English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: #Sense8 Page 1 of 2

A sense of empathy

Sense 8 is written by Lana and Lilly Wachowski. They are both trans women, formally known as the Wachowski brothers. They were the writers of The Matrix (1999) an iconic movie. After discovering this the show Sense8 now makes a lot of sense. They are both elaborate, reality questioning works of science fictions.

 

Particularly, Sense8’s writing is very unique- unlike anything I have seen before. This is a serious science fiction drama. Unlike many TV shows, including those of science fiction, there is no comedic relief. Everything every character says is deliberate and includes a specific meaning or message. This deliberate style is used intentionally to captivate the viewer. This is not the show to put on in the background while you are eating dinner or doing homework. You have to pay attention. You want to pay attention.

 

Not only is the deliberacy of the timing- when dialogue is used- captivating, but the diction picked out is used so beautifully to convey the deeper elements of human emotion that people often have trouble describing for themselves.

 

We all struggle to understand our emotions. The premise of this show is to make ourselves question our understanding of ourselves and the relationships within our lives. By having the eight main character be connected by something so much stronger than normal human connection. Something so strong that they can feel what each other is feeling emotionally allows for the greater exploration of human empathy.

 

The writing as seen through the dialogue of this show can demonstrate how this message is portrayed. After Lito has gotten his world rocked by the end of his relationship with Hernando, now his ex-boyfriend, he sits in the Diego Rivera Museum contemplating love and his fear of coming out. Lito describes his first kiss with Hernando to Nomi as a ‘religious experience’, but he is still afraid that he will ‘lose everything’ he has worked for in his career by coming out. Even though it is clear that he has already lost so much from losing Hernando. Nomi helps him evaluate his life by describing that at some point she learned that there is ‘a huge difference between what we work for and what we live for’.

 

This dialogue between Lito and Nomi helps everyone contemplate their priorities in life and where the love in their life stems from. For every viewer the reaction to this scene is different, but I felt grateful for the people in my life and reminded that school is not the end all be all.

“The Wachowskis.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Nov. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wachowskis

Rushed: Story in the Sense8 Series Finale

The final episode of Sense8 came early due to the show’s cancellation by Netflix. Soaring costs from filming across the world resulted in a two hour finale in lieu of a third season. The altered format of this episode begs the question, how does this change affect the actual story of the episode? Further, how does the storyline of the show as a whole stack up?

Netflix canceled Sense8 season 3, leading to a two hour series finale released after season 2

From the very beginning, Sense8 has somewhat relied on it’s impressive visuals and unconventional format to support a somewhat underwhelming story. With so many main characters it was difficult for the show to maintain a good pace while giving them appropriate backstories. This becomes very apparent as the show wraps up the final episode. There seems to be a last minute scramble to give characters like Wolfgang and Amanita, whose pasts had largely been glossed over by the show until now.

The result of this is that the show gives us flashbacks to Wolfgang’s childhood, his abusive father, and his eventual death at Wolfgang’s hand. These flashbacks feature many cuts between young Wolfgang and current Wolfgang which serve to further confuse what is an already very confusing part of the episode. The clips are hard to follow and as a viewer I got little more than “Wolfgang had a hard childhood” out of them. The show also decides to take this opportunity to introduce a rape storyline involving Wolfgang’s mother that comes out of nowhere and is not resolved or brought back up. Overall the flashbacks to Wolfgang’s past felt poorly-done and confusing. Similarly, Amanita has a moment on the roof of the apartment in Paris where she shares her dreams of living in Paris with Nomi. The moment is touching but a bit out of the blue, and it only serves to remind us that we know absolutely nothing about Amanita’s past. Furthermore, the show tries to throw in a love interest for Sun at the very last second, bringing back the detective that Sun had fought almost a season ago, and stating that he “missed her like he had never missed anyone before”. The characters are simply underdeveloped.

Speaking of underdeveloped, let’s talk about BPO. The Biological Preservation Organization is the main “bad guy” organization in the show. It is ever-present in the plot, and the characters are constantly battling it, but the viewer knows next to nothing about the organization. Whispers, the most visible face of the organization has no backstory and his motivations are never explained. BPO has some drone/zombie program where they use lobotomized sensates to… well, we never really learn what the point of the program is. The entire organization feels like a really generic enemy with enormous resources and influence but ambiguous motives beyond just being evil.

