Over the past few years Netflix has begun to dominate the small screen, not only popularizing but also normalizing the binge-watching phenomenon with its refreshingly original programming and still-extant streaming service. With hugely popular and critically acclaimed series like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Marvel’s Daredevil, the company has the means and method to compete with the likes of HBO, AMC, and Showtime. That said, Netflix is not content with its current success, as it constantly releases new shows in hopes that lightning will strike yet again.
Netflix’s next ‘lightning rod’ attempt is certainly a tall order. From the creative minds of Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy, Jupiter Ascending), the project is called Sense8, which is a play on the word ‘sensate,‘ meaning ‘perceived by the senses.’ But the title merely scratches the surface of the ambitiously complex show sure to test viewers’ own perceptive capabilities when season one debuts tomorrow.
As suggested by the first trailer, the show follows eight complete strangers, in eight different countries and from all different walks of life, as they realize they are somehow – and for some unknown reason – mentally and emotionally linked to each other. As they struggle to find out why this happened and what it means for the future of humanity, a mysterious and powerful man named Jonas (played by Lost veteran Naveen Andrews) will try to bring the eight together, while another stranger named Mr. Whispers will attempt to hunt them down one by one. Each episode will focus on one character and his/her story.
As if the premise wasn’t mind-bending enough, the new concept trailer above does little to expand upon the plot, instead highlighting the show’s thematic focus on human connection, intimacy, and change. With its introspective symmetry, visual overlays, and over-saturated color scheme, as well as the ominous logline – “Everything you know about fear, about love, about connection, about identity is about to change; you are no longer just you” – the teaser effectively establishes that this will not be your average TV experience.
With that in mind, ‘trippy’ editing and flashy special effects won’t be enough to support such an intricate premise or hold audience attention for long. Fortunately, Netflix is the perfect vessel to release such a show for two key reasons. First, the quasi-network has a proven track record of quality storytelling, complex characters, and exciting yet consistent pacing – all of which Sense8 will certainly need in order to succeed.
Second, Netflix’s signature format, in which it releases all episodes in a season at once – thusly tempting viewers to binge-watch – will likely help maintain narrative coherence across episodes. Unlike Lost and Fringe – both equally high-concept series that demanded weekly dedication from its fans – Sense8 will not make viewers wait a week to see what happens next, a gap that can prove detrimental when telling particularly tangled stories.
There is certainly reason to be excited for the new series (it even landed on our list of summer shows to watch), if only for an entertainment experience that’s unlike the usual mind-numbing popcorn blockbuster flicks that monopolize the season. Sense8 will likely not be an easy ride, but it promises to be a fun and exciting one. And in this age of sequels, reboots, and adaptations, originality is always welcome.
Sense8 will premiere on Netflix tomorrow, June 5th, 2015.