“Sense8” Moved Me… And I Don’t Know Why

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

sense8-netflixI binge-watched the new Netflix series “Sense8.” I agree with what a lot of people say about the show, which is that it is one of the most wildly ambitious TV shows ever made—and also sometimes kind of dull. Doona Bae, one of my favorite Korean actresses, is pretty wooden in it. Sometimes it does look like an Apple commercial. I know it’s not as good a show as, for example, “Lost,” and yet… it moves me much more. Again and again, the show sort of slid under my standards of what good writing should be—and then it would suddenly knock me out for reasons I can’t explain or defend. Why do I care that the characters are all hearing the same song at the same time? Or remembering their births? Do I even care about all of these characters? But when I got to the last five or ten seconds of the show, I cannot express how overwhelmed I was. Why? It’s not such a great show so why am I losing it? As it was Netflix, I went back and watched those few seconds ten times and made frame grabs on my iPad to try to figure it out.

If you are worried that what follows will be a spoiler, then stop, but it is more of an aesthetic appreciation than a plot spoiler.

The way the music quietly creeps up on you and then—BLAM!—there is a heart-stopping anthem. That’s powerful but not new—the end credits music for“Local Hero” and “Guinevere” do it too, and I have listened to those tracks hundreds of times. So much going on.  The way the scene is carefully set up for the surprise that hidden characters are gradually revealed. When you see them, the eight characters are all posed in a way that expresses who they are as we have come to know them--and how they relate to each other. You can look at that image as long as you want. There’s a group of three on the right. Why were they together, separated from the others? Even the way the sun moves behind the heads of the characters is both beautiful. There was a lot of thought going into image, composition, lighting, music, etc. But what I’m describing goes by in seconds. Those fricking Wachowskis have sent me back to film school and David Bordwell’s class.

Maybe the whole show has been playing tricks like that on me.

And I realized, this show’s not really going for my brain like, for example, “Mad Men” is, with sophisticated writing. It’s trying to get past my barriers and make me feel something. It’s gunning for my heart.

I haven’t sampled anything Wachowskian since “The Matrix.” I’m going to check their subsequent films out. I think I just might be on team Wachowski.