ridley Blue (Tuppence Middleton) and Diego (Ness Bautista)
(Sense8, Netflix)

Though, real life problems continue in their lives as they’re being hunted. Capheus (Toby Onwumere) becomes a local celebrity. Kala struggles in being in a loveless marriage. But the most intriguing bits of season two’s identity drama is Lito coming out as gay, and what that meant for his acting career. And when they’re lives are in jeopardy, it can often feel tedious pondering over what people think of you being gay. It really doesn’t matter what you are. Lito is just a man, just like the many millions of men across the planet. Why does society make a big deal out of people being gay? Heterosexuality has been normalised, and otherness is a spanner in the systemic machine.

Each of these characters have gifts, but their abilities are somewhat in their personalities too. Confidence can go far, and people may not take you seriously if you’re generally a shy person. This is implied in the personality of Wolfgang. He doesn’t say much, but he’s handy in a fight and he’s very good at breaking and entry, as depicted when he helps Lito in a tight spot. When it comes down to it, at the end of the day, we’re all human together. No matter if we’re black or white, gay or straight, male or female, are they not all just constructs to divide us once again? We are all one species, and it’s our characters that defines us, not our our genitalia or our the colour of our skin.

I loved the whole season, especially the finale which as if they were assembling the Avengers
(Sense8, Netflix)

Sense8 continues to be that oddball Netflix series that critiques the realness of reality. The performances continue to wow. The editing is sharp, and the photography of these great destinations makes me want to see them first hand. Season two picks up where season one left off and it’s flipping fantastic, even if at times it sends you into an existential crisis at four in the morning.

Sense8 is not as crazy as it sounds, because in the years to come Sci-Fi could well be called Science Realism, just like how Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four should be in the nonfiction section