While we are all anticipating the return of Sense8 to Netflix, we sadly aren’t getting season 2 until next year. To console myself, I’ve steadily been marathoning the series with my friends to get them just as addicted as I am. And, I realized, just as much as I love these characters and plot, the settings are what truly captivated me with this series. Most dramas feature one city throughout the series and let it become a character unto itself, like Baltimore in The Wire, but Sense8 gave us a myriad of locations to explore, from the lofts of San Francisco to the black sand beaches of Iceland.
While London doesn’t get a huge amount of screen time as we follow Riley’s storyline, a rather awesome landmark makes its debut in the first episode. KOKO, one of the major music venues in London, hosts Riley’s DJ skills at the start of the show where she her powers are born. It is also the first place Will and Riley sense each other, mostly cause she rather rudely woke him up with her music.
f11photo / Shutterstock.com
Annnddd from Riley we get Will’s cozy Chicago apartment right above one of the subway lines, but we won’t dwell on that too much. We get to see many sides of Chicago, from the Projects to various cop bars, but one of the most iconic attractions featured is the Crown Fountain, a fascinating if not a little discomforting video sculpture in Millennium Park. The fountain acts as a background piece while Jonas teaches Will about his Sensates powers, but the way the faces of the crowd transform resonates with the way Sensates take on different “faces” throughout the series.
Home to my personal favorite couple, Nomi and Neets, San Francisco is largely shown from their trendy loft apartment, Neets’s mother’s lovely house, and possibly the worst hospital in history. Though San Francisco is largely embodied in its characters – Neets’s mother representing the liberal hippy generation and the various other residents stand for the strong LGBTQA+ community – one iconic event makes its memorable debut: San Francisco Pride. We sadly have to say farewell to it after Nomi’s passes out during the Dyke March, but is perfectly placed at the opening to the show to reveal Nomi and Neets’s astounding love.
Seoul gets some rather diverse shots through Sun’s perspective, leading us through fight clubs, towering office buildings, peaceful parks, and karaoke bars. But probably my favorite location is the stream in Cheonggyecheon. It features one of the most serene yet emotional scenes where Capheus helps Sun decide whether to sacrifice herself to the police to protect her father and brother, or let her brother take the fall and destroy her family. The calm atmosphere almost makes you forget about Sun’s inner turmoil, a perfectly parallel to her personality.
In contrast to highly developed Seoul, Nairobi appears a bit more stratified with Capheus’s storyline. Though Nairobi is a sprawling metropolis, we spend much of our time with the “slums” of Kibera where Capheus lives with his mother. Here, we learn of his financial struggles which drive much of his decisions, particularly giving the costs of the HIV medication his mother needs. But on the other end of the spectrum we discover the lavish estate of Mr. Kabaka, his powerful employer, who flaunts his wealth while ranting about being robbed by traitors. Like many of the characters, Capheus’s story is left rather open ended with the season finale, and I hope we get to see more sides to his city in the upcoming season, rather than just the obvious rich and poor contrasts.
gary718 / Shutterstock.com
Probably one of the most unique attractions featured in Sense8 was the Holocaust Memorial, aka the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This chilling memorial appears twice in the series: once in “What’s Going On?” where Wolfgang and Felix first meet their diamond dealer, and later in “Just Turn the Wheel and the Future Changes,” where all the characters save – Lito and Riley – wander through the alleyways. Though the scenes appear vastly different, the first compliments the others, as the diamond dealer says he comes here when he must make a hard decision. The second appearance displays that perfectly as each character stands at a crossroad and must come to a a final decision.
Lito and Fernando’s storyline is probably one of my favorites, so its no wonder I ended up loving the time spent in Mexico City gets throughout the show. Since Mexico doesn’t always get the best portrayal in films or shows, it was a nice change to see Mexico City as a very metropolitan city that’s rich in art and culture. My second favorite scene occurs at the Museum of Fine Arts where Lito and Fernando had their first date. Its paired perfectly with another meeting of souls between Lito and Nomi, who reveal their personal struggles being LGBT and how all their hardships have shaped them, for better or worse.
Mumbai is probably one of the most fascinating and complex cities featured in the series, struggle between the push for secular progress on one end and the conservation of sacred traditions and beliefs on the other. This is almost perfectly shown through Kala, a pharmacist and devout Hindu who stands for both halves of the debates while taking no side at all. Instead, Kala’s struggle revolves around whether she should follow her heart and end her engagement, or follow through to please all members involved. This internal battle will hopefully continue into next season and we’ll get to see the results of both her engagement and the larger philosophical battle the secular and religious groups in Mumbai.
Because we have a bit of a landscape crush on Iceland, we have to talk about its appearance in the series’s last few episodes. We get to see this diverse country’s raging winters, peaceful summer, otherwordly beaches, and artistic music hall, all the while dealing with the ghosts of Riley’s past. Probalby teh two most notable sites are the above Black Sand (aka Reynisfjara) and the Harpa concert hall below. Both feature some emotional gripping scenes, but they’re also some of the most beautiful attractions in a country of numerous beautiful attractions, so we were glad they got featured near the end of the season. The final shots leave us in this amazing country so we can expect to begin there in season 2. We’re hoping for more scenic shots, but for plot reasons we cannot help but hope Riley and Will can get out safely.
f11photo / Shutterstock.com