Sense8 Season 1 Review

Sense8 is a show full of weird, bizarre moments, but also one filled with a lot of beauty and thought-provoking material. It can be immensely frustrated and long-winded, while also managing moments of fist-pumping excitement and joy. It’s also clearly a work of its eclectic creators, The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski, whose careers are littered with works that can be described with similarly dichotomous terms. Fortunately, those that push past the muddled early episodes will find a show that’s definitely worth investing in.

There’s so much to unpack and talk about with Sense8 that it’ll likely be impossible to give every character their due in this review. What I’ll say at the very least is that by the end, all eight members of the show’s main cluster of sensates has had a chance to develop, to the point that I cared about them all. Some members suffered from a lack of early momentum, like Riley and Sun, but they all got there in the end.

The strongest storylines, however, were the ones that kept momentum all season long. Capheus, whose optimism and obsession with Jean-Claude Van Damme, made for one of my favorite stories of the season. Similarly, as goofy and out-of-place as it initially felt, Lito’s journey of self-discovery won me over quickly.

Really, one of the show’s biggest problems early on was how jarring the tonal shifts could be. Nomi’s hospital imprisonment would play out like a horror movie in one scene, before jumping to Daniela’s awkward attempts to get in bed with Lito. Fortunately, things would settle into a better rhythm and flow as the sensates discovered one another and learned how to live together, but it made it hard to get into the show at first.

And I think that’s a problem that might drive away a lot of potential viewers; however intentional those early disconnects were, that’s still a problem. However, those that push through will find a lot of great character moments that grew out of the show’s slow pace. Instead of having the characters immediately desperate to connect with one another in person, they took their time to discover what being a sensate really meant.

What this meant for viewers was a chance to get to know the characters on their own before seeing them connect mentally. Things could perhaps have moved a little faster, as we got more than enough scenes of the sensates confusedly glancing at each other in mirrors, but it gave us a chance to appreciate what each new connection between characters really meant. Plus, the scarcity of connections made each one all the more special, such as the first time Capheus accessed Sun’s kickboxing skills or when Lito and Wolfgang helped each other out of tough situations.

It was even rarer to see all eight sensates interacting at once, which made all of the sense where they did landmark moments. From the montage of their births set to classical music, to the absolutely bonkers orgy scene, the show went to some oddly beautiful places that broke down any preconceived cultural barriers between the cluster members.

The final payoff to all of this came in the finale, where, working through Will, the sensates all contributed their skills to saving Riley from the villainous Whispers. Up until now, I’ve not really mentioned the larger conspiracy plot of the show, and that’s for good reason. While Will and Nomi’s story arcs largely focused on it, the truth is that the “larger narrative” wasn’t really the focus of the show, just one part of it that happened to take focus in the finale. Still, it gives an idea of where the show may go in a second season, now that we’ve had a chance to get intimately close to all of its characters. In the meantime, I’ll be cranking “What’s Up” and singing along with the voices in my heads.

What did you think of Sense8? Let me know in the comments!