Netflix’s upcoming series Sense8 has earned a lot of early buzz, mostly because it hails from Andy and Lana Wachowsk aka the creators of The Matrix. The streaming service has been talking up the project for some time, even making a point to reassure viewers of its confidence in the series after the Wachowski’s most recent effort, Jupiter Ascending, tanked at the box office. With the show finally set to premiere on June 5 and early critical reviews beginning to roll in, the question is: does Sense8 actually live up to the hype?
Sense8 will chronicle the story of eight strangers of different cultures and from various parts of the world who suddenly find themselves mentally and emotionally connected in the aftermath of a tragic death. Their sudden connection allows them to talk to each other, even while in totally different countries. While trying to figure why this happened and what it means for the future of mankind, a mysterious and powerful man named Jonas tries to bring the eight together, while another stranger called Mr. Whispers and his organization will attempt to hunt them down to capture or assassinate them.
The show stars a large ensemble cast, including Brian J. Smith, Tuppence Middleton, Ami Ameen, Bae Doona, Miguel Angel Silvestre, and Tena Desae. But their characters reportedly won’t ever be together in the same physical place during the first season of series. Instead, each of the 10 episodes will mainly focus on one character and their individual backstories, which occur on four different continents and span various cities like Chicago, San Francisco, London, Seoul, Mumbai, Berlin, Mexico City, and Nairobi.
The series has received a lot of attention in the lead-up to its premiere, both for its premise and because of the Wachowskis’ involvement. But so far, critics seem divided as to whether the show actually delivers on its big promises.
As fans of the The Wachowskis’ work know, the sibling duo tends to think big. Sense8 is no exception, mixing elements of sci-fi and action, slipping between various countries and characters, and sometimes even moving between past and present. It’s an ambitious feat, one that’s already drawing comparisons to that of the duo’s 2012 overreaching feature, Cloud Atlas. Whether it actually works or not is still up for debate.
While the juxtaposition of different settings and characters is a huge part of what has peaked the interest of audiences, many critics have already pointed out that the show’s pacing is a problem, particular in the first few episodes. “It takes a while for their stories to blend,” The New York Times writes, eventually labeling the series “a slower dip into dreamy conspiracies and chimerical fellowship.” Meanwhile, Time states, “Sense8 asks you to take a lot on hope and patience in the early going.
What reviewers can’t agree on is whether it’s worth sticking around to find out if patience pays off. The Hollywood Reporter says the show “ultimately captivates more than it repels,” as does Deadline, which argues that “the Wachowskis get their game back” with the project. But Variety doesn’t agree, claiming the show just “doesn’t make much sense.”
One thing that does seem clear? Regardless of whether Sense8 is your cup of tea, it is exactly the kind of strange and ambitious project that Netflix should be giving a platform to – one that wouldn’t stand a chance on the big screen or traditional TV. Whether that’s enough to make audiences stick around for the whole season remains to be seen.
The first season of Sense8 hits Netflix on June 5.