Sense8 is a fantastic series, and I highly recommend that you watch it. But as I said in that review, there was a lot I wanted to talk about in terms of the themes and events of the show, but the review just wasn’t the place for them because it involved in depth discussion that would spoil the show. This is the review post, for me to ramble a bit about the show, and then for you to take over the comments. If you’re not ready to go down the rabbit hole, do not follow the sliding gunman below.
First off, by the end of writing this, I realized that I needed a term for the Wachowskis and Straczynski as a unit because it’s awkward to write all those names, and seems off to constantly refer to them as “the writers” or “the showrunners”. So I’m calling them the Triumsensate.
Thought the first for discussion: everything other than very cut and dry facts that Jonas says is pretty much wrong. Some of his monologues are brilliantly written and delivered, but I think they’re all a very conscious smoke screen by the writers. Like when he talks about how normal humans were better than any species ever at killing. It’s just accurate enough to be a perfectly insightful statement in general, but not with regard to the sensates. Notice that as soon as he finishes this speech, the sensates launch into a ballet of violence that is only possible because of who and what they are. People are not good at killing because they don’t feel, but because they do. Empathy gives us love, but it also gives us the capacity to murder like nothing else before us. And I think the Triumsensate is perfectly aware of this.
Thought the second: Mr. Whispers. I absolutely adore this character. The creepiness, the familiarity with the other characters, the quest to hunt down every single one of them like a machine. And I think the show did a very critical thing by not actually revealing almost anything about him. Not just as a tease for the next season, but because it made the beats and climax of the story about the Fab 8 instead of him. So there are two main questions I think. What’s the deal with the not looking him in the eyes? Here’s one way that I think Jonas is screwing with them, even if unintentionally. I think that the eye capture is probably the case for all of them, not just a super power of Whispers. Notice that Jonas can only visit Will and Nomi because those are the two whom he looked in the eyes. Or that the cranky Iceland lady can only visit Riley, because they met eyes in the cave when Riley was a kid. So I think this is going to be instrumental next season: Whispers can watch them, but Will can watch Whispers.
But I think the more interesting question about Whispers is reading between the lines to figure out what happened to his cluster and who they are. I think it’s clear that the three lobotomies (of whom two died) were from Whispers’ cluster. And that he does that so that he can take control of them but they’re unable to do anything themselves. That’s why Nomi saw Whispers’ face in the mirror when the shooter shot himself in the head. When the show first started rolling I was a little cynical about the fact that our eight just happened to be relatively nice empathic people, and that a harder question would be what happens when a truly evil person ends up being a sensate. But that’s what Whispers is. And consider it from his point of view, not necessarily from the perspective of an evil person, but a person who is deeply introverted and private. Becoming a sensate and finding people in your head? People who without your consent can invade your most private thoughts and feelings? That’s basically mind rape, and is a terrible dark side to what these people are.
But even more clear is that Anjelica and Jonas were not part of Whispers’ cluster. Because otherwise in the opening scene, Whispers would have seen Jonas instead of only getting one side of the conversation. And the cranky Icelandic lady? I haven’t quite decided whether she’s in Jonas’ cluster or not. That might explain why she was so hostile towards him and the idea of intra-cluster love: because Jonas and Anjelica had screwed up their particular cluster when they fell in love.
Thought the third: early in the show I really was bored with Kala’s scenes. Enough with the damned wedding, just move on with the whole thing. Her problems were just such privileged people problems: oh I’m supposed to marry an awesome man who adores me, but I’m just not feeling it. But as the show grew, I really enjoyed it simply because if you take eight random people around the world, you should get some with perfectly mundane problems.
Related to that, there’s a moment around halfway through when I started to feel like I was going to be bored with the switching since I could feel a pattern developing: Sun needs to beat some people up, Will needs to shoot some people, etc. And my suspicion was that they were going to start shoehorning the less directly useful sensates into dropping in for random things (like Capheus taking over driving for Nomi, when there was no damned reason that a mid-twenties American wouldn’t know how to drive other than to give the African dude something to do). But the show was masterful at allowing the stronger characters to be more “useful” from the start, but letting them be eclipsed gradually by the idea that it was the states of mind that were just as important. Lito’s use as the liar and con-man and charmer was inspired. And Will letting Wolfgang takeover in the ambulance because he knew that Wolfgang had the hardcore thousand yard stare needed to play chicken. To me, those were the parts when the show really started hitting its stride, when their bond became more than just a convenient way to always have a kicker of asses on hand.
Any and all topics are open for discussion below, let’s have at it.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.