Among these major issues, there are a slew of minor annoyances. Name-dropping, random characters from past episodes reappearing in the story, new characters being introduced, and the ever-present backstory-cramming. The show’s story suffered heavily from the shortened format of its conclusion.

A Sense of Culture

One of the highlights of Sense 8 is its ability to capture the complexities of many different cultures.  In particular is focus on the toxic masculinity of machismo culture. Machismo culture is a way of behaving that coincides with the traditional ideas about men being very strong, aggressive and emotionless. This is a part of many cultures but strongly evident in the show by Lito’s story. Lito is a gay mexican actor who has been hiding in the closet his entire career. The Machismo culture very evident in Latin American and South American Countries has forced him to play the role of a straight man in his everyday life.

 

Lito’s character believes that his entire career will be destroyed if anyone ever finds out his secret. This is evident in the scene where Dani’s ex-lover breaks into Lito’s apartment, steals Dani’s phone, and attempts to blackmail Lito with pornographic photos of Lito and Hernando (Lito’s Boyfriend). In an attempt to right her wrongs, Dani goes to her ex-lover and arranges to marry him in order to save Lito’s career. Lito lets his friend return into an abusive relationship so as to save his career. The Mexican machismo culture has forced Lito to make arguably toxic decisions.

 

Furthermore, Dani’s ex-lover, Joaquin, is a more traditional example of machismo culture. He admittedly tries to become the overly aggressive and controlling man his father was. Demonstrating how the culture passes down this toxic masculinity through generations. Joaquin even tried to rationalize his use of physical abuse towards Dani by saying ‘this is Mexico’ as if the normalization of domestic abuse makes it morally okay.

 

Toxic masculinity is evident everywhere in this show and is even plot driving.

 

Lito’s decision to let Dani exile herself for his career was a driving factor for Hernando to break up with Lito. This leaves the question…Will Lito come out?? And IF so what are the effects???

Sierra Villarreal

The Sense8 Plot Thickens (Spoilers Ahead)

Throughout the series so far Sense8 has been building up tension in various different plots. In episode seven, W. W. N. Double D? (What Would Nancy Drew Do?), many of these buildups reach an apparent climax by becoming entwined with one another, while also leaving room for further development. Here are two examples of this.

Joaquin, an enemy of Lito’s, has been stalking him for multiple episodes. Meanwhile Lito and his boyfriend Hernando are constantly worried that their romance will become public knowledge, potentially threatening Lito’s acting career as a straight sex-icon. In this episode Joaquin directly confronts Lito, steals his beard’s phone, and texts him a picture of him and Fernando engaging in intercourse. In this way two independent sources of tension collide and cause a climax.

Joaquin reveals a new extent of his evil while confronting Lito

This climax is not the end-all-be-all climax of these plotlines however, as Joaquin has not yet published the image. Lito voices one possible avenue for continued buildup of tension when he moans with dread: “He will blackmail me!”

Another pair of tension lines developed in this episode are Nomi’s quack almost-surgeon Dr. Metzger and the mysterious Dr. Matheson. In a prior episode Nomi is nearly lobotomized by Dr. Metzger, and in this episode she and her girlfriend Neets set out to figure out why. They break into his house and begin doing some snooping, and then end up confronting him directly when he returns home early.

Along the way, Nomi clones Metzger’s phone and makes a call to one “Dr. Matheson.” On the phone he knows who she is before she speaks and says they will meet soon. While Nomi is interrogating Dr. Metzger, it becomes clear that Metzger is terrified of Matheson, and then Jason (not one of the 8, instead an independent sensate) appears to Nomi to warn her to run before “Whispers” shows up.

His warning comes too late however, as one of Metzger’s past lobotomy patients, suddenly capable of motion again, shows up before Nomi can escape. He draws a gun and shoots first Metzger, and then himself. But not without the camera first panning to show his reflection is the man who drove the woman in the opening shot of episode one to kill herself.

The lobotomized-and-yet-walking sensate’s reflection is replaced by Matheson

The implications here (as far as I can tell) are:
A) Metzger was creating mindless sensates for this man to control

B) This man is Matheson (and Whispers)

C) Since he did not shoot Nomi (despite having the opportunity to at one point) he will be returning as an antagonist in a future episode

As such, the plotlines of Metzger and Matheson became entwined, leading to a climax in each. Additionally, despite the dramatic and violent climax, there is now a new avenue for the plot to continue to develop and tension to continue to grow as Nomi and Neets investigate Matheson’s identity.

