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Review: Sense8 Premieres on Netflix

Sense8 is the new Netflix show created by the Wachowskis (The Matrix, Jupiter Ascending). The show is a sci-fi story about eight strangers who become mentally linked. Much like Lost, the slice-of-life character and relationship moments are the most effective part, while the sci-fi plot never quite seems to come together.

The major problem with Sense8 is that it feels incredibly meandering. The characters completely lack goals, so it often feels like you’re just watching them hang out, even as the serious consequences characters occasionally face give the show a sense of urgency. The lack of direction and active goals leads to a lot of tonal and plot issues. While certain individual scenes are enjoyable, it never comes together to make you feel like you’re watching a story.

The most redeeming thing about Sense8 is the diversity of the cast and the experiences shown. I can’t speak to how well they reflected the experiences of all the groups represented, so I’m going to focus on the transgender character, Nomi Marks. The fact that this show’s main cast featured a trans woman who was actually both written and played by a trans woman was a huge draw for me. Especially since the woman playing her is Jamie Clayton, who I’ve been a big fan of since her wonderful guest star appearance on Hung and who is, in my humble opinion, possibly the most beautiful woman in the world. Her performance made Nomi immediately both likeable and complex. There was also a lot of authenticity in the writing of her experience. They showed several different types of transphobia, whether it’s from malicious strangers, family members or well-meaning friends. The scene where an old friend of hers kept calling her Michael and joking about how he couldn’t believe how hot his buddy had become and Nomi let the comments slide, while her girlfriend Amanita (Freema Agyeman from The Carrie Diaries) stands up for her rang true for me and was a nice reminder that we need more trans characters who are actually written by trans people.

Sense8‘s overall story and themes felt a little generic. It threw a lot of stuff out there without feeling like it really had the depth to explore why this story is interesting. For me, the best part by far was that you got to see a trans character in every episode, having an assortment of experiences ranging from being happy and loved to facing real hardships. You got to see her be funny, interesting, flawed, many things. Take the fact that easily the best part of this show for me was getting to watch a trans character exist however you want. I know there are plenty of people for whom that’s a ringing endorsement and a reason to watch every episode and hope it gets many more seasons.

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