TV Review: Season One of Sense8

Considering the fact that Sense8 as a series has already been completed, I am a little late to the game in writing a review of it. That said, I binge watched season one in lieu of reading a book this week, so this is what you get. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I suppose that it would be disingenuous of me to say that I binge watched all of season one this week; I had already seen the first couple of episodes, and I also skimmed the wikia page for each episode before watching it and skipped certain scenes that I knew would probably be triggering for me. I greatly recommend this tactic, not just because it lead to me knowing what to watch out for, but also because the show can be quite confusing, and the ability to know what to expect and how things connected allowed me to engage myself more fully with what I was seeing on the screen.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, Sense8 is a show about eight people around the world who together form a cluster of sensates. I’m not entirely clear on the science of it all, but basically, they maintain a connection between them that leads to experiencing what others in their cluster do or visiting them in their different locations although they are in different places around the world. The episodes are quite long, each of them being around 50+ minutes, and so even though there are eight protagonists, each with their own set of supporting characters, everyone feels quite rich and developed. Although the eight are connected and their lives are growing closer and closer as the episodes go on, they still have distinct lives and distinct struggles. That said, certain characters feel more isolated than others.

The main drama concerning their connection seems to center around Will, a cop from Chicago who discovers the scene of the crime where Angelica, the woman who birthed their cluster[1], killed herself; his love interest, Riley, who is an Icelandic DJ who lives in London; and Nomi, who is a hacktivist living in San Francisco and is the first of the characters to be forcibly hospitalized and nearly lobotomized because of their particular brain patterns. Those sections of the first few episodes were always the ones that I skipped because I had a very hard time watching Nomi be mistreated, especially since her mother was constantly encouraging the hospital staff to misgender Nomi and using her position as a legal family member to keep Nomi isolated. Other scenes that I skipped had to do with Riley’s backstory, which is much more tragic than I could have ever expected.

Sometimes I feel like so much is going on in the show that I can barely process it, though I do mean that in the best way. I’ve never watched something that so richly combined so many stories without making me feel either overwhelmed with information or underwhelmed by unnecessary characters. Lito, Kala, Capheus, Sun, and Wolfgang are the remaining sensates, and each of their stories feels like it could have been its own show or movie.

Kala is a scientist living in Bombay and struggling with the confusion of whether to marry Rajan, who she does not love. Her story, which could be billed as its own romantic film, is the one that connects most intimately with Wolfgang’s, whose own life is more of a crime drama, as his family operates like a mafia and he is in competition with his cousin over a particular heist.

Meanwhile, Lito is in Mexico City, living a double life as an heteronormative action star by day, and going home to the love of his life—who happens to be a man—at night. His life is relatively separate from those of the others, as his troubles are much more local, though there is one scene in particular that I find quite beautiful where he bonds with Nomi at the Diego Rivera art museum.

I find Sun’s character to be particularly intriguing, as she seems to dart in and out of everyone’s narrative, while she herself is isolated and faces many troubles—including prison—for her family. Sun is a complete badass, and her most frequent position in the cluster is as the one that everyone calls in for backup when they need to fight off a group of attackers. Although Wolfgang and Will are also good in a fight, when in doubt it’s best to have Sun at your back. (Or possessing your body, as sensates are wont to do.)

The character that makes me feel most conflicted is Capheus, a matatu driver in Nairobi, whose main attribute (as it sticks out to me) is his positive and generous demeanor. Capheus has a strong sense of morals, and is quite likable. He is also unafraid to let Sun take over his body and carve up attackers with a machete. In terms of what he gives back to the group, Capheus seems to act as a voice of reflection and as a great getaway driver. That said, Capheus feels a bit inconsistent at times, and it was not until later episodes when I saw more raw emotion in him that I was fully engaged with his character. Something about Capheus made him feel distant to me. I’ll admit, though, that a great deal of my hesitancy with regard to Capheus is due to something that in theory shouldn’t affect the internal story of a work but does, in that I have the outside knowledge that the actor who plays him in the first season left the show on rushed and bad terms. I’m not quite sure what happened there, but I do know that it made me feel weird about the character.

