Apple TV+ will presumably build up substantial coffers with time, but for now, they’re attempting to harness the something-for-everyone monster with a handful of introductory series. With See, the tech giant hopes to satisfy those seeking a sprawling, epic series starring some impossibly beautiful people placed in gorgeous settings and engaging in some crazy action sequences. Yes, it sort-of feels like they’re aiming for Game of Thrones territory here because every streaming service wants one of those juggernauts. One can’t blame them for that quest, really, but at least with the three episodes screened for critics, Apple TV+ doesn’t quite satisfy that itch like Netflix’s Dark Crystal does. However, See does score more points than expected with its enormously budgeted, Jason Momoa-fronted effort.
See builds a world that’s wild and weird and a little bit wacky. Yet while extremely watchable, it’s full of contradictions, like dabbling in the absurd while tackling some sobering subjects. Likewise, the show’s visuals are so exquisite and jaw dropping that it’s difficult to look away, but that visual seduction includes graphically violent scenes that are intended for very mature audiences. The show also deviates wildly with its tone, which is tough to pin down. Honestly, I still can’t decide whether complexity or campiness reigns, but this show does provide honest-to-god entertainment value.
Actually, See is a bonkers ride, and here are only a few examples of why:
– A fur-cloaked Momoa, who enters like an amplified amalgamation of characters (Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones, Declan Harp in Frontier, and a touch of 2011’s Conan the Barbarian) who we’ve seen him play on previous occasions.
– Witch hunters, and plenty of them.
– “Echolocation” enlisted as an actual fighting and survival technique, so humans are virtually hanging with the bats and dolphins.
– A masturbating monarch (Sylvia Hoeks from Blade Runner 2049). That’s a big one.
– Impossibly stunning landscapes, shot in British Columbia, even though pretty much no one within the show can see them.
– An immediate, elaborate battle, and clashing and chants and childbirth and a massive flight scene, all right out of the gate.
We should probably boil this down a little more as far as what happens. Post-apocalyptic aficionado Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, the Hunger Games franchise) directs here, and Stephen Knight (Peaky Blinders) writes, and we’re dealing with a story that picks up several hundred years after a virus decimated humanity and rendered the remaining population (taken back to B.C. levels) blind. Alfre Woodard (winner of too many Emmys, Globes and other assorted awards) portrays a spiritual advisor with several side gigs. Momoa’s character, Boba Voss, leads the Alkenny Tribe and marries a pregnant outsider (Hera Hilmar), who births twins (Archie Madekwe and Nesta Cooper) that possess the now-mythical ability of sight and could make their village a target.
Lawrence and Knight don’t take their world-building task lightly. The pacing for the first three episodes is tight and moves almost too fast, leaping straight into the action and cranking up the pace to a point where the characters and the audience are rendered breathless. Given that the story advances so quickly, I frankly wonder where the first season’s eight-piece box could possibly end up after confronting enormous plot points (and making sweeping statements about human nature) so swiftly. A second-season is apparently already in the cards, but perhaps Apple knows where they’re going and simply wants to avoid the languid, bloated pace that many streaming series fall into today. The acting is certainly solid across the board, and maybe the show will calm down at some point because sustaining all this spectacle (and watching it) will surely be exhausting if this pace continues. We’ll see how that goes.
Given that this series relies so heavily upon visuals and sensuality, it’s best to watch this on a larger TV screen (Apple TV actually screened it for critics in a theater, which is telling). This presents the question of how many eyeballs See can retain if viewers largely tune in on small devices, which mute a lot of the show’s sensual edge. Like, a third-episode fight scene is sheer insanity to behold, with moves and weapons that are both sophisticated and downright antiquated. I can’t imagine watching this scene on an iPhone, that’d be a waste. In addition, a suspension of belief is required to watch this scene and the rest of the insane action sets — because even though the cast includes many low-sight and blind actors, the main players are only pretending to be blind. Yet the cast did attend a “blindness bootcamp” (led by Joe Strechay, a blindness consultant who was heavily involved in all stages of production), so they could learn to harness other senses and effectively “turn off” their eyes as much as possible.
It’s worth noting here that the actors’ eyes weren’t enhanced with contact lenses but through the magic of CGI. This probably came as a relief to the actors, but it’s also just a tiny example of how See represents what happens when Apple opens its pockets that have been filled with the sales of $700 smartphones. Don’t get me wrong, See is an overall pleasant viewing experience that asks profound questions about humanity’s connection (and disconnection) to Earth. It’s just freaking beautiful, honestly. The show makes itself at home in fight-or-flight territory, and hopefully as a viewer, one can surrender to sensuality and get whisked away into a brave (and scary) new world.
‘See’ arrives on November 1 with the launch of Apple TV+.