Back to IndieWire

Netflix’s ‘Sense8’ Cancellation Strikes Many Blows — Including Inclusive, LGTBQ-Friendly Storytelling

The Wachowskis created a world that championed identity, gender and cultural representation, and a message of acceptance.

"Sense8"

“Sense8”

Murray Close/Netflix

The cluster will just have to live on in our imaginations.

On the heels of the news that Netflix has decided to cancel “Sense8” after only two seasons comes a healthy bit of outrage and sadness from fans. The show that meant so much to so many people has been snuffed in its adolescence just as it was testing its wings and settling into what it meant to be.

While the majority of Season 1 was spent in world-building and getting to know the central eight who shared a psychic bond, in Season 2, the cluster — Capheus (Toby Onwumere), Kala (Tina Desai), Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Riley (Tuppence Middleton) , Sun (Doona Bae), Will (Brian J. Smith) and Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) — were working in concert to help each other and experience their collective highs and lows. The possibilities of where the story could go from here were endless.

READ MORE: ‘Sense8’ Canceled: Netflix Ends the Wachowskis’ Progressive Sci-Fi Drama After Two Seasons

Netflix’s statement about ending the series didn’t indicate why it was canceled, although from CEO Reed Hastings’ recent comments about axing more shows indicates that “Sense8” probably wasn’t as much of a hit as say, “13 Reasons Why.” Cutting a massive budget that was required for shooting in 16 cities around the world was probably a factor as well. Some of Netflix’s buzziest shows in recent years haven’t been big-budget epics like “Sense8” or the service’s other recent cancellation, “The Get Down” – but rather, smaller shows like “Stranger Things,” “13 Reasons Why” and “Making a Murderer,” all of which became pop culture phenomenons on much smaller budgets.

But as much business sense it makes to cancel the series, there are far more artistic and cultural reasons that “Sense8” was a meaningful and important show.

1. It’s Unique

In a TV landscape populated with remakes and revivals, retro tributes and stylistic homages, “Sense8” is a true original. Nothing like it has existed on television, and therefore it had the freedom to make its own creatively groundbreaking rules. The series defies simple categorization, despite its initial sci-fi premise.

2. It’s All-Inclusive

The series rightfully has a reputation for championing LGBTQ representation. Behind the cameras, The Wachowskis are trans women who cast trans actress Jamie Clayton in the role of trans activist Nomi Marks. In addition, Miguel Angel Silvestre portrays closeted actor Lito Rodriguez. What’s remarkable about these characters is that they’re shown to have some of the healthiest and unconflicted romantic LGBTQ relationships on TV. Furthermore, the other six characters who are part of the psychic cluster embrace their LGBTQ sister and brothers in a matter-of-fact way.

While the gay and trans stories have rightfully gotten the spotlight, the series didn’t neglect gender and cultural issues for its straight and cisgender characters. The arc that Sun (Doona Bae) takes as the self-sacrificing yet indomitable daughter of a prominent Korean businessman made her a fan favorite, and Kala (Tina Desai) is a devout Hindu woman who must face up to her society’s expectations to marry a man she does not love.

Yet, throughout all of these trials, the cluster mates have each other. This sense of connectedness is why “Sense8’s” opening sequence encompasses the world:

3. It’s Visually Stunning

While the Wachowskis have been critiqued for their overly ambitious and often messy storytelling, their visuals cannot be beat. Remember that these women brought us the slow-motion 360-degrees shots of “The Matrix” and even the galactic baroqueness of the much-maligned “Jupiter Ascending.”

All of “Sense8’s” moving parts coalesce into optical opulence. Because of its global scale, nothing is too overdone and instead creates a heighten, stylistic reality in which the idea of these clusters seem possible. The eight-person sex scenes have earned a reputation for “Sense8,” but they’re not the sexually pornographic or debauched orgies that some may picture. Instead, they have been elevated; they’re moving paintings that are carefully composed for maximum aesthetic and emotional effect. They’re devastating.

The Wachowskis’ visuals are fantastical and gorgeous, but they’re also a physical representation of their highest ideals of what life can and should be. Watching the series opens up the viewer to all things that are possible.

4. It’s Joyful

The series has plenty of conflict, but its central message is one of acceptance. While the cluster is the wildly imaginative construct, it’s not difficult to see that it’s the ideal representation of a support system that is always present and filled with unconditional love.

Some of the most moving scenes are when the cluster is celebrating together, whether it’s for their mutual birthday or at the Sao Paolo Gay Pride Parade. There ain’t no party like a “Sense8” party. That unfettered elation, that sense of wonder about how the world can be a beautiful place after all, are the true legacies that The Wachowskis leave with “Sense8.”

Two seasons of “Sense8” are available for streaming on Netflix.

Stay on top of the latest TV news! Sign up for our TV email newsletter here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged ,