Sense8 Review by John Keegan

Sense8 1.01: Limbic Resonance

Sense8 1.01: Limbic Resonance

Written By:
The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski
Directed By:
The Wachowskis

Unlike Daredevil, the previous genre-related fare from Netflix to garner serious attention, Sense8 does not quite adhere to the conventions of episodic television.  Instead, the lines of demarcation blur; there are pauses that lend themselves to “chapter breaks”, but at the same time, this is clearly meant to be viewed as a complete work.  Even so, ignoring the ebb and flow of each chapter in favor of judging the whole is to ignore the details.  And this is very much a work that thrives on its details.  

What seems to be missing from much of the critical response for this series is perhaps part of the message of the story itself.  Do you feel somewhat disconnected from the characters at the beginning of the story, particularly in this first episode?  Of course.  Because frankly, that’s part of the premise: these eight young men and women are isolated in the worlds they have created for themselves.  They are suffering from a lack of connection with the world around them, all for different reasons.  The story has sci-fi trappings, of course, but the underlying theme is one of looking beyond the confines of one’s experience and seeing the world through the eyes of others.

It’s a more detailed examination of one of the core ideas of Babylon 5: that the greatest strength of humanity is the potential to build communities out of diverse and sometimes diametrically-opposed individuals.  And, beyond that, how certain elements of society, driven by self-interest or a misbegotten notion of “the greater good”, can and will do everything possible to stymie that potential.  Sense8 is such a blatant metaphor for this concept that I can’t quite fathom how so many critics missed the point! 

It’s also easy to forget that these are characters at the beginning of a journey.  Nomi, for example, is rather quickly revealed to be a transgender character with plenty of internal conflict.  It would be easy to mistake the way others in the LGBT community label and mistreat her in one of the flashbacks as a sign that Nomi will forever be cast in the light of societal identity politics.  Instead, she makes it very clear that it was how her lover, Amanita, stood up for her as a person that mattered in that moment.  As with so many stories by J. Michael Straczynski, it’s as much about stirring the pot and getting conversations started as it is delivering “answers” that might seem satisfying, but ultimately bring conversations to a close.

I’ll be particularly interested in how storylines and character examination continue to evolve and the reactions that develop as a result.  To continue the example above, I found myself wondering how the LGBT community or subsets within it reacted to the depiction of the people and events in Nomi’s world.  Yet at the same time, the story is going to provide us with seven different viewpoints from outside of Nomi’s world as well, all reacting to what they perceive and experience from her point of view.  I can only imagine how much of a challenge this had to be from a writing standpoint, because it all needs to be reasonably authentic for the premise to work. 

The episode managed to introduce the rest of the characters and their situations as well, but some got far more initial screen-time than others.  Notably, Riley (the gorgeous Icelandic DJ) was at the center of the biggest action sequence of the first episode, when everyone in the room around her is killed as she experiences a drug-induced connection to one of the other Sensates.  This is perhaps most memorable for the masterful use of imagery, music, and direction, because it encapsulated Riley’s mental state rather well, drawing the audience into her confusion and astonishment. 

Without taking the metaphor too far, I will be intrigued to see how various members of the audience react to the series as well, because I can’t imagine that it’s part of the overall package.  Some will seek and find a way to connect to the characters, some will only find resonance with some of what they see, and others will reject the characters and scenarios that offend their politics and sensibilities.  Doesn’t this sound familiar?

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • The style of the series is immediately recognizable, from writing to direction
  • A widely diverse cast with seemingly authentic personal demons and challenges
The Bad:
  • Will the audience be ready to take a journey that forces them to think and examine their own lives?

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

Sense8 by - 6/11/2015 6:51 AM293 views

Your Responses


Grade: B+
The first episode was a little slow to establish the story, but I was, like John, really loving the diversity of all the different personalities, and even if the sci-fi elements weren't set up much in episode 1, I cared enough about what was happening to each character enough to continue to the next episode.

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