Netflix isn’t only good for Breaking Bad, Anime and films. It also has its own programming that is equal to the best that is shown on television and each day this week we will shine a spotlight on some of the best you can watch on the service. You’ve probably heard of House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and maybe even Bojack Horseman (which returns for a second season on Friday by the way) but this week we’re going to be looking at some you may not have noticed.
My choice is an odd one: Sense8. It is a show about eight people who, for some unknown reason, are gifted the ability to share each other’s experiences, emotions and skills after a psychic lady kills herself and ‘gives birth’ to them.
The majority of the show is about each character going through the daily lives and trying to deal with this ability invading their lives when they least expect it. What makes this show really, REALLY good though is that each person is thousands of miles away from one another in different countries around the world. One is in London, whilst another is in Kenya, another in India etc.
It keeps the show fresh as the story jumps from place to place when the characters begin to share thoughts between one another. On top of that, each character has totally different lives; the Indian character is about to get married to a man she doesn’t love, a German safe-cracker has to survive after swindling his brother from a case of diamonds, a gay Mexican actor has to keep his sexuality hidden by way of using a super model as a ‘beard’ – the effect these clashing identities and cultures has is twofold: 1) it shows the audience that, despite everything, deep down we are all emotionally similar and 2) creates a really interesting dynamic within the story when characters meet one another within another’s environment. For example, in the fifth episode, the Kenyan character appears in front of the Korean character whilst she is walking down the street in Seoul when they are both feeling conflicted about their own lives. It just looks so…wrong in how the scene is shown. Each location is filled with either African or Korean people, making each character’s appearance stand out like a sore thumb, highlighting how different their respective lives are.
As you can probably gather, this is heady stuff I am describing. And it would all be a huge mess if it didn’t have some serious talent on the scripting and directing side. Luckily, there are in the form of The Wachowskis (they of The Matrix, Cloud Atlas and more recently Jupiter Rising *shudder* fame), Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, also of Cloud Atlas), J. Michael Straczynski (Bablyon 5 and World War Z) and James McTeigue (V for Vendetta). Now I know what you are thinking, these names don’t exactly inspire much confidence – apart from Tom Twyker, I would say – because despite a lot of things, The Wachowskis and McTeigue don’t exactly have a spotless record and the less said about World War Z the better. But by some miracle they have somehow created a show that is thrilling, engrossing and genuinely emotional at times. It can get confusing, the show isn’t exactly forthcoming with information, but the characters are so well written that you just don’t care. Plus, as I have mentioned in the last paragraph, the directing by Tykwer – who also scores the show – The Wachowskis and McTeigue is superb throughout. They really know how to submerge the viewer in what might as well be alien worlds, surprising I know.
Despite all this praise, the acting is a bit more spotty. That isn’t to say that the acting is bad, especially by the main cast, it just has its ups and downs. The supporting characters are the main culprits: the German character’s friend, for instance, is terrible and really chews the scenery whenever he is on screen. The Mexican character’s ‘beard’ is also pretty bad because of how boring she is. I don’t know if that is a character choice or just bad acting, mind. But I will say that the main cast is really good overall. The main highlights are the transsexual American character (Jamie Clayton), the aforementioned Indian woman (Tina Densai) and the Mexican actor (Miguel Angel Silvestre). They three really feel like proper characters and not archetypes to an extent. The others certainly aren’t bad…just not as interesting.
In the end, I highly recommend you watch Sense8. It is a far cry from the gritty anti-hero dramas that are so popular these days and that is what makes hugely enjoyable. A real palate cleanser thanks to its emotional core. I can’t wait for a second season (if there is one!).