 

 

8 People of One Mind

In Episode 5 of Sense8, what I believe will be the show’s main theme is made explicit by one of the 8. As Kala takes her wedding vows with a man she does not love, she says, “We shall share love, share the same tastes… share our strengths. We shall be of one mind.”

This quote ties up many of the experiences which the Sensates (which I have learned is the proper term for them) have been having as their mental bonds strengthen. Not only do they share tastes, such as when Kala takes a bite of shahi dukta, and Nomi’s coffee suddenly tastes “like a sugary dessert,” but they also share other sensations. When Sun gets kicked in the stomach, Lito feels the pain.

On multiple occasions in other episodes one of the Sensates has been in potentially lethal trouble and another has lent their strength to the one in need. When Capheus was being beaten up by some thugs Sun’s martial arts training allowed him to defend himself.

In this episode the Sensates draw closer together and begin to see each other more frequently in addition to sharing tastes and strengths.

Sun and Lito see one another for the first time

As this happens their lives also begin to parallel one another. Sun has to decide whether to sacrifice herself to save her father and brother as Capheus signs on with a crime lord to get medicine for his dying mother.

All of this contributes to the idea that the Sensates are literally of one mind, and are experiencing their lives together as one. In a larger sense, the fact that these 8 diverse individuals who often can’t even speak the same language (except when sharing strengths) are able to form a group and each strengthen the other makes an argument in favor of diversity strengthening a society. Additionally, the fact that they are having the same experiences — both as a result of their bond (sharing tastes) and independently of this bond (making parallel life choices) — makes an argument that no matter what a person’s appearance or background everyone is equal and has equally valuable experiences.

You Want a War? Revenge in Sense8

The explosive beginning of Sense8 s2e11: You Want War? is dead-focused on the theme of revenge. It features Sun’s infiltration into her brother’s lavish gala, intent on killing him. The ensuing action sequences and car chase feature several moments when the other sensates give their input on Sun’s decision. Wolfgang, the dark killer seems to support killing Sun’s brother, whereas Kala seems to oppose violence in favor of making her brother confess. Will and Riley are neutral, ignoring the issue altogether and purely looking out for Sun’s safety. Through the other sensates, the metaphorical angels and demons on Sun’s shoulders, the authors of the episode present competing views of revenge. Should we seek retribution for past crimes or simply seek to right wrongs?

 

The show provides context for Sun’s decision through flashbacks to her brother’s very wrongdoings. From pleading with Sun to take the fall for his crimes, to killing their father who was going to turn him in, Sun’s brother is painted as a very clear-cut villain. The only thing bringing nuance to his character is his relation to Sun. At the climax of the chase, Sun decides not to kill her brother. The exploration of this theme of revenge seems to fall very flat in the end. There were a few throwaway flashbacks to Sun’s mother saying “Look after your brother” and her sensei telling her that she is “as gentle as a butterfly”, but overall the final decision was a simple “oh she did the right thing by not killing anyone”. The issue could easily have been expanded on by developing the character of Sun’s brother or by giving more serious consideration to killing him. It seemed cliche and inevitable that Sun would decide to spare her brother.

 

The episode takes a dramatic turn when Wolfgang is kidnapped by the Biological Preservation Organization. A violent torture scene reveals the identities of Kala and others in Wolfgang’s cluster. The sensates quickly hit back, avenging Wolfgang’s capture with a well executed kidnapping of Mr. Whispers and Jonas- prominent opposition figures. Here we continue to see the sensates pursue proactive revenge. Rather than kill the two, they kidnap them so that they can save Wolfgang and hopefully stop BPO.

 

The entire episode takes a very proactive view on revenge, where characters choose to fight for each other rather than kill out of anger.

The sensates attempt to persuade Sun not to kill her brother

Gender Norms and Culture- Sense8

Sense 8 is a very unique show. I’ve never seen a show that has so many subplots attached to the main plot. Eight different stories are told. Not just different in that different events are happening in each story, but different in almost every aspect. Each character has a unique cultural background that brings something unique to the show. These unique cultural backgrounds of the characters allow different gender norms to be represented from across the globe. Of the eight main characters there are 4 that identify as female and 4 that identify as male.

 

For an example of the way that gender is represented differently dependent on the cultural background of the character, lets compare and contrast the characters Sun and Lito.

