Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

Review: Sense8 is the most promising sci-fi television series since Lost

After a few early hits like House of Cards and Arrested Development, Netflix has ramped up the rate at which it releases new programs. And because it drops binge-ready seasons all at once, a twisty science fiction thriller in the vein of Lost seems like a natural fit for the site. Enter Sense8, a fantastic, mind-bending new series co-created by the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski.

Sense8 stars a diverse ensemble of eight women and men scattered across the globe: There’s a nervously closeted leading man in cheesy, Mexican action films; A sharp Korean businesswoman who vents her frustration about an extremely misogynist corporate culture by moonlighting as a brutal kickboxer; An Indian chemist who has second thoughts about her engagement to the wealthy and charming son of her boss; A kind, but short-fused German safe-cracker who’s embedded in a violent criminal family; A prodigal Icelandic DJ who’s fallen in with a bad crowd in London; An idealistic Chicago cop whose desire to help people doesn’t always jive with department politics; An affable driver in Nairobi, whose JCVD-themed bus, the Van Damn, is having trouble competing with the ever-popular Bat Van; And a transgender lesbian living in San Francisco who’s also a former hacker.

With race and gender representation such a frequent talking point in media lately, Sense8 proudly wears its inclusive heart on its sleeve.

All eight of these people are mysteriously connected, first by sharing visions of a woman they’ve never seen before (Daryl Hannah) in the violent final moments of her life, and then they start to appear in one another’s thoughts, able to instantly communicate and be virtually present with each other, or even take control of their bodies, from opposite sides of the planet. These eight people have essentially become a single entity, spread across multiple bodies. A man (Lost’s Naveen Andrews) is also there at their initial connection, and he serves as a sort of guide to help them navigate their newfound abilities as so-called sensates. Over the course of the season, they gradually encounter one another by uncovering the mystery of their communal bond and the greater outside forces at play.

With race and gender representation such a frequent talking point in media lately, Sense8 proudly wears its inclusive heart on its sleeve. Much more than mere tokenism in its diverse casting, the show frequently puts issues of inclusion and discrimination front and center. Transgender lesbian hacker Nomi’s story, for instance, begins during San Francisco’s Pride celebration, and involves her hateful mother who refuses to stop calling her Michael. One thematic way to interpret its mind-melding premise is that by crossing barriers of race, gender, culture, and sexuality, we are all made stronger, better.

The sensates’ power comes from more than just the sharing of literal skills like fighting, hacking, and chemistry, but also from mutual support and the sharing of perspective and experience. Just the knowledge that someone on the other side of the world, ostensibly completely different from you, has had experiences applicable to your own struggles can be a meaningful motivation in difficult times.

The Wachowskis’ playful sensibility and eye for cinematic action is strongly felt throughout the season. The cinematography is slick, and all of the fight scenes throughout the season are thrilling. There is also a charming degree of self-awareness on occasion, such as when Lito, the Mexican actor, films an absurdly over-the-top action scene that calls back very directly to The Matrix’s famous lobby sequence.

The series’ third and considerably less-hyped creator is J. Michael Straczynski, whose best known previous televisual opus is the underappreciated early 90s science fiction series Babylon 5. With its sweeping character and narrative arcs that were meticulously plotted out beforehand for five seasons, Babylon 5 was a decade ahead of its time, and failed to gain major traction with broadcast audiences before DVDs and then the internet allowed for convenient binge-watching. Straczynski’s fantastic sense of character and plot development serves as a perfect foil to the Wachowskis’ cinematic flair.

Straczynski’s fantastic sense of character and plot development serves as a perfect grounding foil to the Wachowskis’ cinematic flair.

In the wake of Lost, numerous science fiction television programs have tried and failed to recapture its magic by mistakenly putting all of their focus on plot twists and relentless cliffhangers. Although eager water cooler speculation about what was really going on comprised the meat of Lost fandom, it succeeded largely because of viewers’ investment in its compelling characters, often in spite of the loosely-constructed plot.

Sense8 is the most promising science fiction television series since Lost, and that is largely due to its commitment to placing its characters first. The season follows a more cinematic structure during its slower first half, really taking the time to introduce its players. By the time the action picks up in the second half, the audience is really invested in these characters.

The first part of the season can feel slow at times, inconsistent in tempo and tone, but that groundwork really pays off when the show’s premise clicks in at the end. After a season of hooking up all of these characters and building up a cinematic vocabulary for their power’s expression, the thrilling finale cuts loose and shows why this is such a perfect premise for television. Characters ping back and forth between locations, fluidly swapping in as the situation demands. At one point, two of the men get sidetracked by a conversation, so one of the women literally pops up between them in a moment of cartoon hilarity reminiscent of the Wachowskis’ underrated Speed Racer adaptation.

The second season will necessarily be very different than the first. This was a superhero origin story, and now they will be put to the test with much higher stakes. If Sense8 can maintain the ingenuity, momentum, and heart that it found by the end of its first season, then Netflix could have something really special on its hands.

Watch on Netflix

Will Fulton
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Will Fulton is a New York-based writer and theater-maker. In 2011 he co-founded mythic theater company AntiMatter Collective…
Everything coming to Peacock in October 2023
Three cute robots stand on a stage in Five Nights at Freddy's.

Fall has just begun, and the excitement is just starting on Peacock. October's programming schedule is packed with all sorts of great offerings for Peacock's paid subscribers to enjoy all month long (and in some cases, even longer than that).

The highlights for Peacock this month include the conclusion to the John Wick spinoff series The Continental, season 2 of Wolf Like Me, and the debut of the spooky series John Carpenter's Suburban Nightmares. The streamer also has the debut of Five Nights at Freddy's, the new adaptation of the popular video game. Keep reading for the full list of films, series, and live sporting events that will be available on the streaming service throughout the month, as well as everything else coming to Peacock in October 2023.

Read more
How to watch boxing online: Stream every fight
how to watch fury vs wilder 3 live stream online deontay v tyson

Zhilei Zhang and Joe Joyce meet for the second time this weekend. Joyce is hoping to recover from the massive upset loss Zhang gave him in their first meeting, when Zhang pummeled Joyce's eye with straight rights until the doctor recommended stopping the fight. Below we have the details of every major boxing streaming service, but if Zhang vs. Joyce II is all you care about, you can head straight to ESPN+ for a subscription and watch the fight there on Saturday.

If you're new to boxing and want to catch all the bouts from the biggest stars in the sport, we can help you find the best and cheapest ways to watch boxing online. It can get complicated. Fighters are tied to specific promoters who are tied to specific streaming sites. The days of Friday night fights on network TV are long gone.

Read more
The 10 most popular shows on Max right now
The cast of Gangs of London.

For the second week in a row, the Max original animated series, Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake, is on top of the ten most popular shows on Max. And while Harley Quinn and Hard Knocks have fallen out of the top ten, most of this list remains intact from the previous week. As before, the AMC+ shows on loan to Max are outperforming most of the other series on Max. Now that Gangs of New York has earned a place on the list, it has become the fifth AMC+ series to do so. The other four are Killing Eve, Fear the Walking Dead, Interview with the Vampire, and A Discovery of Witches. This makes us wonder what this list will look like at the end of October when all of these shows return to AMC+.

It's also worth noting that this week's No. 2 show, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, is still performing well less than a week after its abrupt cancellation. If Winning Time has this kind of sustained popularity then perhaps it was a mistake for HBO to pass on a renewal. We'll see how the show performs next week with no more new episodes. But for today, September 22, these are the 10 most popular shows on Max right now.

Read more