Sense8, and the Paradox of Choice and Choicelessness

I saw a video of Lana Wachowski, where a fan asked her a question which is a reference to a conversation between Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix- “Do you believe in fate, or choice?” She answered, “All of our movies tend to be about the paradox of choice and choicelessness.” The fan then implied that if you believe in fate, there can be no choice, to which she replied, “That’s choicelessness.”

In an interview with Lana, she said, “In a way all of our movies are about interconnectivity and about truth beneath the surface...A constant theme is the transformational and transcendental power of love.” She expanded on that in a different interview, "The most important part about it for us was always the idea of connectedness. We’re all connected throughout, not only in our present life but throughout the ages because everything we do has consequences. So, in a way, we are the reincarnation of all those choices. So you can’t say that when you are dead, it’s not going to make a difference anymore. But it does. You can say it’s spiritual, but you can approach that whole idea with a secular perspective. It’s an invitation to that kind of thinking without an ideological twist to it. What we were trying to get at in the trilogy was that the inexplicable nature of the universe is in constant dialogue with our own consciousness and our consciousness actually affects the inexplicable nature of the universe. That’s a theme that runs throughout all of our work.”

I just finished the most recent work from the Wachowskis, Sense8, a show about eight individuals who are sensates, and who are connected to each other because they are part of the same cluster of sensates. The sensates are Nomi, a trans woman living in San Francisco who shows her incredible skills as a hacker and whose relationship with Amanita is the definition of Ride or Die, Sun, a woman living in Seoul who is a talented fighter with a master’s degree in economics, Riley, an Icelandic DJ who believes that she has been hexed, Lito, a gay actor living in Mexico City with his partner, Hernando, Kala, a pharmacist from Mumbai with extensive medical and pharmaceutical knowledge, who is deeply religious and believes that religion and science are connected, Wolfgang, a safe-cracker from Berlin, Capheus, a man from Nairobi who spends his life trying to help his mother get medicine for her AIDS, and Will, a police officer from Chicago. I feel it necessary to note here how diverse this cast is, in their stories and in their writing and in the casting, and how important that is, and how wonderful it is that Lana Wachowski, a trans director, wrote a trans character whose experiences were based on her own, who was played by a trans actress. The writing is phenomenal, it’s beautifully shot, and it’s challenging and interesting.

I found these excerpts of things Lana has described, her goals for her work, and I’m glad that I did so after I watched the series, because I can really see these themes and how they tie so deeply into this show. I knew from the first episode that I was going to love the series, and a lot of that was due to these themes.

There was a scene between Wolfgang and Kala in my favorite episode, “We Will All Be Judged by the Courage of Our Hearts”, where he was explaining to her that Felix was his family, and he said, “He’s my brother. And not by something as accidental as blood. By something much stronger. By choice.” It’s one of my favorite lines in the series, and one that resonated with me because the people I consider family exist in my life by choice. I think that time and again throughout the series, the sensates in this cluster chose each other; they chose to put each other before themselves, and they chose to be family. I liked this, because were choiceless in becoming senates and ending up with each other, but they chose to care for one another. This was exemplified in the same episode, when Nomi was trying to escape capture, and she cried out for help. Instantly, her cluster came to help her. Sun and Will helped her fight to get away, and then Capheus used his incredible driving skills and deep knowledge of action films to drive Nomi to safety. The scene was important to me for another reason, because Nomi is a trans woman, and everyday I see trans women being dehumanized and disrespected and experiencing violence in a lot of different ways, and to see this woman, Nomi (who is played by a trans actress) having her needs prioritized and watching these people who are essentially strangers choose to care so deeply for her, and risk so much to save her… It’s truly amazing.

Lana spoke about the transformational and transcendental power of love, and I feel that this was portrayed the best through Lito’s relationships, and through Sun, Capheus and Riley. Lito was dating Hernando, and he hired this woman Daniela as his cover, because he hadn’t publicly come out as gay. Hernando and Lito loved Daniela, and Lito eventually let her sacrifice herself and her own life to protect his career. Hernando absolutely refused to stand for that, and left Lito. He told Lito that he couldn’t watch someone sacrifice another’s life to save their career. It was because of Hernando’s love for Daniela and Lito’s love for Hernando that led Lito to fight for her and save her; to sacrifice his career for her happiness. With Sun, she had a special bond with her mother who died when she was young, and her mother imparted this sense of duty onto her- that she had to choose to love and protect her family. Sun discovered that her brother was ruining her father’s company, and sacrificed herself so that the business wouldn’t suffer. She went to prison out of a lasting love for her mother, and a duty to her family, and by doing so she showed her father what love truly was, and he decided he was going to tell the truth and free her. Sun also showed her love for her fellow inmates who’d looked out for her in the past, by fighting to protect them from other women who were taking advantage of them in the prison. Capheus’ love was for his mother, who he fought and killed for throughout the series. His mother loved him, and they spoke about how even though they had nothing, they were lucky because they had each other. And then there was Riley, who fought through her own PTSD and intense trauma to ensure that she protected her cluster. Yrsa said that Riley would have done anything for her daughter, and Riley certainly proved that she loved her cluster just as much- that she valued them over herself (she even almost killed herself) and understood that it was necessary for her to be strong enough to get her and Will free, and she did that. I don’t think that anything but love could’ve enabled her to work as hard as she did to get free.

I think that the cluster struggled at first with their connectedness, but that ultimately, it saved each of them. They worked together to help Nomi escape the hospital and to escape capture, and they needed the knowledge of the collective cluster to do so. Nomi and Amanita worked with Will to save Riley, but Will needed Sun’s fighting skills (this scene had one of my favorite lines, Will said, “Shit… Four guards!” And Sun walked in and asked, “Is that all?” and then fought them) and Capheus’ hotwiring abilities to get out. Lito used Wolfgang’s fighting to get Daniela free, and then Kala made a bomb (“I’m not like Sun, I don’t know how to use my fists. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to fight”) for Wolfgang to help him get free. Their interconnectivity played a vital role in each of their stories, and their choice to love each other helped them all transcend their bad experiences and get to a place where they truly understood what it meant to be part of a cluster of sensates.

"This is what life is- fear, rage, desire, love. To stop feeling emotions, to stop wanting to feel them is to feel… death. I take everything I am feeling, everything that matters to me, I push all of it into my fist and I fight for it."