Sense8 Season 2

Sun is a business women from South Korea but she has a secret hobby. She fights. Not just women but also men. She is tough and hard willed. Yet, she is always undermined by her father and brother. Even though her brother stole from her father’s company that she worked so hard for with no credit, Sun takes the blame so that her father’s company will not fall through. She is a woman that makes endless sacrifices and in part because of that she is strong. She is forced to fulfill a role she wasn’t meant to be in.

Lito is a male actor in Mexico that also has a secret. He is gay but must hide this from the public because of the machismo male culture of not only his country but the entertainment industry. He presents himself as this tough heterosexual male with a great body because, like Sun, that is what is expected. Both characters are tough because they are forced into a box they do not belong, yet they still conform to gender norms- much like us all.

 

If All the World’s a Stage then Identity is a Costume

The issue of gender and identity is one that we discuss often in this class, and few shows are as diverse in their depictions of people and their identities as Sense8. Season 2 Episode 10: If All the World’s a Stage then Identity is a Costume begins with an intro reflective of the episode’s title. The intro includes many more clips of people than normal- gay, straight, young, old, male, female -people from all over the world going about their everyday lives. This set the scene for an episode focused on identity. We see Kala in her element reproducing the blocker drug, showing a smart woman doing science. Kala and Riley have a long conversation in which they discuss their fears for the future and the road ahead of them. This is significant because it passes the Bechdel test, showing two women in a non-male-oriented context. Even when the scene shifts and the characters do discuss Will, the conversation does not play into a fantasy, but rather feels like two real women sharing their experiences with sex, loss, and pain; Will was merely a catalyst for this conversation to occur. The episode then takes us to Kala’s complicated relationship with Wolfgang. The two speak very frankly about their needs and their individual situations. Power is clearly shared evenly in their relationship. As the episode progresses, we begin to see gender and the concept of masculinity intersect with homosexuality. During his audition, Lito’s producer describes Lito’s previous strong-man ‘macho’ roles as ‘typical male apery’, a sentiment that supports the notion that Lito’s more sensitive natural masculinity is greater than the narrowly-defined masculine roles that he has been shut out of. The producer does not ask him for strength, or any traditionally masculine traits, but rather to ‘break his heart’ during his audition. Speaking with his homosexual romantic lead, Lito is encouraged to be vulnerable. While Hernando and Lito’s Co-Star view some of Lito’s previous work as ‘offering insight into the interdependence of identity by rejecting the narrative of male sovereignty’, the producer is focused more on the sexy aspect of film, repeatedly making gay sexual references and affirming the reality that sex sells. The final significant moment of the episode is when Lito and Hernando talk about Lito’s insecurity about his acting on the beach, and the two make out romantically in the surf. There is no pan-away, and the moment is captured beautifully in its entirety with the same level of romance and attention that would be given to a similar heterosexual scene. This is just one more example of how Sense8 seeks to show people’s lives as they are, and not to limit the experience of the viewer to traditional patriarchal and heteronormative lenses.

Lito and Hernando share a romantic moment in the surf celebrating Lito’s dream role.

Sense8 Represents Gender Equally

So obviously there are 8 main characters. Four of them are male and four of them are female (assuming you count the transgender woman as female) so that’s a pretty good start.

One of each has advanced combat training and has used it to help out someone of the opposite gender, so at least the ‘ability to stand up for oneself and others’ front is covered. Technically the male has used his combat training to help the trained female, but that was a specific circumstance in which his training was more applicable so it seems like it all checks out.

One of each gender feels trapped in a relationship with someone of the other gender and one of each gender is not cis-hetero — the gender representation seems pretty intentionally split evenly.

There isn’t any representation of individuals who identify as other than male or female, but there is a transgender woman, which is better than most TV shows can claim.

As of yet there hasn’t been any obvious discrepancy in the agency of the characters because they haven’t been directly interacting with each other so they have inherently been making their own decisions.

Half of the 8 are white, but the four that aren’t represent four different ethnicities and are split evenly between male and female, so on that intersectional front the show is also doing well.

The side characters that each of the 8 interact with are dictated realistically by where they are from and by their gender identity and sexual preferences, which results in a diverse cast of side characters to complement the diverse main characters.

The only area I can see in which the show could be considered to be failing to represent a class is that none of the main characters are noticeably disabled or suffering from mental illness, but since there is no representation clearly the representation can’t be tied to gender.

Overall, the casting crew and writers of Sense8 seem to me to be doing their due diligence to ensure that gender is represented equally.

