Fan art by Allyssinian
On June 5th 2015, Netflix released a new original series entitled “Sense8” and completely re-shaped TV. On June 1st 2017, (the start of pride month might I add), Netflix announced that they were cancelling Sense8 and took away something extremely significant.
When I say Sense8 is a show like no other, I mean it. From the plot, to the locations, to the characters. Every aspect of the series is original and dynamic and it resonated with audiences everywhere.
Sense8 centres around eight main characters, otherwise known as sensates. These are: Nomi Marks from San Francisco, Wolfgang Bogdanow from Berlin, Lito Rodriguez from Mexico City, Capheus Onyango from Nairobi, Sun Bak from Seoul, Kala Dandekar from Mumbai, Riley Blue from London (originally Iceland) and Will Gorski from Chicago.
As you can already see, the show is powerfully diverse.
The aforementioned characters are all complete strangers to each other. I won’t delve too deep into the plot as it’s a lot more impactful to watch, but essentially the eight become psychologically connected to one another. This enables them all to share thoughts, emotions, skills and ultimately contact each other, no matter where in the world they reside.
As series one of Sense8 progresses, we watch them try to navigate their new norm and figure out what happened and who is hunting them down.
The above video is just one small example of how the sensates are able to connect. It’s scenes such as this one that completely re-landscape TV. Every single episode of both season 1 and 2 is produced to cinematic standards. Whilst shows that offer nothing unique get renewed for season upon season, Sense8’s plot alone should have brought it multiple new seasons.
One of the most irritating things about Sense8’s cancellation is that season two left us on a pretty intense cliffhanger. The story was in no way finished and they should have at least been given one more season to conclude things. THANKFULLY due to Sense8 fans making themselves heard, it’s now been confirmed that Sense8 will return for a 2-hour special.
But the plot isn’t the only reason why Sense8 should have been renewed. It’s just the beginning.
As briefly mentioned easlier, Sense8 brings a hell-of-a-lot of diversity to our screens. As each sensate is from a different place in the world, we’re opened up to an array of cultures and characters – making it stand out significantly against most other shows.
Sense8 films in all of these different locations too, meaning things aren’t overly fabricated and the audience are actually transported into a real setting. Although this obviously led to higher production costs, you can’t not credit the showrunners for going to these lengths to provide authenticity and accurate representation.
Although the locations offer a lot to the show, the characters are the real backbone.
Let’s start with Kala. From Mumbai, Kala is a young Hindu woman working as a pharmacist, married to a man she doesn’t love. Despite growing up in a society that doesn’t put women at the top, Kala provides such a strong sense of female empowerment. She may not have the fighting capabilities that some of the sensates have, but her knowledge provides something even more powerful and ultimately life-saving. Strength comes in a number of forms, and Kala completely personifies that.
To quote her directly: “I do not know how to use my fists, but that does not mean I don’t know how to fight.”
Kala Dandekar is an icon to remodel yourself after for a number of other reasons, from the way she embodies her religion to the way she defends her body.
TV needs a lot more characters like her.
thank you for existing kala dandekar pic.twitter.com/RPQJGy8VoX
— sense8 (@sense8pics) 23 December 2016
But, there are a few characters in particular who bring the most positive, healthiest, important representation to the show. Sense8 did something for the LGBTQ community that very few shows manage to accomplish. Rather than featuring one LGBTQ character and pushing them to the side, representing them negatively or killing them off, Sense8 put these characters at the forefront and never shied away from it. One of the senates, Nomi Marks, is a trans woman played by Jamie Clayton, an actual trans woman. That alone is pretty significant for mainstream media. But, it isn’t the only aspect of the character that is so significant. Trans rep is scarce in TV. Positive trans rep is even harder to find. Jamie Clayton brings something exceptionally powerful to Nomi. Her real life experiences add depth to the character that a cis actor would simply be unable to bring. She’s portrayed powerfully and without her, the show would lack a lot of substance. As well as seeing Nomi become such an integral part to the sensates, we also see the struggles that she faces because of the way she identifies. Her own mother refuses to use the proper pronouns and continuously misnames her. Sense8 strikes the balance between providing positive representation and portraying realistic hardships in a way that audiences can align with.
Nomi’s importance doesn’t end there. Her relationship with Amanita, played by Freeyma Aggeyman, is arguably the healthiest relationship on the entire show. The importance of this, especially in relation to the treatment of LGBTQ characters on TV (particularly the bury your gays trope), cannot be stressed enough. Nomi and Amanita, otherwise known as ‘Nomanita’, provided a promising sign of change for lesbian relationships in TV. They were given exactly the same treatment as the heterosexual couples on the show, from screen time to sex scenes (which many shows shy away from) and not once were they depicted in a harmful or stereotypical way.
What these two characters (and actors) brought to our screens won’t be forgotten, and neither will their legacy. Thankfully, season 2 couldn’t have ended any better for them.
The LGBTQ representation in Sense8 goes even further, too. There’s also Lito (another one of the main characters), who is in a loving relationship with his boyfriend, Hernando. In both seasons, we see the internal and external struggles that Lito faces because of his sexuality. Due to his career as an actor, he fears the consequences that coming out will have and keeps his relationship hidden from the media. His growth as a character becomes one of the most beautiful aspects of the show, as we see him learn to love who he is and what his relationship stands for.
There’s an extremely pivotal and hard-hitting moment between him and Nomi in season 1. This is where the two confide in one another and deliver one of the most resonating scenes for the community that’s been seen on TV. Nomi tells him “the real violence.. is the violence we do to ourselves when we’re too afraid to be who we really are”. It’s after this moment that Lito starts to find freedom for himself.
By season 2, he’s standing on top of a bus in the middle of Sao Paulo’s pride parade, coming out to the world and expressing his love for Hernando as he does it. Another stand out scene of the series that added to the already impactful pride Sense8 had provided.
Sense8 being cancelled after 2 seasons isn’t just taking a monumental series away from an audience. It’s taking away the relatable and meaningful representation that came with it. These were characters that the audience didn’t just admire, they were characters that the audience could find hope in. Their struggles were amplified and their stories started conversations. On that note, I’ll leave you with one last scene that’ll resonate the important messages Sense8 repeatedly delivered.