I am not exaggerating when I say that there were few people more livid about the recent cancellation of the Netflix original Sense8 than I was, except perhaps the show’s cast, who all took to social media quickly to express their remorse about the death of their beloved project. Upon first hearing the news I was, in a word, heartbroken. As a fan of the show I was obviously devastated to hear that it would not be returning, especially after that wild season 2 cliffhanger, but as a person who wants to someday write and create television, this cancellation came like a knife through the heart.
Sense8 was a show like no other. I remember watching it for the first time and thinking “Finally! Something new!” And it was wholly and completely new. From its totally original premise, to its unique characters, to its stunning visual storytelling, Sense8 challenged everything I knew about how a TV show could be made. More importantly, it proved longtime industry standards to be just downright incorrect. It proved that you can have a transgender lead whose character did not hinge on the fact that they are transgender. It proved that you can include LGBT+ characters without resorting to stereotypes, and that representation matters. It proved that you can have a genuinely ethnically diverse cast without any blatantly “token” characters. It proved that you can talk about sexuality in a meaningful way and even depict sexually explicit scenes artfully, and in a way that adds to the story rather than uncomfortably distracts.
It proved that you can celebrate diversity while still promoting unity. The characters were strong individually but unstoppable together. They played off of each other’s strengths, and helped each other through their weaknesses.
Sense8‘s central message was simple — spread love, stop hate. At its core, Sense8 was a show about the human experience. This is the kind of show we need in the world today. Sense8 took risks, both cinematically and contextually. It broached political and social issues in ways that were simultaneously delicate and to the point.
Also notable, was how every piece of Sense8 was done with the utmost care. The production quality on this show is unbelievable, and you can tell that the creators, The Wachowskis, settled for nothing less than brilliance. The camera work, the acting, the editing, the soundtrack — it’s all perfect. The intricacy and complexity of both the story and the presentation is refreshing and unparalleled for television.
When you cancel a show as special as this one, it sends a message. It says that you would rather fund cookie-cutter shows that are simple, safe, and pitch easily to large audiences than challenge your ability as content creators. We need progressive, forward movement in television, because right now we’re stuck in a world full of shows that are ok with pushing the envelope just enough to seem original, but in actuality can be boiled down to the same bland characters and plots we’ve always known.
And it tells future creators like me that you can’t recognize genius when it’s right in front of your face, and rather than taking a chance, you’ll go with what’s familiar to you.
I imagine it will be a very long time before I find something to match the brilliance of Sense8, and even longer before such a thing makes it mainstream. Sense8 was the future of television, and perhaps ahead of its time, created before a public who could appreciate it.
My only hope is that the cancellation of Sense8 at its prime (while other shows are being renewed even though they have no story left to tell) does not deter the next generation of media makers. I hope that everyone out there with a new idea still tries, even if they tell you no one will watch. I know it’s not much, but you will at least have me.
Sense8 may now be gone, but it will never be forgotten.