Put the Wachowskis together with Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski and you’re going to get something that is likely to make you think, and based on the first episode of this 12 part story, Sense8 is clearly going to use its very wide-ranging canvas to explore many different themes. Each of the Eight comes from a very different background – from an African bus driver trying to support his seriously ill mother to an Icelandic DJ based in London to a Mexican soap opera star – and even in a 66 minute running time, we don’t get to spend as much time with any of them as might be desirable.
That’s not such an issue, of course, with Netflix, given that all 12 episodes will be available to binge watch in one go, should you so desire, and as with many of their shows, Sense8 doesn’t worry about restrictions – Freema Agyeman’s character is introduced in a way that will surprise many who only know the actress from her work on Doctor Who; there’s drug-taking and a lot of four-letter words. There’s also some truly appalling dialogue of the “as you know” variety, and it’s obviously been decided that the characters will speak with an accented version of English rather than in their own languages – given how much Daredevil and other series have used subtitles, this is a bit of a surprise, and means that sometimes they do sound odd, with mis-accented words which they’d pronounce properly in their own language, one has to assume. For a series that revolves around sensation, it seems to be an odd miscue (although at the back of my mind, I can hear JMS years ago reminding me who I was talking to when I picked up on what seemed like an error in Babylon 5!)
The crossing over of the Eight’s lives begins slowly, and there are some very nicely done moments (poultry appearing out of nowhere for an instant). Whereas something like The Messengers dragged all its protagonists together within the first couple of episodes, I suspect the physical meetings of the Eight (rather than, as we see in this first episode, some form of mental displacement) may be less frequent – and thus more credible. Each thread has its own distinctive feel, in terms of colour palette and score, and there’s nothing obvious connecting the Eight affected. Chances are if you get through the first hour you’re going to want to follow this through to get some answers…
Verdict: An intriguing, if sometimes slow start that firmly grounds the series in the real world while slowly introducing the genre elements. 7/10