Who am I? And if so, how many? That’s actually the title of a book from David Richard Precht, a German philosopher. But it is also a really fitting description for Sense8 because it does sum up the main question of a TV series that completely turns everything, we learned about individuality upside down.
It is actually quite hard to describe what is happening in Sense8 because it takes a few episodes before it starts to make sense (pun intended): You see eight people spread across the world who never met each other before. But then a weird lady kills herself and all of a sudden, those eight people develop a bond that allows them to feel each other’s feelings, visit each other telepathically and also “borrow” each other’s strengths. They can even kind of “become” the other person for a short amount of time. Learning how to manage that bond isn’t their biggest problem though – because there is a very powerful organization that just want to take them out of the picture.
The Wachowskis are back
Sense8 was co-created, co-written and co-directed by Lilly and Lana Wachowski, the masterminds who created the Matrix-franchise and made movies like Cloud Atlas or Jupiter Ascending. In my opinion movies from the Wachowskis are either really good (Matrix, Cloud Atlas) or pretty damn bad (Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, Speed Racer). Sometimes they are also “could have been really good but they ran out of time” (Jupiter Ascending). The latter is actually what makes Sense8 so perfect: Because it is a series, they have time to really tell the story. To let it develop slowly and even explain the more complicated stuff in it.
It also centers one of the favorite themes of the Wachowskis: Gender identity. In Sense8 it becomes a question of identity on a whole new level until you can narrow it down to: Who am I? And if so, how many? It also follows another tradition of Wachowski-originals: Turning outsiders into heroes. Like the computer nerd Neo who became the most powerful being in the Matrix or Jupiter, a maid who turned out to be some kind of goddess (I still struggle with understanding that movie). In Sense8 it’s eight very different lives who turn out to be not so different after all.
Eight individuals – one shared life
Sense8 introduces eight main characters that become a cluster:
- Sun, a Korean businesswoman, whose struggles with a negligible father land her in jail.
- Will, a disenchanted Chicago cop with an alcoholic father.
- Riley, a DJane from Iceland who now lives in London and still fights the ghost from her past
- Lito, a Mexican actor who is trying to hide his homosexuality and his boyfriend
- Nomi, a trans-woman who lives with her girlfriend in San Francisco
- Wolfgang, a German wannabe-gangster from Berlin
- Kala, an Indian woman who is supposed to marry a man she doesn’t love
- Capheus, a Kenyan bus driver who takes care of his sick mother
From one moment to the next, those eight seemingly different individuals suddenly have one thing in common: Each other. What starts as a weird telepathic connection, soon becomes more, and allows them to actively take place in each other’s lives.
What is fascinating is that the show first introduces the characters individually. It starts with individual stories and lives that are very far away from each other, but as the story continues it becomes very clear that those eight people have a lot more in common than just that telepathic bond and the exact same birthday. They all struggle with their past, and with societies expectations. The latter gets even more pronounced when they realize that not only do, they have some very powerful enemies but that there is a whole new world out there neither of them was aware before.
To infinity and beyond
Eight is a very powerful number, and in this case, it is not chosen lightly. The shape of a sideways figure eight is also know as the infinity symbol. Because it has no beginning and no end. That is also the underlying theme of Sense8: What if we aren’t as alone as we thought we were? What if our actions also have an impact to other people? What if we truly are connected somehow? It is a scary, yet also powerful thought.
Why you should watch Sense8:
Because it is one of the best TV series from recent years and it has a concluded story. A story that focuses on what connects us rather than tears us apart. It doesn’t matter if you are gay, lesbian, CIS or trans – we are all humans, we all cry when we are sad, we laugh when we are happy and maybe we should treat each other with more kindness. If you look at the world as it is right now, I think that is a very good message, many should head.