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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.

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Comments

Steve Smith

I didn’t watch it for the gay theme, though I’m quite aware that is a strong part of the story. I just enjoyed having an exciting and unusual show that was movie theater caliber to watch episode after episode. Fine acting, beautiful scenery, and each show a big surprise. I’m sad that great shows seem to be the ones that get cancelled.

Mark Russell

This is truly a sad day. One of my personal favorites is gone. Shame on Netflix for not seeing how important the message was that was not told by the meaningless drivel of most of the other shows available. We live in a world that Americans chant us first and never care about any of the others. The showcasing of love, trust, conflict, and understanding of groups that are pushed aside everyday was a breath of fresh air and emotionally touching. Thank you cast and crew for the last 2 seasons.

Alex

This show was incredible and had tons of story left to tell. It was positive in message and beautiful to watch. Can’t believe it was a Sony F-55 that whole time!

HBO — you’re in the market for a new tentpole show now that Game of Thrones is winding down. Consider this one.

SleepyD

You left out….

5. Boring AF.
It took a long time to get anywhere or say anything for each of its myriad characters and the gratuitous nudity/sex scenes…oops, sorry, I mean the enchanting message of acceptance for all genders and fuschia dreadlocks just wasn’t enough to string along multiple seasons.

Look at it this way. You got more than you would have gotten from another Wachowski Siblings film, at half the price.

Josh

Netflix Content VP Cindy Holland should be fired for this!! Sense8 is cancelled, while crappy cartoons like Bojack Horseman and F for Family remain? Cindy Holland is brain dead. SAD!!

    Kelly Crawford

    Fired for what? Apparently it had less viewers than Bojack.No way are they going to throw money into something that’s barely being watched.

    Avenger07

    Bojack and F for family are great shows, rivaled only by family guy in the genre, the get down should had been cancelled since it’s first season, it isn’t good and it flopped.

Tarnin

This wasn’t canned due to any LGBTQ issues. It was canned because it was boring, slow, took it self WAY to seriously without the ability of the story or actors to make it serious enough to not be crap. I wanted to like this show as it was unique. It fell JUST shy of making it worth watching. Another 5% in speed, story, and acting would have made this amazing, instead we got something that felt forced.

    Veritas

    Agreed, but it had a bad case of ideology trump aesthetics.

      Veritas

      ^trumping

Avenger07

The budget excuse can be understood, but other shows like the get down are also ridiculously expensive to make and the get down flopped horribly, so no it doesn’t make sense.

Gene Hartman

I remember reading The Diary of Malcolm X when I was in college. It took me to places I had never imagined. I felt profoundly enriched from the experience. I felt the same way watching Sense8. As a white, American, middle-class, conservative, heterosexual, Christian man, I was transported watching this show. I empathized with characters whose background, experience, and ideologies were drastically foreign to me. This show was not simply entertaining (not to diminish that aspect), but also enlightening. Apart from $$$ concerns, I cannot imagine a reason not to continue.

Raphael jenkins

I have to say that i loved it. But i also have to say that the whole show kinda felt like a propaganda for the lgbt thing.
Is there anyone in the maincast, involved in the romance business whos not gay or loyal to their partners?
I understand that personal preferences of the creator is what that forges the art, but it was a little over the line. I loved the plot but here and there it was too much sometimes.

Phil Bertoli

Businesses exist to make a profit, let they become bankruptcy fodder. This show, obviously was not pulling the audience Netflix had hope for. To read anything else into its’ cancellation is asinine. AFA didn’t boycott the show. You must accept the fact that the LGBT ‘market’ is limited as compared to say, western movie aficionados (for illustration). One must look at the demographics of the Netflix subscribers. Those true numbers are known to Netflix, as well as the numbers of subscribers watching the show. Netflix, aside from external pressures that are not present here), aren’t going to cancel a moneymaker.

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