Netflix and the curious case of Sense8

Netflix and the curious case of Sense8

A sad twist to the start of Pride month led to the uproar of many in the LGBT+ community. After two seasons, Netflix pulled the plug on its critically acclaimed original series, Sense8. Though publicly popular, it is undetermined whether the viewership numbers (unavailable to the public) were as high as estimated. It probably has something to do with the overall lack of advertising done to promote the show, but who I am to say for sure? 

On the first of the month, Netflix Vice-President of Original Content, Cindy Holland announced:

“After 23 episodes, 16 cities and 13 countries, the story of the Sense8 cluster is coming to an end. It is everything we and the fans dreamed it would be: bold, emotional, stunning, kick ass, and outright unforgettable. Never has there been a more truly global show with an equally diverse and international cast and crew, which is only mirrored by the connected community of deeply passionate fans all around the world. We thank Lana, Lilly, Joe and Grant for their vision, and the entire cast and crew for their craftsmanship and commitment." 

Sense8 fans started a petition and the backlash against Netflix has been severe. Everyone, it seems, has something to say on the topic. Including me. 

I just caught up with season two and this is how Netflix congratulates me on another two day binge?

I am unhappy (there’s a stronger word, but I think I’ll refrain and let you fill in the blank as you will).

All I want is to embrace a diverse and LGBT+ friendly show that has the super amazing added bonus of being a goddamned SciFi — is that really so much to ask?

Well, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest — actually, nope, one more thing (spoiler alert for those not caught up just yet) — where the hell is Wolfgang?

But back to the problem at hand. 

The news left fans everywhere stunned that a show with a diverse and international cast and crew had been cancelled. Viewers are devastated — to the point where many tweeted at Netflix with images of cancelled subscriptions. The show, estimated to have cost $12 million an episode, could have been overpriced — but it seems more complicated.

Though Netflix has stepped away from traditional television and shown its openness to new and crazy ideas, the abrupt endings to Sense8 and other Netflix originals (The Get Down, Marco Polo, Hemlock Grove) are perplexing.

Netflix has the capacity to steer the direction of their shows, which prompts me to ask: why the abrupt end? 

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings discussed this during a podcast with CNBC:

"I’m always pushing the content team: we have to take more risks; you have to try more crazy things. Because we should have a higher cancel rate overall. Because then what you get is you get some winners that are just unbelievable winners, like 13 Reasons Why over the last three months has been a big hit for us. And you know, it surprised us too. I mean it was a great show, but we didn't realize just how it would catch on."

With this comment, it is hard not to judge with extreme side-eye that high-calibre shows like Sense8 were cut off for the likes of 13 Reasons Why — a supposedly well-meaning show that could well be doing more harm than good.

If Netflix insists that it be curtains for shows like Sense8 and The Get Down, our best hope might be that somewhere down line, these shows get the endings they deserve.

Editor's Note: We updated the quote attributed to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings for better accuracy. Thank you for bearing with us as we strive to uphold rigorous journalistic standards.

Article last updated 6-12-17 at 4:03 PM.

Rebecca Costello is a twenty-one year old English Major interested in delving into the field of literature and screenwriting. She was previously both Editor and Nonfiction Editor for her college's annual literary magazine and is currently knee-deep in Saskatchewan history, working full-time in a historical museum for the summer. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.