The Rorschach Test That Is Netflix’s ‘Sense8’
The long-awaited second season of Sense8 is made with so much open-mindedness and love that your feelings about the show may say more about you than it does about the show.
“Love is a bridge and not a wall, if we let it be.”
That is the message of Capheus Van Damme’s election campaign in Kenya, but it also doubles as the message of Sense8, the Netflix original series created by The Wachowskis, the minds behind cult-classic The Matrix. He continues:
“Nothing good ever happens when people care more about our differences than the things we share in common. The future I hope for is the same as yours: a future where our children grow up never knowing love as a wall, but only as a bridge.”
Sense8 embodies this message in every possible way. It’s a little cheesy and a bit too sunshine-and-rainbows, but also extremely sincere and heartfelt, resulting in an end product that is very endearing. The show does not hide its politics—it features a gay Latino actor in the midst of coming out, a transgender woman in a lesbian relationship, the previously-mentioned Capheus and life in underdeveloped Kenya, and a Korean kickboxing woman oppressed by the patriarchy. Rounding out the show’s core 8 are the less overtly political, but equally as interesting Wolfgang, the German with ties to organized crime; the married-but-not-in-love Kala in Mumbai; the Icelandic DJ Riley Blue, and Will, the cop from Chicago.
Sense8 follows 8 individuals from different corners of the world who start to feel, see, and “sense” each other. They eventually discover that they’re sensates, or “homosensorium”, a fictional species and subset of homosapiens, and are being hunted by BPO (Biologic Preservation Organization) because sensates “by their nature, are a threat to secrecy and sovereignty.”
Through two seasons, the conflict between the cluster (the term used to describe the group of 8) and Whispers, the BPO agent hunting them, continues, but it’s often tabled and less interesting than the story arcs each character has. Some of the show’s best and most rewarding moments are simple interactions between the sensates.
A lot of those individual story arcs are where the show gets political. Both seasons feature episodes that have extended scenes at a Pride parade — one attended by Nomi; the other by Lito. Sense8 also does not hold back on sex scenes. There are so many gay sex scenes, lesbian sex scenes, and orgy scenes that as you watch, you start experiencing the importance of representation and normalization, two things that may come to be Sense8’s legacy.
Which brings us to the Rorschach test — originally an inkblot test used in personal psychology and now a term used to refer to anything that gives us insight about one’s personality. Because Sense8’s politics are so overt and flamboyant, it’s safe to say not everybody would enjoy it. The show is so overwhelmingly liberal (Naveen Andrews, who plays Jonas, frames it as a “fuck you” to Fascism) that it’s hard to imagine a conservative being able to sit through the show. But maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe your feelings about Sense8 say more about you than the show. Are you going to focus on what makes us different or what makes us the same? Are you going to let love be wall, or a bridge?