Looks like I chose the red pill.
Let’s bitch it out…
Like most people, I suspect, I approached Sense8 with mixed feelings. I still count The Matrix among the best movies I’ve seen. And I try to forget the travesties that followed in the form of the sequels. Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas weren’t a whole lot better. As a result, I’ve always wondered if The Matrix was a fluke – some cosmic coincidence of beautifully-crafted storytelling and compelling characters that the Wachowskis are incapable of repeating.
After watching the introductory episode of Sense8, I’m still not sure.
I’m going to be honest here – I didn’t even catch many names the first time through this episode. We basically just get eight different stories, and two of them kind of /sort of come together right at the end. But, for the most part, ‘Limbic Resonance’ just explores each character in their own setting, and establishes the basic concept of the show.
For some reason that has yet to be explained, the minds of eight different individuals become linked. At one point, a tertiary character with souped-up drugs in London rambles on about some pseudo-science involving limbic resonance or synaptic relays or something, and for now that seems like all of the explanation we’re going to get. It’s all we have to go on. For now I’m just going to assume it’s magic. So these eight people are getting bad headaches and occasionally hear – and, later, see – things that are happening to one of the other eight people. I find this premise very cool, very original, and, in all likelihood, too ambitious to really pull off. We’ll see, I guess. But, one episode in, all we really get is a glimpse of each character.
There are eight of them. Which means that, since they’re all separated geographically, the runtime of the episode is split eight different ways – as a result many of the characters only get two quick scenes. That doesn’t give us much time to get to know everyone, and I really don’t feel a connection to anyone yet. A quick rundown: There’s a Chicago cop (Brian J. Smith); an Icelandic DJ in London (Tuppence Middleton); a Mexican actor (Miguel Ángel Silvestre); a Korean businesswoman (Doona Bae); an Indian woman (Tina Desai) who is marrying someone she doesn’t love; a German thief (Max Riemelt); a Nairobi man (Aml Ameen) who drives the “Van Damn” tourism van; and a San Francisco woman, Nomi (Jamie Clayton) that I can only describe as being a lesbian, because the writers tell us literally nothing else about her, even though she appears in three scenes. Oh, and there’s also Daryl Hannah, who seems to be the mystery link between the eight individuals since they all have weird visions of her killing herself. She is probably (maybe?) the source of their mental link – again, for reasons that have yet to be explained.
One benefit of having the characters so spread out is that we get to see all of these places. And, apparently, Netflix doesn’t skimp on production values. The locations are all nicely shot, and the show is well-crafted visually (without any of the over-bearing CGI that usually accompanies Wachowski products). But, despite the aesthetics, the story seems a little jumbled and incoherent so far – only Will (the Chicago cop) and Riley (the London DJ) really get any threads moving. I realize that’s an unfair criticism one episode in, so I’m happy to keep an open mind, but I’m hoping very much that things start to come together in a more meaningful way soon. Again – we’ll see, I guess.
So far, I consider this to be a satisfactory start, with potential to go up, or room to go down. Either way, it is definitely unique. I can’t recall seeing anything quite like it on TV.
- I totally want to know who would win between the Van Damn and the Bat Van. “Jean-Claude is watching over us.” Of course, as soon as the driver, Capheus makes that statement, some guy pays for a ride with a live chicken. So maybe Jean-Claude Van Damme isn’t much of a guardian angel.
- I mentioned this above, but I was a little annoyed at how Nomi has no characterization at all beyond the fact that she is a lesbian. I’m not sure if this is intentional, given that she got into an argument about this very topic in the flashback scene (ie: fighting for special LGBT distinctions actually singles them out and increases the social stigma). But she got three scenes, and they were: lesbian sex scene (complete with sloppy strap-on) with her girlfriend, Amanita (Freema Agyeman); attending a gay pride event; and attending a gay pride nouveau art thing. Contrast that with the Mexican actor, who is also gay. His orientation is handled more subtly, and I actually know what his job is.
- Peeing on graves is becoming a thing on Netflix shows.
- I was hoping for more Naveen Andrews. This show has a bit of a LOST feel to it, which is what drew me in to begin with, so here’s hoping that continues, and that Sayid gets a bigger role.
Your turn: what did you think of the premiere? Did you connect with one of the eight more than the others? Were you expecting more Daryl Hannah or Naveen Andrews? Where does the story go next? Sound off below, but please refrain from including spoilers of upcoming episodes.
Sense8 is availability in its entirety on Netflix. Our review of episode two will be up Tuesday.