I have just seen the first six episodes of Sense8. And I may be in love.
My constant refrain as I was watching it was how can this be so good? Because on the face of it this is a show I should’ve struggled to enjoy: it doesn’t have nearly as much murder and/or explosions as I normally enjoy in a television show. (Although it does have at least a little murder.) What it has, instead, is a long slow build of an interesting conspiracy, and characters worth the price of entry.
And in a television landscape that rarely devotes much time or thought to inclusivity, it stands out. It’s an example of a show that’s made a decision to decentre the standard narratives of who gets to be a protagonist that tend to prevail in science fiction and fantasy when it comes to visual media. This is a show that gives a gay Mexican actor the same significance as a white Chicago cop: that has in addition among its main characters a young man in Kenya and a young woman in Korea, a young woman from Iceland and another in India, a safecracker in Germany and a trans hacktivist in San Francisco.
The basic premise: eight people are connected on some mental level. They can sometimes feel what the others feel, see and converse with each other at a vast distance, and occasionally use each other’s skills. They haven’t always been connected in this way: the first experience most of them have that indicates something out of the ordinary is going on occurs when they have a vision of a woman killing herself in a disused church. Thereafter, other odd occurrences and visitations lead to their gradually realising that they’re either going mad, or something profoundly strange is going on—something profoundly strange that might be dangerous for them.
The slow-build of plot and realisation and conspiracy isn’t really what thrills me, though. There is so much going on with the characters, and they are given so much depth and personality in what is, on a per-episode basis, remarkably little time. I’m half in love with Sun, the daughter of a Korean business dynasty who is also a really badass bare-knuckle fighter and who makes a terrible choice to protect a family that doesn’t love her. I’m a little more than half in love with Kala, who’s preparing to marry the son of the man who owns the company she works for and can’t figure out how to say No, I don’t want to, when he’s sweet and funny and romantic and handsome and rich and her family thinks he’s perfect.
But I’m more than half in love with Sense8‘s pair of couples. It’s such a rare thing, for a television show in the science fiction or fantasy end of things to show committed, affectionate, long-term relationships. Sense8 not only shows such relationships, but both of the show’s couples are queer couples, and possibly the most awesome pair of couples I’ve ever seen on television. The relationship between actor Lito and his boyfriend Hernando is fascinatingly drawn and deeply affectionate—and it doesn’t hurt that Lito’s character is both incredibly funny and incredibly moving. And the relationship between hacktivist Nomi Marks and her girlfriend Amanita is fantastic and badass: when Nomi is trapped in hospital by a hostile medical establishment and a family that has absolutely no intention of accepting her wishes as valid, Amanita is prepared to start fires to help get Nomi out.
And episode by episode, Sense8 reveals more about its characters and about its world. I’m hooked. I want to watch all of it. I want it to keep going for years. I want to spend more time with these characters. I want more characters like these. I want you guys to watch it, so I have more people to talk about it with.