The diverse main characters of Sense8

Picture from Sense8 Wikia

Don’t forget. Everyone is a person.

Sense 8 is a television show that is known for its diverse cast and filming locations. This is done very intentionally. I mean, it would be significantly easier and have taken a lot less money to have the same concept shot only in one country or with one type of people. Yet, that is not what they did. The show is founded upon the idea of human interconnection. Eight people from eight different cities across the globe all come together because they have been ‘reborn’-a term used in the show which entails that ability to see and feel from other people’s bodies.

Throughout the show the viewer watches these eight individuals find the extent of their new abilities while learning about each person and their struggles. Overwhelmingly, all of the people are very open-minded and empathetic to each other. There is no hatred or discrimination amongst the group of eight. Is this because they are all sharing this common connection and the struggles that come with it? or Is there a greater message to be seen from the interactions between characters? In episode 5, Capheus and Sun share a moment where they have a conversation on some steps in the street of Seoul, Korea. During the conversation, it is obvious that they share very similar family struggles and end up helping each other cope.

You may be wondering- how on earth can these people realistically communicate? Yes, in everyday life language barriers are very troublesome. Many times they allow people to distance themselves from other large groups of people and their respective cultures. Nevertheless, after being reborn, the group of 8 share such a strong and immediate connection such that they posses the language skills of all the other characters. Not only do they possess their languages, but, done right, they can posses other’s skills as well. Overall, the theme that I have been building up to here is that beyond languages and cultures, everyone is a person and we are more alike than many want to admit.

-sierra villarreal

What Family Actually Means… Writing in Sense8

The idea of family is one that has been present throughout every episode of Sense8. How could it not, when each character is linked by a bond stronger than that of any sibling or spouse? This is a theme that is often explored by the show’s writers, and comes to the center of the show’s attention in season 2 episode 9, “What Family Actually Means”.

The episode was written and directed by Lana Wachowski, along with her sister, Lilly Wachowski- the duo behind The Matrix, Cloud Atlas and numerous other sci-fi movies and tv shows.  In “What Family Actually Means”, the Wachowskis explore the idea of family, and, as the title may suggest, what it really means for people to call each other family. Almost every scene in the episode, save maybe for Wolfgang’s carryover from the bruhaha of the last episode, ties directly into the idea of family. From the beginning of the episode, we see Nomi giving a powerful speech in which she describes how her sister was there for her when she needed her the most, despite having done everything that she could to push her away. This, Nomi tells an unfriendly audience, is what family really means: people who are there for you and love you unconditionally.

As the episode goes on, we see more definitions of what family is, and what it is not. We see Sun’s disgust at a poster of her brother beneath the words “Family is our business”. He had let Sun take the fall or his embezzlement, thus putting himself and the family company over the well-being of his own sister, deftly defying the notion that families look after one another. Will and Riley also uncover additional familial transgressions, as they find out that Angelica sold out members of the other cluster that she birthed to Mr. Whispers to lobotomize. The horror of this is solidified with the apparent suicide of the doctor who had facilitated it over what she had done. Turning back to positive examples of family, the audience is shown how Dani, practically family to Lito, drags him out of his depression and gets him an interview with a Hollywood producer for a film that she thinks will be perfect for Lito. She stayed up all night reading hundreds of scripts because she was dedicated to Lito and determined to get him back on his feet. We witness Nomi’s family, her girlfriend, her sister, and her father all come together to defend her from the FBI agent bursting into her sister’s wedding. For the first time, Nomi’s father stands up for her and refers to her as his daughter. This leads us to another notion about family, that despite internal issues, you always stick together in the face of outsider attacks.

This scene also introduces another aspect of the show’s writing, the feminist devotion to portraying many types of people and their daily realities. In the wedding scene Nomi’s girlfriend calls out the FBI agent for interrupting the wedding just to “Satisfy his male ego”. Additionally, we constantly see the tension between Nomi and her family over the issue of her being transgender. Lito’s career is struggling because he is a gay actor who wants to play masculine roles. We see Kala struggle with gender norms and the fact that a brilliant friend of hers had given up science to become a homemaker. These are all very real issues that people face because of who they are and the show does not hesitate to depict them.

Finally, the reality of grief and loss is depicted as Will loses his father and we see all of the moments that they had shared together and realize that families do not last forever.

Will cannot be there in person for his father’s last moments.

