'Sense8' Season 1 - TV Review

I approached "Sense8" with mixed feelings: behind it are two (well, three) of the most inconsistent but periodically brilliant show creators of the last couple decades, J. Michael Straczynski and The Wachowskis. I think "Babylon 5" is probably the best SF TV show ever made, and "The Matrix" is likewise one of the best SF movies ever made (although I prefer to ignore the sequels, both Matrix and "Crusade").

The concept is relatively simple: eight people all over the world find they can see through each other's eyes, occupy each other's senses, communicate with each other. But it's made very clear from the first moments of the series that a large and very powerful organisation (and in particular, one man) is hunting anyone with this unusual power. The eight are a diverse lot: an Icelandic DJ, a German thief and brawler, a Korean business woman who's exceptionally good at Tae Kwon Do, a Chicago cop, an Indian pharmacist, a Kenyan matatu (bus) driver, a Mexican actor (who gets all the macho roles but is a closeted gay), and a trans-woman activist and hacker. Each helps the others out with their "particular set of skills" as the series progresses and their lives change. But of course there's always the ominous threat from the Biologic Preservation Organization and "Whispers," the sensate who works for the BPO and hunts other sensates.

This relatively simple concept leads to what must have been an insanely complex shooting schedule, as they had to shoot not only the eight actors in their eight separate countries, but then conversations between the sensates are shot in BOTH places that any two or even occasionally several of them are located. Sure, some of it was done on sets and stages, but a lot of it looks like it was shot on site. Crazy - and they do a good job of it.

For a series that's all about connection and love (and often surprisingly graphic sex - well, for a TV series), it's pretty violent and nasty in places. It's strengths are that emphasis on connection, love, and support of the people you care about, good characters, and good writing. It's weaknesses are a tendency to the operatic in the twists and turns and the evilness of the bad guys, and a love of over-long, drawn out shots and scenes. I get that you're showing us their connections, but ... move along. You didn't need to take so long.

The writing also reminds me a bit too much of novelist Dan Brown: I heard once (second hand, sadly I can't locate a source) that he publicly stated that all he ever did was toss together the same set of ingredients - one of which is always a big shadowy conspiracy. And very little reason has been given for the existence or behaviour of the BPO.

I've watched the first episode of season 2 (more killing, another orgy), and it really wasn't feeling like it was going anywhere at all despite the extended two hour run-time (most episodes are one hour). I'll probably watch the rest of the second season, but my enthusiasm is limited.