There are few authors with the visual excitement of the Wachowskis. Every movie they make will be, I’m sure of it, unique, at least as a visual treat. After “Matrix” and “Cloud Atlas” they failed with “Jupiter Ascending”, and I was skeptical about their cooperation with a legend of the SF genre – J. Michael Straczynski. After “Sense 8” debuted in June, IMDB and other movie forums were filled with anger and disappointment and the grade of the series rapidly went down to 7.2. Thank God that I’m an SF fanatic, so I’ve seen the series without prejudice and after I finished with the first season in one night I can say that “Sense 8” is by far one the best SF series made for TV in the last decade. What’s the reason for all the hate? Why the ratings and expectations were unrealistic and how is this series connected with the way “Netflix” changed the distribution of the TV content? All these questions will be addressed below, but I will also try to clear why I’m so assured that “Sense 8” will be even better as it goes on. First season was, in fact, the introduction. The best stories are yet to follow, if I know anything about Straczynski’s work.
Let’s start at the beginning. “Babylon 5” is the most important series JMS ever made. It’s space-epic in five seasons, with an important message throughout the story, and it was intended and filmed in a way no other SF series was before. Straczynski imagined five seasons and wrote the main story at once. Therefore, we had revelations through the whole series. For example, in Season 3 the event from Season 1 was explained. How is that relevant to “Sense 8”? It’s the same author. Same rules apply. He imagined five seasons, and the new way of the content distribution gave him freedom for his slow-paced and methodical way of storytelling. “Netflix” changed the way the content is made, and their way of showing the whole season at once gave the authors more freedom to explore all the paths into which the story could lead. Because of that they were able to work without worrying about the ratings and the survival of the series. Straczynski said that “Sense 8” wouldn’t be possible anywhere else than on “Netflix”.
What’s it all about? “Sense 8” is a story about eight different people utterly connected through some sort of spiritual connection. In the beginning of the series, we see the lady in white (Daryl Hannah) making a difficult choice. The consequence of that choice will be the formation of a cluster between the eight people scattered all around the globe. All of them are as different as they could be. During the season a thought came to mind – that’s how the Lennon’s “Imagine” brought to the screen would look like. To live together, because and not in spite of our differences, is the main message of the series. People, however, can be different in various ways so Wachowskis made sort of personal point here. One of the main characters is a transsexual, and another is a closeted gay actor. Both of them will go on personal quests during the season and both of them will find unpleasant truths about themselves. The cluster is connected. They can interact with each other and – literally – take each other places. In one wonderful scene Korean character – expert in martial arts – takes the position of the Kenyan bus driver endangered by robbers. Mexico, India, Germany, USA, Iceland, London, Korea, Kenya and Mexico are the story locations. The world is forced to work together against a common enemy. Who is the enemy? The answer is very blurred even at the end of the season. Something must be revealed later, as JMS loves to do.
Another reason for the hate was gay sex. In “Sense 8” there is a lot of sex, heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual. Some people were profoundly offended with the explicitly shown sexual intercourses, but I find that hypocritical. In the show we can see sex “as it is”, all sexual orientations and cultures included. That’s the reason why, as JMS said, such series couldn’t be made outside of services like “Netflix”, why it could never succeed on a regular network. It was nice to test the viewers in the beginning, so later when the story went deeper into the characters – only those capable of seeing through the “provocations” were left watching.
“Sense 8” is a slow-paced, thoughtful and well-made. Its photography is astounding, colors astonishing and directorial skills of the Wachowskis at their best. Personally can’t wait for the second season. I hope, as JMS taught us, it will be even better than the first.