 

Sense8 Doesn’t have very much writing for me to analyze, but I’ll do my best

According to the Sense8 Wikia Episode 3 of Sense8, “Smart Money is On the Skinny Bitch”, like all the episodes in season 1, was written by The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski. J. Michael Straczynski is known for movies Babylon 5 and World War Z. Lana and Lilly Wachowski also wrote The Matrix and its sequels, as well as Bound. They wrote these movies as The Wachowski Brothers, but they are both trans women and now write simply as The Wachowksis. Nomi, one of the 8, is a trans woman, and the Wachowskis likely use their personal experiences to make Nomi a realistic character.

Sense8 stands out to me as having very minimal verbal communication. There is no voice-over or narration, and many scenes feature either no spoken words or only a couple of single lines spoken without responses. For example, the opening scene of this episode features two scared and as-of-yet-unidentified children watching around a corner as a mysterious man cuts open a woman’s skull with a surgical saw. The only dialogue is the girl whispering “Don’t look at him…”

A young girl whispers in the opening scene

One of the 8, in contrast, has strikingly more dialogue than the others in this episode. Lito, a famous actor has three separate scenes, all of which are focused on his dialogue with three other side characters. In these scenes, however, more emphasis is placed on what is left unsaid. Lito trips over his own words when trying to express his emotions to a woman in the first scene, and eventually his boyfriend takes pity on one/both of them and explains what Lito was unable to say. In the next scene the woman explains that Joaquin, who she is hiding from, “had words” with someone, and that her father is in the “import/export” business, once again leaving the real message unsaid.

Despite the lack of dialogue, there is rarely silence in Sense8. Whether it’s the whirring of sawing through bone, the roar of a crowd at an underground fight club, or a piano solo one of the 8 is remembering her father perform — the lack of dialogue leaves the audio track open for other forms of communication about setting and mood.

Additionally, a falling low-note and fading of the audio is often used to indicate that a character (or in this show, a pair of characters sharing senses) is entering bullet-time, a cinematic element originally popularized by The Wachowskis in The Matrix in which heightened perception is represented by other characters and setting elements moving in slow-motion while the camera pans at normal speed. This visual effect is able to be smoothly incorporated into Sense8 due to a lack of dialogue, which would normally have to be paused for a bullet time shot.

 

“One of the most jaw dropping scenes in television”

Sense 8 is one of television’s most ambitious shows. With eight main characters and storylines spanning four continents, the show is a tremendous undertaking by Netflix. This is reflected in its astonishing $9 Million budget per episode. The actors in the show must constantly step in and out of each other’s lives, resulting in a world-tour production process. There are so many places for the show to go wrong, and yet somehow Netflix managed to pull it off- especially in the visual category. Case in point, Season 1 Episode 4 is visually stunning and cinematically effective, containing one of the most jaw dropping scenes in all of television.

The show has a very unique style, partly due to the nature of it’s story, and partly due to it’s intent focus on capturing the human experience. The main characters are a special species of human that has evolved to share each other’s emotions and experiences. This lends itself well to the major theme of the show: what does it mean to be human? The cinematography and production reflects this. The intro to every episode is long. Over two minutes. During this time, broad establishing shots ripped straight from Planet Earth capture cities, mountains, oceans, people, and everything in between. None of the characters in the show make an appearance in the intro. Instead, the show opts to give a broad overview of Earth and the people on it. By prefacing every episode with this, the show ensures that the viewer understands the broader context of the show. It may be about eight people, but it’s really about the experiences that we can all relate to, regardless of who we are or where we are from. Sense 8 is a show for the world.

When the show begins, one notices that shots in Sense 8 are long, often going seconds without dialogue and lingering on the faces of the main characters. The performances of the actors are put under a microscope in the show. There are many close ups and intensely emotional scenes, interspersed with little relatable moments.

In S1E4, we begin to see how each of the characters are beginning to blend into one another’s lives. It starts small, cuts between locations occur at moments when characters are in similar positions. This allows the show to perform the ultimate breaking of the 180 rule: cutting to a different continent. Scenes take place thousands of miles apart but are linked by the characters in them, seamlessly blending locations and characters through smooth cuts and clever compositing.

Above: Sense 8 season 1 episode 4 delivers a beautifully shot testament to the joy of living.

