Sense8’s Incredible Characters and the Wachowski Way of Making Sci-Fi


Hello, serial lovers, and good day to you! So, as you may or may not know, on June 5th Netflix premiered the whole first season of its newest original series, Sense8, created, written and directed by the Wachowski siblings and J. Michael Straczynski. We all know the Wachowskis from The Matrix and Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending, as well as Straczynski from Babylon 5, and since Netlifx kept on with its tradition to dump a whole season online, I may or may not have watched the whole twelve episodes in less than forty eight-hours. And I may or may not have fallen head over heels in love with this incredible series and its concept. Sorry not sorry.

So, why should you run and catch up with it as soon as possible? For eight good reasons. The characters.

Now, the story revolves around the idea of eight total strangers, living in eight different parts of the world and who have never met before. Suddenly, they experience a «second birth» and become «sensates», people who start to think and see the same things that the other seven from their cluster do. A good plot for a sci-fi series, for sure. What’s extraordinary about Sense8 is the incredible diversity the Wachowskis have used to create their characters. So, let me introduce you to them – don’t worry, no spoilers. Just quick introductions.

Nomi Marks

Nomi is a MtF person (played by actual trans woman Jamie Clayton) living in San Francisco with her amazing girlfriend, Neets (who is Doctor Who’s Freema Agyeman with totally new crazy hair and how awesome it that?), hacktivist and survivor or childhood bullying. Her family is completely ignoring her now complete transition, insisting on calling her Michael and using masculine pronouns, and her storyline shines light in the still mis-represented world of the ‘T’ in LGBT. Let alone the fact that she and Neets make up one pretty kick-ass power couple.

Lito Rodriguez

Lito lives in Mexico City and is a rising actor, the hero in every action movie and the secret desire of every woman. The thing is, Lito hides a secret— his boyfriend, Hernando, whom he cannot mention because it would mean the end of his career. What’s amazing about Lito’s storyline (other than the whole ‘so deep in the closet he’s basically in Narnia’ situation) is that when his «beard» girlfriend, Daniela, finds out about him and Hernando, she doesn’t run straight to the press, oh no. She actually starts living with them, and their relationship is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed.

Capheus Van Damn

Capheus is Kenyan, lives in Nairobi and tries to make a living driving a really crappy bus from the slums to the city center and return. He works really hard to get medicines for his mother, who’s got AIDS and needs proper care he cannot provide for, no matter how much he tries. Capheus is the heart of the cluster, because despite the tough life he leads, he always finds a reason to smile about all the good aspects of life, and all the opportunities that are given to him.

Kala Dadekar

Kala is a pharmacist from Mumbai, highly educated, extremely intelligent, about to marry a man she doesn’t love. What’s important about her is her background, though – Kala is a believer, particularly devout to Ganesha, and yet she manages to effortlessly combine the two aspects of her personality, the scientist and the religious, balancing her life between these two forces. Also, she may look like a fragile flower, but she’ll be able to prove herself as strong and as badass as all the other women of the cluster.

Sun Bak

Korean, a Seoul businesswoman working at the tops of her family’s company, and also a star of underground fights, Sun has an incredible strength that helps her go through life with her father and younger brother, whom she cannot stand (and rightly so). She also a profound hidden anger, though, and she channels it in her martial arts – what you should notice here is that Sun is the only character in the show who can actually do one of those fancy air kicks, and not only she’s a woman, but she’s also not white. Way to go, since action stars are generally always white males!

Wolfgang Bogdanov

A German burglar, Wolfgang is more of the traditional anti-hero type of guy, but he deals with incredible childhood trauma caused by his violent father, and his friendship with Felix is really worth seeing.

Will Gorski

Will is a cop in Chicago, and deals daily with the street gangs in the South Side ghetto. Sure, the show has it easy with him, white, good, the archetype of the hero, but Will is not boring, and is an archetype without being a stereotype, letting his moral compass guide him.

Riley Blue

London-based DJ and born in Iceland, Riley is the traditional heroine to Will’s hero, ethereal and with a very dark secret in her past that she’s trying to run away from. But for her too there’s a moment of uniqueness, the moment where she actually stops running and finds the courage to come to terms with it. Also it’s with her that the show drops one of his first very feminist lines – during of her performances at a club, her (terrible) boyfriend says, “She can spin for a girl, right?“, and one of his friends throws back, “She can spin. Period“. Preach.

Here you have them, all the people in the cluster. And all of these people, who previously shared only their birthdays, now find themselves sharing each other’s abilities, thoughts, pains and joys. It’s an incredible level of connection, and it’s truly emotional seeing it come to life on the screen – especially in the great choral scenes where all the eight are together (I should maybe mention that one of them is kind of a psychic orgy? Bet you’re interested now).

What’s also important is the variety of the cast, in races and backgrounds and personalities, and the way the show deals with very important issues that are sometimes still overlooked in modern television – homophobia and transphobia, yes, but also poverty and politics, corruption and individual freedom. What I loved most about it, though, besides from the amazing cinematography and the great editing, was the fact that it’s a story about humans helping other humans, no questions asked and no personal gain, just because they can and they feel like they should. It’s a story of courage and self-acceptance that explores what it means to be human at its very core, and my soul is generally lost to every work of fiction that explores this kind of concept.

Of course, I don’t mean to say that Sense8 is completely perfect. It has its flaws, falls into certain patterns and certain clichés, and especially in the first three episodes is kind of slow and a bit confusing – understandable, since it has to introduce eight different characters out of the blue – but it’s still worth watching, and hoping it gets picked up again for a series two (out of the five the Wachowski have originally planned). So, what are you still doing here? Grab a drink and open Netflix. Have a merry binge-watching, belli. Ciao!



About Author

Also known as Benedetta, or B(ee). Just your average university student & geek extraordinaire from Italy (who speaks Valyrian and Sindarin because they're absolutely VITAL in today's day and age). A Slytherin, a Targaryen, one of the Edains, a Waterbender, a dragonknight, a sensate and an Avenger. Cas!girl, blue shirt on the Enterprise. I charge with rohirrim, drive an Impala, sing dwarf songs, run with heroes, kick kaiju ass, do bitchcraft, sail across stars, whistle to mockingjays, barricade with revolutionaries, howl with teenage werewolves, consult with detectives, live in period dramas and mother dragons, basically. My patronus is a Charizard (and my boggart is the Black Rabbit of Inlé)

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