Rec – sense8

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Apologies for this week’s rec posting late. I decided to delay it to give Christopher Lee the top of the page for all of Thursday. I still can’t believe how many people who I admired and respected on an entirely different level than my normal celebrity watching/fandom feelings have died this year. It is indeed a sad one.

This week’s rec is a complete turnaround from that.

Sense8 is a twelve episode series that became available on June 5th streaming on Netflix. So far, I’ve watched ten of them, and I will finish the first season today and join the ever growing fanbase clamoring for a season two confirmation.

Ironically, I discovered Sense8 from a series of unrelated Tumblr posts. I was intrigued by the gushing, the one or two gifs I’d seen at that point, and how much everyone (two or three people on my dashboard) loved the cast and characters.

To be honest, I might not have given this Netflix original series a second look, but I took a quick recon to Wikipedia and the very first thing I found out was that this was a work of J. Michael Straczynski, known to Babylon 5 fans as JMS. That was all I needed to know.  There are others involved in the creating, producing and writing (The Wachowskis, known for The Matrix and Cloud Atlas), but for me JMS’s involvement was it. I trust him and his work that much.

I’d barely read the premise when I saw that this is my favorite genre; to read, to see, to write, hands down favorite. I love sci-fi, and I especially love sci-fi that feels real. It’s almost embarrassing to call it fantasy because it can simply happen in the real world. At least in my mind. Real world and modern with a twist. And this has twists.

Some fine print. This rec is not for everyone. I would begin by warning that his program is not for children. I didn’t notice how it’s officially rated, but my personal rating would be 18+. However, use your judgment and preview it for older teens. There is no censorship (at all) for language, violence or nudity. Language includes racial epithets, and a maximum level of cursing (including fuck and cunt). There is also drug use. And a rocket launcher.

There is nudity: front, back, and sideways of both genders. There are sexual situations and conduct. There’s some transphobia from one of the character’s parents. I found it upsetting and sad and I became emotional, but it’s not triggering for me. There are some medical procedures and a locked psych ward. I know these are spoilers, but this can be very triggery for someone who’s dealt with transphobia and abuse like this on a personal level.

Now, you know.

But this only adds to the feeling of realness of the show.

It can be a little confusing, especially the first couple of episodes, but I found it refreshing. It’s probably one of the only programs that I’ve had absolutely no spoilers for. It was nice coming in blind (for want of a better word). I watched and had to learn things as the characters learned them. I found that very exciting. I would absolutely suggest that you don’t read Wikipedia or any reviews for the first third of the episodes. Let yourself feel the characters and the action. It might seem disjointed at first, but you will adapt and barely notice the switches when they happen.

It opens with a woman alone in an abandoned building. It’s dark and shadowy and she is apparently giving birth. A man comes to her, comforts her, but we find out that he’s not physically there. I wasn’t sure if she was hallucinating or if they were telepathically communicating. This becomes clearer as you meet the characters.

There is nothing typical about this birth scene, though, and herein it begins. She gives birth to eight adults, men and women in all parts of the world: Chicago, London, Berlin, Nairobi, Mumbai, Seoul, San Francisco, and Mexico.  They are called sensates and these eight are part of a cluster and they can all see the woman giving birth. Seemingly, no one else can. They also aren’t sure what it is they’re witnessing.

This premise is amazing to me.

The characters are even more so. All eight (and their friends and families) are extremely well-developed, international and diverse in ethnicity and culture, religion, language, and gender identity and orientation. Between them, they speak seven languages, but somehow they all understand each other. They each have their own lives, families, desires, ambitions, troubles. It’s nice to see characters that don’t need the plot to flesh out who they are. Sure, the new relationships with the cluster is definitely going to affect them, but hopefully it will help them continue to grow into themselves, and not change who they really are. They are already people.

There is not one of the eight that I dislike. They are all such complete characters. They are so real in fact that I feel as if I know them already. I get their personalities, how they cope, what they believe, all the things that often take entire seasons to get. This is so quick to be involved in characters, and so many of them at the same time. No favorites. I’m rooting for them; all of them. I’m worried for them. I’ve cried with them. There were two exceptionally strong emotional moments for me that I can’t talk about without spoiling it for you.

These eight are psychically linked, more than telepathically, but they don’t know that yet, and are figuring out how to go about their lives with this new wrinkle. Some of them are dealing with it better than others.

There are some things I could use to describe the characters that actually give away spoilers for skills and orientation, so here is my very basic introduction to the characters:

They are all youngish (twenty-something) and all good looking and very fit. Definitely not at all hard to look at. They are all good people in their ways, even the thief.

Will Gorski: Dad was a cop, is an alcoholic. Will is also a cop in Chicago. He has a good heart and believes in helping people even when it screws him over. He’s curious and kind, compassionate, and strongly believes in right over wrong.

Riley Blue (nee Gunnarsdottir): from Iceland, but she lives in London, DJ. She’s close to her Dad, but she won’t go home (to Iceland). Does not have good people as friends. In fact, they suck.

Capheus: Nairobi, bus driver. His mother is sick with AIDS. He is sunshine personified. He sees the wonder and joy in everything. He is by no means a Pollyanna, but he has this sense of making the world a better place. He has a good soul.

Wolfgang Bodganow: Berlin, owns/runs a locksmith shop with his friend, Felix. He broods. He’s a brooder. He’s also a safecracker and a thief. His family is a crime family. It’s complicated.

Kala Dandekar: Mumbai, scientist with a pharmaceutical company run by her fiance’s father. She is religious – prays to Ganesha regularly, fiance, Rajan, is a good person, kind.

Sun Bak: Seoul, executive in her father’s company. She has an unusual hobby that we learn about later on. (It’s a pretty big spoiler, so it’s not here.)

Nomi Marks: She lives in San Francisco. She is a political blogger, trans, dating/living with her girlfriend, Amaneeta. There are some family issues that may be triggery for some people (related to transphobia and forced medical procedure.)

Lito Rodriguez: Mexico, actor. He loves his job as an actor and he’s a perfectionist; likes to retake if he thinks it’s not quite right. He likes to quote movies (don’t we all?). He’s passionate. He’s dramatic. His emotions go from he loves with the light of a thousand suns right down to the despairs of Dante’s Inferno. (He is also hiding a big spoiler.)

The cities shown are beautiful. Exciting. Real. You know where you are without a landmark lesson from social studies class. You get to learn alongside them as they find out more and more about their cluster and the individuals, what makes them tick. It’s surreal and real at the same time.

I know I’m gushing, but I love it! I loved it from the start, but as I said give it at least two episodes (three would be better) before making up your mind (that’s when my husband decided he liked it just as much as I did.)

The entire series is available now. I watched the first episode twice, and that definitely helped with the confusion, but so did watching the second and third episodes. Each one only gets better and better. Once I complete the season tonight, I’ll watch it again beginning tomorrow. I know I’ll see things that I didn’t notice the first time.

Spoiler Warning: If you’re Tumblr inclined, stay out of the Sense8 tag to avoid the spoilers. It really is so much better watching it first. (And that comes from a person who generally has no problem being spoiled. This is one show where I would have regrets, so I avoid them.)

Give it a try. Then come back and tell me what you think.

I think you will like it!

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(*Pictures from official sources. No infringement is intended.)

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