On the whole though, I really enjoyed my time watching this show over the past few days. I love sci-fi, I love drama, I love diverse storytelling, and I’m really happy that this show exists. I’ll admit that the rather steamy orgy scenes threw me for a loop at first, but at least now I know not to watch this show with my mother. (Sex positivity is good, but I don’t need to be in the same room as my mom for it).

If you haven’t watched Sense8 yet, go do so! It’s on Netflix.  Meanwhile, I’m on to season two, which I’ve heard has even more sex scenes, so I’ll probably watch it with my window shades closed.

Happy watching!

Cheers,

Talia

 

[1] This is a show term which essentially means that Angelica is the one who activated the connection between the sensates.

Personal Note: A few years back I got a series of very serious concussions that have caused me to struggle with watching excessive amounts of TV, which is why I rarely binge watch anything, but something about Sense8 got me hooked enough to keep watching and ignore the protesting parts of my brain. I’m not certain that such a development is actually good for my neurons, however I was happy to get engaged with a show again. My attention span for consuming visual media had drastically shortened, but Sense8 captivated me to an extent that TV shows rarely do.

Book Review: My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley

THIS is the book review that I’ve been excited to write for weeks. Not just because the author is one of my favorite professors (hi Steve!) but also because My Ex-Life is a genuinely fantastic book. I stumbled across it while waiting for my fiancée at one of our favorite book shops and just from reading the first few paragraphs I was instantly hooked. The primary setting of My Ex-Life is summertime in the town of Beauport, Massachusetts, a fictional locale that has all the characteristics of the North Shore, including and especially the weather.

Filled cover to cover with humor, biting wit, and compassion, My Ex-Life generously but realistically tells the story of David Hedges, a man made uncomfortable by his life falling apart, and his unexpected reconnection to his ex-wife, Julie Fiske, who is in the middle of her divorce from her second husband and the college search for her daughter, Mandy. As it just so happens, the one area of David’s life that hasn’t crumbled (his younger lover has left him and his long-term lease is cancelled by his landlady because said lover and his new beau plan to buy the house) is his profession  helping high school students apply and receive admission to the school of their (parents’) dreams.

David somewhat-successfully escapes his own troubles by trading San Francisco for Beauport and his real estate problems with Julie’s. Her second husband, Henry, is determined to sell the house entirely instead of letting Julie buy him out, and she is having trouble scraping together the funds. As someone who is only just renting her own apartment for the first time, I greatly enjoyed this peek into the world of real estate, though I have no idea as to how accurate it may be. (See previous note about renting my first apartment as of July first). A constant point of fascination for me was the frequent reference to Airbnb, which I have never used, but feel that I know a great deal more about now that I have read this book.

The text exudes life experience, in that every emotion put in to the page  be it sarcasm or sincerity  is one that can be palpably felt, fully formed, as if the character was someone that we could meet on the street, or run in to at a bar. Even the secondary characters had the air of someone who could have a whole book written about them that would be just as riveting.

I wouldn’t say that I particularly identify with any of the characters, but I can empathize with Julie’s desperation at not wanting to lose her house, and appreciate how her marijuana habit plays in to her relationships in ways that at times seem helpful, but in the end are harmful. Similarly, I am not a gay man in my 50s, but David is easily the most empathetic character in the novel as he does his best to take care of everyone and help them to best succeed. For better or for worse, he is a man moved by his heart and prepared to make sacrifices for those that he cares about.

All that said, my favorite character is Mandy, a seventeen year old girl who is being pulled in to so many different directions that she falls prey to making bad decisions because at the very least they are hers to make.

My Ex-Life is a highly recommended read, and I urge y’all to get yourselves a copy.

Happy reading!

Cheers,

Talia