Slightly mad, madly majestic and overwhelming, Netflix's new offering Sense8 is one of the most ambitious sci-fi dramas on TV since the Battlestar Galactica reboot in 2004.

I'd expect nothing less from Sense8's creators, Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy, Jupiter Ascending) and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Crusade).

Netflix will post the 12-episode first season in its entirety on Friday.

A literate, deeply cinematic series that juggles more storylines per episode than networks cover in an entire season, Sense8 is about eight young men and women spread out around the globe who suddenly begin sharing one another's senses.

In twos, threes, sometimes in fours, they hear and smell and see the same things. They also gain the ability to communicate telepathically.

None of the eight "sensates" - as their would-be guide, Jonas (Naveen Andrews of Lost), calls them - have any idea what's happening to them. In the opening episodes, Sense8 has great fun showing the characters' reactions as they begin floating in and out of one another's consciousness.

Shot on location on four continents, Sense8 takes its time building its characters into believable, sympathetic, three-dimensional people, exploring their relationships with lovers and family.

San Francisco blogger Nomi Marks (Jamie Clayton) is a trans woman who fights for acceptance; Chicago cop Will Gorski (Brian J. Smith) is shunned by fellow officers when he saves the life of a teenage gang member; Riley (Tuppence Middleton), an Icelandic DJ making a name for herself in London, finds herself in the middle of a quadruple homicide; Nairobi bus driver Capheus (Aml Ameen) struggles to raise money to pay for his mother's AIDS medication.

(The rest of the eight live in Mexico City; Mumbai, India; Berlin; and Seoul, South Korea.)

Sense8 features many of the usual trappings of the genre - the sensates begin to fight for justice even as they are being hunted by a shadowy government organization.

But Sense8 offers so much more.

Packed with entertaining visuals, it's also rich in characterization, even featuring a few very funny storylines. The show also manages to explore serious questions about sexual politics, civil liberties, economic inequality, and the legacy of colonialism.

TV REVIEW

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Sense8

All 12 season-one episodes available on Friday on Netflix. EndText

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