If there was only one word to describe Netflix’s new sci-fi drama Sense8, everyone could probably agree that “ambitious” is the one that fits best. Sprawling is apropos as well. Spanning multiple countries, Sense8 is a complicated and alluring new drama from The Wachowskis, the siblings behind the much-loved The Matrix and the much-maligned Cloud Atlas. After watching the pilot, it should gain some interested parties.
The pilot opens on a grim note. Angel, Darryl Hannah (Yes! Darryl fricking Hannah!), wakes up on a dirty mattress in an abandoned church in the middle of the night. She scrounges around the debris and finds drugs, and then Naveen Andrews pops up. There is clearly someone after her, and she takes comfort in Andrews’ presence even though she is crying out about the pain. He encourages her to “make a connection” and suddenly we are transported all over the world to different people who notice her. If you aren’t surprised/delighted/intrigued to see Darryl Hannah pop up to you in a full-length mirror while shopping, Sense8 might not be for you.
From the dramatic ending, the pilot shifts back and forth between all the people that Hannah made contact with. It’s a lot of new faces, so I imagine it will take a few episodes to keep all the storylines straight. Will is a Chicago cop who always seems to do the right thing (he’s got the SuperCuts haircut for it). Lito Rodriguez is a closeted telenovela actor fighting his sexuality in Mexico City. Riley is a DJ in London who gets mixed up with the wrong kind of people. Nomi is a transgendered woman living in San Francisco with her girlfriend (one of the most memorable introductions on television I might add). Two of the most interesting characters are Kala, a devout Hindu about to marry a man she doesn’t love and Wolfgang, a safecracker who has some major daddy issues.
After Angel makes a connection with everyone, they are emotionally and mentally connected with one another. They can hear police cars from another city, and then they begin to experience scenes with different people. It’s kind of like Tomorrowland without touching the pin and with drugs and seedy characters. As the series progresses, surely it will get a lot more complicated.
On paper, Sense8 seems like a tiring experience. Reading the heavy premise, my eyes began rolling back into my head, and the casual viewer will be turned off by its heavy tone. We at least owe the show the benefit of seeing where it’s going. By the middle of the first episode, I was engaged in the mystery and intrigue of it all. It’s very sly in the way it draws you in, and the acting definitely helps. With her big eyes, Tina Desai’s Kala is innocent and sweet. Will, played by Brian J. Smith, has an earnestness that compliments Max Riemelt’s Wolfgang—even though the two of them don’t have any scenes together in the pilot.
Why did Angel connect these people, and who are the ones that are coming after them? It has a lot of explaining to do, but Sense8 has a solid and intriguing start.