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: Trans Like Me by CN Lester

I usually try to start off these reviews by relating to the text in question, but the fact of the matter is that as a cis person I can never fully understand the experience of being trans, just as a white person could never fully understand my experience of being mixed. Marginalized identities are not interchangeable. All that said, Trans Like Me by CN Lester has definitely broadened my mind to how intrinsically intersectional the movements of different marginalized groups are, or rather, how intersectional they need to be.

Part memoir, part educational nonfiction, Trans Like Me is a wealth of information, history, and recognition for those who have shaped our perceptions of gender and continue to do so. A particularly poignant issue tackled within this text is how trans identities are nothing new, only the ways that we have adapted language to describe them. Furthermore, when describing those who came before us, it is best to exercise restraint in using modern terminology, particularly when ascribing an identity to someone who no longer has a voice with which to claim that identity for themself.

In several distinct places within the book, Lester does their best to reconstruct what we can cannot know about the past, voices lost to us through violent silencing and through destruction of our history. Yet, as much as they focus on the past, Lester uses it to construct the context of our present and how our current time and place is at a tipping point.

The issue with tipping points is that things can go in either direction. The final chapter of Trans Like Me is titled Futures and contains a thoughtful analysis of not just where society is and has been, but also where we are going. Other chapters focus on past and present characterizations of trans folk, and deconstruct how media representation can be beneficial, harmful, or a combination of both.

Throughout the text, Lester examines the responsibility that those with influence have to lift up others, how trans folk have been excluded from movements that they helped start, the cost of intersectionality, as well as how despite the fact that many might think that feminism and trans advocacy are diametrically opposed, they are actually inherently compatible. Lester also debunks many myths surrounding trans folk, and informs on their truths, such as how puberty blockers for trans kids merely delay puberty, and do not permanently prohibit it. Lester also dismantles the idea that all trans folk are straight and furthermore the portrayal of all trans folk as being the same, especially in regard to the trans folk who are non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, or otherwise fall outside of the binary gender system that is socially reinforced.

As someone who is well versed in much of the language used in this book, I did not need, but nevertheless appreciated the care that Lester took to make their book more accessible to those who might not have much experience with gender studies. Having a open, honest, and respectful discussion is impossible without the language to do so, but many people who want to broaden their perspective may feel shut out if they don’t first get a chance to learn that language.

I consider Trans Like Me to be another one of those books that should be mandatory reading for anyone and everyone, and I highly encourage y’all to get your hands on a copy.

Happy reading!

Cheers,

Talia