Sense8 follows a cluster of 8 people, spread around the world who can link up mentally with each other. They can either look in and witness the other’s world, or possess each other in order to share their talents. When they do, the show seamlessly shifts around the globe, from Nairobi, to India, to Germany, to Korea, and even Stateside.
The characters themselves are as diverse as the landscapes. But it never comes across as diversity for the sake of it — If it did, it would contradict the message of the entire series, which is “That the world [is] made up of this brotherhood of man, for whatever that means.”—to quote 4 Non-Blondes.
Each person brings a unique talent to the table, like a virtual Oceans Eight: There’s a cop, a musician, a driver, a hacker, an actor, a safe-cracker and a chemist. And though I could spend the full review on what they do, I’d prefer to spend the review talking about what they are, because each Sensate personifies a Virtue. I know what you’re thinking: There are Seven Virtues not eight. I’ll get to that. But first a bit of background…
Daryl Hannah’s character, Angel, is the maternal of the group and soon after birthing the cluster she decides to off herself in order to protect them from the baddy of the show, Whispers. In a way, he’s the personified paranoia that all the characters are experiencing. Angel’s partner, Jonas, the paternal protector of the group, does his best to try and look after the cluster. But the ‘Sensates’ are ultimately flailing in the wind; confused by their ability to connect with each other’s worlds and certain that they’re hallucinating.
The first person Jonas tries to train in the ways of a sensate is Will, a straight-laced cop from Chicago who seems to be far more focused on the idea of justice than any of his peers. He’s also honorable enough to put his life on the line to save a wounded slum kid who would doubtful return the favor. For these reasons, I peg him as Temperance. And though Will partakes in a beer here and there he certainly abstains from drinking far more than his father, played by recurring Wachoski favorite, Joe Pantoliano.
Which brings me to the next point, most of the virtues incarnate have a counterpart, or Vice. In Will’s case, it’s his father. He plays the Gluttony to his son’s temperance: the vice to his son’s virtue. It’s also important to note that the Vices or Virtues in the show are never embellished to the point where they overcome the narrative; Will’s father isn’t made into a monster simply because he’s an alcoholic. He’s a Vice with human context. As the show progresses, Will slowly learns from Jonas and fulfills the role of the paternal protector for the group.
But you can’t have a new Paternal without a new Maternal. Enter Riley; a strong willed musician who’s been through hell and back to find herself in London as a DJ. She gives her all to perform for the masses. Not only is she Charity in the simple sense of the word because she decides give away a stolen loot bag full of cash—a bag that she got from Nyx, the Greed to her charity. But she also fulfills the definition in the more profound sense of Agape or self-sacrifice—but I don’t want to give away too many spoilers.
Then we have Capheus, an industrious driver from Nairobi who runs a bus shuttle company with his best friend in order to support his mother. She’s dying from AID’s and though she once had as much fight as her son, she now lives out an apathetic existence, often remarking that her son should give up on her. But her Sloth is no match for her son’s Diligence and industry. In fact, a painting of Van Damme that runs alongside his bus epitomizes Capheus’ fight. There’s only one problem: Capheus doesn’t know how to fight. But that’s okay…
That’s where Sun comes in. She’s a businesswoman from Korea who decides to suffer through her brother’s prison sentence in order to protect her father’s company. Her display of sufferance show’s that she’s Patience incarnate, but the people in her cluster normally don’t reach out to her for her virtue, they reach out to her for her vice: Wrath. I don’t know what she’s a black belt in and I don’t know what her father’s business is about, because it doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that she can cash checks and break necks. I imagine that her solitary existence in prison forced the Wachoskis to make her both Virtue and Vice, as apposed to giving her a counterpart. This duality makes her the most interesting character to me. Much like her patience, her wrath is pure and freed of all ego; She folds people like a maid might laundry.
Speaking of the ego removed—Nomi, is a modest transgender blogger from San Fran. She practices Humility with her opinions and ideals even when others brazenly attack them. And while she certainly takes part in the cities Gay Pride Parade, her partner Amanita plays the part of Pride. She’s loud in character and in style, decked out at all times with bright colours and even brighter hair. And though she’s prideful, she never veers into full-blown narcissism. The two have a love and reverence that balance each other out like two halves of whole—and though it’s a big assumption, I imagine that whole is Lana Wachoski herself.
Lito’s fascination with his reflection initially led me to believe that he was Pride, but the key to Lito’s virtue is in his partner, Hernando. The two of them share a secret love for each other in Mexico City. If the press were to find out about it, Lito’s career as the action star, ‘El Caido’ would be destroyed. Hernando is Envy, but like all other Vices in the show, he’s the most human form; He only wishes he could share the spotlight on his lover’s talent and envies those who can.
Lito spends much of his time in public with Daniela, around on his arm. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, because Daniela wants a crazed cartel ex to think she’s taken. Lito is hesitant of the idea at first, but he compassionately agrees, worried for her safety. I identify him as Kindness because he displays loyalty and integrity. Sure, he may share a stolen kiss with another, but he has to get drunk first and he’s quick to inform the man that his lips belong to another. And at the end of the season, it takes a hell of a lot of integrity for him to stand up Daniela’s crazed ex. He also gets a good amount of help from the German in the cluster, Wolfgang, who is the real life ‘El Caido.’
I say that because Wolfgang is two-bit German safecracker who has ‘fallen’ from grace. The mafia hates Wolfgang and he hates the mafia, mostly because he associates the mafia with his father, a man who’s credo was that “there are five things in life: eating, drinking (Gluttony), shitting (Sloth), fucking (Lust), and fighting for more (Wrath & Greed).” And although Wolfy hates his father, he’s intrinsically attached to these five vices. In fact, him and his best friend Max are the Seven Vices. Wolfy drinks too much; he lazes about, watching reality TV, when he should be robbing diamonds; he fucks someone new every night; and near the end of the season his truly dark side is brought to light—hell hath no fury like a Kraut with a rocket launcher. And the two vices that Wolfgang neglects, Envy and Pride are inherent to his best friend, Max, who envies other peoples’ station and is quick to boast of his successes. That’s not to say that Wolfgang can’t stray from the wolf’s path and find Virtue. After all, he technically has…
In the form of a gorgeous Indian chemist named Kala—who’s name happens to be Sanskrit for Virtue. She’s not all virtue, but she is one of them. By sheer process of elimination, I’m sure a smart reader like you has determined which. And it’s not simply because she’s chaste and courting another man. She also attains the other qualities that one would associate with Chastity, like intelligence and wisdom. She’s book smart by way of the fact that she’s a chemist and she displays wisdom in her ability to make difficult decisions. Also, she has an affinity for the god Ganesh, explaining that he sees through her and that she sees through him, which is interesting considering that the Hindus associate Ganesh with wisdom, and the Buddhists associate him with knowledge. But all that aside, who’s Lust? Is it someone in her circle? Or, like Sun, does she herself retain Vice and Virtue? The answer is a bit of both: She lusts after Wolfgang, the aforementioned Lust incarnate. The two of them are constantly popping up in each other’s heads, and in each other’s bedrooms.
The two of them have the kind of romance that’s been in existence since Tristan and Isolde. They’re two worlds apart and they can’t possibly love each other, but they do. Some might find it trite, but I don’t mind it one bit. Because the Wachoskis know the mythos behind characters like Kala and Wolfgang. And though my theory on the show may come off as black and white, it’s not portrayed that way in the show. Sure, each character represents an abstract, and but because it’s a Netflix series, they not only have the time, but also the freedom to develop the characters as they see fit, and blur the line between abstract and concrete. Or in this case, between Virtue and Human.