This all comes to a head with the scene I referred to as “one of the most jaw dropping scenes in all of television” above. The scene begins with Wolfgang being pressured into doing karaoke. Simultaneously the show shows us Riley escaping a rough night and going out in the early morning to listen to music and clear her head. As Riley begins to play “What’s up” by Four Non Blondes, we see each character slowly begin to hear the music. As they do, they each start to sing along. The camera seamlessly cuts from location to location as each character, in various states of frustration, begins to sing along. The music swells as the eight people begin to break into a happy, shower-style, singalong. The shots increase in their grandness, with Kala dancing on a rooftop overlooking an Indian city at dusk, and slowly comes back down to a less ‘cinematic’ and more relatable shot of Wolfgang and Kala dancing in a colorful bedroom. It’s emotional, beautiful, complex, and still relatable- capturing the raw joy of simply being alive.

 

‘I really am going crazy’

Sense8 is an American science fiction drama series that has an incredibly multinational cast. The beginning episodes take place in 8 different parts of the world. Amazingly, the show is filmed almost entirely on location which means that it was filmed all across the world. This is an incredible feat for the crew of the show, and it makes me appreciate it a lot more.

 

The show has 8 main characters are all linked together emotionally and physically. This means that each character has to share a lot of screen time and there are many subplots within the main one. Filming this in such a way that the audience does not get lost must have been very challenging, but they did a great job. They made this show very enjoyable to watch and very captivating so I don’t have to go crazy.

 

Longer takes with more dialogue give background into each of the respective characters lives. Contrastingly, many shorter shots are used to instill a sense of curiosity and confusion into the viewer to resonate with the confusion of the characters as they try to understand their experiences while we do. These shorter shots also tend to have a darker color scheme to symbolize the distress of the characters while portraying the thematic topic of magical realism.

 

At this point in the show the color scheme during the times that the characters interlink seems to remain stark and dull. I don’t know if this is because they seem to become connected during times of distress. If it is because they are confused and scared by the physical and emotional connections between them because it’s purpose is unknown? Or if it is simply because their connection is something bad. I don’t think it is because their connection means darkness or foreshadowing of bad events because their respective connections seems to make them stronger, more insightful, and may even represent inclusion as a whole. Regardless, the show has captivated me the whole time. Can’t wait to keep watching. 10/10 recommend so far!

-Sierra Villarreal

I’m as Confused as the Main Characters — Which is to Say, Very

I had to switch from reviewing Killjoys to reviewing Sense8 due to difficulties streaming Killjoys.

Sense8 starts off at the end of a dramatic and violent story which, if it had been told, would explain the situation the main characters find themselves abruptly dropped into. As it is, the audience has only slightly more information than the 8 strangers who suddenly begin having vivid and fragmented perceptions of a violent suicide and each others’ lives.

This sense of simultaneous information overload and of lacking key information is reflected in the cinematography and direction of the show.

The main characters are often placed in the middle-ground of a set with obstacles in the foreground partially obstructing view of them. This reflects the limited perspectives the audience and the other seven glimpse of the lives of each of the 8.

Omi, one of the 8, is shown in the middle-ground of the shot. The camera pans left such that the man to whom she is speaking passes in front of her in the foreground.

The 8 are experiencing sensual overload. To reflect that, many of the settings in the show are visually crowded; featuring many vibrant colors.

Will, another of the 8, is in a drugstore. The background is completely full of vibrantly colored products.

Until the beginning of the show, each of the 8 had been living separate lives, each full of unique family and friends. To portray this, many scenes feature a large number of side characters or extras, including at one point an entire pride parade.

This entire pre-wedding celebration, which features at least 6 unique side characters and a backup dancer crew, is all backstory for a single main character.

True to its focus on vivid sensations, the show features multiple explicit sex scenes (which I will not include an example screenshot of). These contribute to the sense that each of the 8 had separate lives before they became inexplicably connected (and also necessarily involve additional side characters).

Despite having many vibrant colors, the show has a very dark lighting and color scheme. All three scenes above are shot at night, the rave lights at the celebration shown are kept to a minimum to maintain low lighting, and scenes are often so dark at first that it is difficult to make out details until more light is (for various reasons) shed on the subject of the scene. This contributes to the theme of incomplete information, as well as giving a somber mood to the show.

The show is comprised of a series of short cuts strung together, rather than longer continuous scenes. This is partly necessitated by the fact that there are 8 main characters who are experiencing things simultaneously in completely different countries. However, even when a scene lasts for a significant length of time and takes place in a single location, that scene is broken up into multiple short cuts from different angles. This gives the story a fragmented and disjointed feeling, as if it is being pieced together rather than unfolding linearly.

 

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