Why the ‘Sense8’ Revival Is Actually Bad News for Netflix Fans

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Netflix)

We did it, guys! We got Sense8 back!

Following lengthy fan petitions, Netflix has announced that the cult favorite show, which was cancelled two months ago, will be returning for a two-hour special finale that will wrap up the show.

But be warned about this – while the Sense8 revival is very welcome, there will be a price to pay for this victory. The petitions, emails, and social media posts that convinced Netflix to greenlight this special finale will have unintended consequences for how the company does business going forward.

Netflix has been a little coy about revealing the specific numbers, but one thing’s certain: for whatever reason, the company felt like not enough people were watching Sense8 to justify producing more episodes.

Netflix isn’t paid per episode of content, so low figures by themselves aren’t enough to endanger a show. The bigger indicator of success for a Netflix show is, if anything, word of mouth – the more people are convincing their friends to sign up to Netflix to watch a certain show, the more likely it is that Netflix will feel that the expense is justified.

The problem that Sense8 ran into was that the online buzz wasn’t entirely positive. Plenty of reviewers did not like the show, and weren’t shy about saying so. Logically, then, as the viewing numbers didn’t show that a lot of people were signing up to Netflix in order to watch Sense8, the company pulled the plug – unaware that they were killing something that was very important to a small, dedicated fanbase.

The outpouring of fan outrage over Sense8’s cancellation hasn’t been enough to revitalize the show completely – it’s getting a finale, if anything, as a peace offering from Netflix. The two hour special is an apology of sorts, expressing regret at the fact that the Wachowski’s show simply didn’t grab the world the way that, say, Stranger Things did last summer.

Source: Netflix

So how will the fan campaigns come back to bite us? Because now, Netflix is aware of the danger of cancelling shows. The company is better off only allowing sure fire hits to make it to the streaming service, because anything that flops could potentially end up costing Netflix a lot more money – and negative press – if the company eventually has to pull the plug.

The logical next step for Netflix is to scale back their experimental programming in favor of safe, predictable shows. In other words, Netflix is going to have to align itself more with the standard television network formula, or else face further negative publicity from Sense8-style cancellations.

This really sucks because part of the reason that the Netflix umbrella of shows is so strong, is that creators are given the freedom to make weird and wonderful stuff. It’s hard to imagine Okja ever getting made by a traditional movie studio, and even the crowning Netflix jewel, Stranger Things, isn’t a particularly strong premise on paper.

If Netflix moves away from rapid fire experimental shows to focus on big tentpole successes that come with guaranteed fans, we’ll see more Fuller House type shows, and fewer Sense8s.

Depending on your personal media preferences, that might not be a big deal, but in the long run, safe, predictable storytelling is always going to be less interesting and enjoyable than risky stuff that develops a strong yet relatively small fanbase.

In other words, by trying so hard to bring Sense8 back from the dead, we might just have damaged any chance that we’ll see another similar cult show in the near future.

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