Sense8 is a Netflix original series by Andy and Lana Wachowski that follows eight gifted people with the ability to sense each other’s emotions and feelings, and experience moments in their lives. It premiered on Netflix a couple of weeks ago, and, with the few online teasers I saw, I only tuned in because it starred Bae Doona. I can’t help but be curious to see her acting in an English-speaking role.
[The following review will have spoilers, so be forewarned!]
The multicultural cast adds a lot of flavor to the show. Each character’s background and environment is handled skillfully without being too stereotypical, and I really appreciate how the drama was filmed on location in many countries and cities: London, Chicago, San Francisco, Mumbai, Nairobi, Seoul, Reykjavik, Berlin, and Mexico City. The following eight main characters are called ‘sensates’ and are the gifted people who are haunted by the big bad named Whispers (or, Dr. Ellison).
Capheus (Aml Ameen) is a private bus driver in Nairobi whose mother is ill with AIDS. He works to buy her medicine, even though good medicine is hard to come by. For many Kenyans, using private buses or vans is the easiest way to get around to the city, but it is also equally dangerous if they travel through gang territory. He gets involved with the wrong crowd and finds himself needing to fight for his life, and his mother’s.
His environment is not unlike Will Gorski’s (Brian J. Smith), who is a cop in Chicago and must work in the infamous South Side where all the gangs view cops as the natural enemy. But Will is an all-around good guy, the main hero in this drama, and with a righteous sense of justice.
There are two characters on the other side of the law: Nomi Marks (Jamie Clayton), a trans woman who is also a political blogger and once-upon-a-time hacker, and Wolfgang (Max Riemelt), a safecracker who works in his family’s crime ring. Nomi has had her run-ins with the law, but because of her rich mother has been able to get away scot-free. Her mother however cannot accept that she is now “Nomi” and continues to call her by her birth name “Michael.” Nomi also has a girlfriend, Amanita (the winning Freema Agyeman), who doesn’t mind living dangerously. Amanita becomes a close confidante and supports Nomi through whatever she’s feeling, becoming a close ally to the ‘sensates.’ As for Wolfgang, he and his best friend Felix are partners-in-crime, and the duo would love to do nothing more than to embarrass Wolfgang’s cousin Steiner out of a job.
Wolfgang finds an instant connection with Kala (Tina Desai), a pharmacist who’s about to marry her boss’s son, Rajan. She’s not in love with him, but he is desperately so, and her parents love him as a son-in-law. In a way, she’s pressured to marry him even though her family does not prioritize marriage over education.
On the other hand, Sun Bak (Bae Doona) is the eldest child and forgotten daughter of a successful businessman (played by Lee Kyung Young of Vampire Prosecutor!). She moonlights as an underground kickboxing champion, and does nothing at work during the day. Her father has chosen her inept younger brother Joong Ki (Lee Ki Chan) as the successor of the company. However she catches him embezzling money from the company and is forced to take the fall when it gets exposed.
Riley (Tuppence Middleton) is an Icelandic DJ who lives in London to escape her past. She was once married to the love of her life and was due to give birth, but she and her husband got into an accident in a snowstorm trying to get to the hospital. Her husband died instantly, and she was forced to give birth in the wrecked car. No one came to save them though, as no one had known where they were, and before she could reach safety, she passed out and her newly born daughter died in the cold.
And finally we have Lito Rodriguez (Miguel Angel Silvestre), a closeted Mexican actor who’s well known for his macho, dramatic roles. They’re all quite cheesy, and no matter how much he tries to infuse emotion and some good acting into his role, the director doesn’t want to see any of that. He lives with his sexy boyfriend Hernando (Alfonso Herrera), who totally understands that Lito must hide their relationship in order to continue working. Lito also uses Daniela Velazquez (Eréndira Ibarra) as his ‘beard’, and when she discovers his sexual orientation, she quickly becomes his and Hernando’s best friend and confidant. Daniela has her own past to escape: she has an abusive boyfriend who would do anything to keep her – including beating others up and blackmailing Lito about his sexuality.