THE SERIES "Sense8"
WHEN | WHERE Starts streaming Friday on Netflix
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Eight people around the world are mysteriously and psychically bound by the death of one woman, Angel (Daryl Hannah). They are Chicago cop Will Gorski (Brian J. Smith); London DJ Riley (Tuppence Middleton); Nairobi bus driver Capheus (Aml Ameen); Seoul businesswoman Sun (Bae Doona, of "Cloud Atlas"); Mexico City-based actor Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre); Mumbai pharmacist Kala (Tina Desai); Berlin safecracker Wolfgang (Max Riemelt); and San Francisco activist and trans woman, Nomi (Jamie Clayton). ("Lost's" Naveen Andrews also stars.) "Sense8" is the first TV series from famed Wachowski siblings, Andy and Lana.
MY SAY The question anyone coming to "Sense8" needs answered is this -- do the Wachowskis of the "Matrix" trilogy turn up here, or are they the Wachowskis of "Cloud Atlas"? The former created one of the enduring landmarks of film history. The latter adapted David Mitchell's 2004 award-winning novel into a baffling 2012 big screen sprawl that few (possibly including the actors) actually understood. You may not like this answer, but stick with me on this, because I think you will like "Sense8": The Wachowskis of both do.
The Wachowskis are the Wachowskis, and hopefully always will be -- hugely ambitious filmmakers keenly interested in cosmic, mystical and phenomenological (the philosophy of consciousness) puzzles, sometimes to a fault. Fortuitously on "Sense8," they have a third partner -- J. Michael Straczynski -- who brings their flights of aery fancy solidly down to earth. An old TV pro, Straczynski is best known as the creator of cult classic "Babylon 5," but he also knows how to pound out TV episodes with familiar beats, rhythms and structures. After a rapturously exotic Wachowski-esque open, "Sense8" settles into a comfortable made-for-TV gait.
Like "Atlas," there are many parallel stories -- eight here obviously -- but unlike "Atlas," they track logically, or at least intelligibly. Like any good story, these stories also have to stand on their own, independent of whatever philosophical, metaphysical or pseudo-scientific-babble theory ultimately binds them.
They mostly do stand on their own. Some are better than others (three episodes were provided for review). Best is Lito's; most thinly developed is Sun's; most personal (at least for Lana Wachowski, also a trans woman) is Nomi's.
It's tempting to view "Sense8" as a redo of "Atlas" because some themes overlap, too. In fact, as you watch, heed well the words of Sonmi-451 from "Atlas:" "Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future."
BOTTOM LINE Good -- occasionally very good. And a winning cast. Netflix scores.