It is difficult to explain what reading Lana Wachowski’s letter to fans meant, precisely due to the same reasons why I can’t adequately communicate just what it is about Sense8 that makes it a reason to get up in the morning, for many of us, who have less and less reasons to do so. As an empath and a highly sensitive person, I am not accustomed to the feeling of belonging, without the threat of abandonment, of true connections beyond superficialities and more than anything, the life-affirming power of hope. “Lana wrote this for us!” I said out loud, through tears. “US” meant me and more than five hundred thousand people around the world I’d never met, who fought for something we believed in. Sound like a TV show? Funny story.
When my friend in Canada first told me the Wachowskis were creating a TV series I expected great things. I didn’t expect it to change my life, view of the world or how I viewed my own sensitivity, which has for the longest time, had been my most visible and criticized deficiency and weakness in a world that seemingly has no place for it.
What makes Sense8 the existential, consciousness-expanding acid trip that it is, is not merely its championing of gender politics, sexuality or even diversity. There are a great many shows with diverse cast members ( legally enforced or voluntarily cast) that touch on these issues. It is different because it’s not a discourse about “normal” people. Most television series, even films concern a category or subset of “normal” people. They all fit neatly into boxes. Boxes where we know what to expect when we look inside them, know how to feel about them and most disappointing of all, know what to take away from it all, when all’s said and done. The 8 protagonists that make up Sense8 are ever evolving contradictions. They are involuntary assassins with hearts as soft as baby birds, vigilante cops and loyal thieves.
And would you believe, Sensates also don’t possess any super powers, magical swords or wands and are not prophesized for greatness. In fact, the most valued attribute of one is his ability to drive and quote Van Damme while another’s is her ability to mix and spin music. But what makes these 8 individuals the most endearing characters in recent TV history is not their collective or individual strengths, but their courage to admit to their vulnerabilities. In a world where we are raised to invalidate our emotions from day one, it is rare to find anything that encourages the expression and the embracing of anything remotely human, least of all emotions. You’re supposed to power through. You’re supposed to suppress, compartmentalize, and move on. These are the marks of a hero. Lito Rodriguez would strongly disagree.
The antagonists in Sense8 don’t wear distinguishable face makeup and aren’t limited to CEOs of global conglomerates or violent sociopaths. They are our parents, our siblings, our peers, our colleagues, friends and neighbours. Those who have, intentionally or unintentionally, made a lifelong habit of keeping us small, keeping us in line, keeping us in check, lest we aspire to anything more than they themselves can aspire to, lest we act in spite of the fear that dominates most lives. But “fear never fixed anything”. We can take Wolfie’s word on that. But sensates, uncharacteristically from the usual narrative,( cue Puck cameo) do not seek to destroy them, the trick is, instead, to inspire them through your own liberation. In true Sense8 style, we are told not to decimate our opposers, but to disarm them with the truth and authenticity of who we are, so they may be free to be themselves in turn.
Sense8 recasts Sensitivity as a virtue and emotions as an influential tool that transmutes pain into real power, when shared. In fact, it is what makes the scene- by- scene catharsis so overwhelming, as more often than not, you are crying into your bowl of popcorn not only for the characters you love but for some part of yourself as well.
And it seems Sense8’s appeal is not limited to empaths, sensitives, creatives and the ostracized, it also speaks to those multitudes of “normal” human beings who, seem to have feelings after all, in spite of themselves, in spite of socialization, institutionalized habits of conformity, because even if you’ve lived without it your whole life, every single one of us, knows the truth of what it is to be human, deep within our core. It’s all about the details. Details that matter. Like Capheus reminding Zakia, it reminds us that the minute victories we have each day matters. That we are all living the dream, simply unaware of how far we’ve come and how close we are to our destination.
For a show all about connection, it is astounding to realize that out of a cluster of eight sensates, with such intrinsic connections and life altering influence on one another, only two have met in person till the last episode of the second season. The rest, all those indelible moments, those awe-inspiring “connections” are all voices in each character’s head, urging them forward, keeping them safe, encouraging their truth.
I, like Bug take comfort in knowing that while not all of us has an Amanita, Felix, Dani, Hernando or Jela in our lives to help us stay the course we do have others who, although we haven’t met or cannot for some reason, are the encouraging voices in our heads and Twitter feeds.
Like Will and the rest of the Sense8 cluster, I never knew there were so many of us out there. The fan campaign which emerged from a polyphony of voices, destinations and diverse demographics across the world was not only a testament to the show’s global resonance. It was a representation of the kind of global community it has created with its inclusive narrative. #WeAretheGlobalCluster and our victories are no small ones because, we got here together, as Sensates do.
But we’re hardly done, this is where the plot thickens… Season 3, We’re coming for you!