This is more of a direct reference to the style of The Matrix and maybe the siblings poking a little fun at themselves for the monster they created – or maybe at all the imitators that sprung up in the wake of the film’s release.
One of the series’ most entertaining characters is Lito Rodriguez, a Mexican action star played by Miguel Ángel Silvestre, who is idealized for his onscreen machismo and his (supposed) off-screen romantic exploits with beautiful women. While Lito’s story has to do with coming to terms with how his sexuality will affect his career, one scene in particular demonstrates what makes him the action start that he is. The courtyard action scene works in a meta sense, delivering a bloody, high-flying, bullet-riddled showdown, while also literally showing the strings being pulled to make it all seem real.
Wires guide Lito as he flies through the air, firing his prop guns in time with the squibs exploding on the bodies of the extras in the scene. The balletic precision of the sequence harks back to Neo and Trinity in the lobby of the building where Morpheus is being held. At one point, Lito knocks an assault rifle from an opponent’s hands, launching it into the air and leaving the adversary open to attack. After dispatching his enemy, Lito double fists a pair of rifles, doing away with his remaining opponents, before striking an iconic pose.
This the most overt reference to the Wachowskis and their style, but the tongue-in-cheek manner in which it’s done here gives the series a sense of dry wit that the siblings are often not given enough credit for infusing their films with.
Characters Guide One Another With Info Uploads
One of the coolest things about The Matrix was the idea that those inside the simulation could speak with those observing from the on the outside, operators who could give them a heads up when things were about to get hairy, or on occasion, deliver turn-by-turn navigation when they needed a quick exit.
Because a neural network (or shared consciousness) connects the characters of Sense8, communication is a lot like that of the operators in The Matrix – only this time they can make video calls (or Facetime as one person calls it), rather than just audio. Actually, they can do one better: They can physically participate in helping a fellow cluster member by either taking over their body for them, or giving them a guided tour of where they’re supposed to be going.
That’s an important concept for the series, and it’s one that is shared in The Matrix. There’s an underlying idea that unity – whether it’s a group of humans against sentient robots in and out of a virtual world, or between members of a sensate cluster – is imperative for survival. That idea is expressed in similar ways in both Sense8 and The Matrix; sometimes it’s directly spoken of, and other times it is indirectly translated through a series of actions, in which characters understand that even in the stickiest of situations, they are never truly alone.
Authority is the Real Enemy
Throughout the early part of The Matrix, Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity are seen in conflict with figures that represent authority. Trinity engages in a deadly battle with police officers and Agents (who directly signify the oppressive system she and her cohort are trying to break free from). Before Neo ingests the red pill, he’s seen in conflict with his boss, who tells him, “You have a problem with authority…you believe that you are special, that somehow the rules don’t apply to you.” Later, after being apprehended by the Agents in his office, Neo refuses to answer Agent Smith’s questions, choosing to flip him the bird instead.
The rebelliousness of the characters is one of the reasons why they were so immediately intriguing and why audiences identified with them. No one wants to believe he or she is just another so-called sheep, going along with the herd. There’s something similar going on in Sense8, where every character is rebelling against some form of oppression or control in one way or another.
We’ve already discussed Nomi and Will’s rebellions, but there are plenty of others, like Wolfgang’s (Max Riemelt) fight against his father and uncle, Kala’s (Tina Desai) desire to go against religious and cultural tradition, Sun’s (Doona Bae) fight (literally) against gender stereotypes in and out of work and the family, and Capheus’ (Aml Ameen) battle against the oppressive gangs in his area (not to mention his fight to ensure Jean-Claude Van Damme’s awesomeness is recognized by everyone).
Then there’s the larger question of Mr. Whispers and the clandestine group he leads, which appears to have far-reaching authority over all sorts of things like governments and police departments. This collective oppressive group reads more like the machines in The Matrix than anything else.
It’s clear that the Wachowskis – whether they’re working with J. Michael Straczynski and Tom Tykwer or not – have themes and archetypes they like to revisit over and over again. While Sense8 may not feel as revolutionary as The Matrix did 16 years ago, the way these ideas have been reworked or flat-out revisited here is intriguing in terms of how the siblings’ sense of storytelling has progressed over the years.
Sense8 season 1 is available in its entirety on Netflix.
Photos: Murray Close/Netflix
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