What They Say:
A journey of survival begins when an army of Witchfinders attacks the village of Alkenny.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While I can understand why a lot of people may not see much to look at with the opening slate of title for the Apple TV+ service, the trailer for See really caught me for a few reasons. One is that it reminded me of a lot of fantasy novels I read as a kid growing up in the 80s where after some time they would reveal it took place in our future. The series also had my interest as I’ve liked a number of writer Steven Knight’s works, more so on film than TV, and was really keen to see what he can do here. And director Francis Lawrence definitely had me interested as he has a great eye for visuals with work on I Am Legend as well as the Hunger Games films. And while Red Sparrow was problematic, the visual design and the way it moved kept me enraptured with it.
The other piece, quite frankly, is Jason Momoa. I thoroughly enjoyed him in Game of Thrones but that was a limited role. His works since then have been hit or miss to varying degrees but I like the guy and his screen presence. It’s been a matter of finding the right roles. I’m excited to see his take on Dune next year but I’ve struggled with his turn as Aquaman because it is such a radical departure even as much as I enjoyed that solo film. So a series like this is something that feels like it’s in his wheelhouse, especially after Frontier, where he can take it to another level and challenge things. He’s had a strong TV career over the years and I still have fond memories of his extensive role in Stargate Atlantis.
The premise for this is certainly up my alley as after a cataclysmic event in the 21st century, only two million people survived. Over time and as they emerged from that disaster, they found themselves without sight and grew to adapt to the world like that in small pockets of people that went back to nature for the most part. This is the big area where you have to suspend disbelief but once you settle into the narrative it works well as you see the way that they’ve built their lives. We’re given focus to two groups, one that is known as the Alkenny that lives in the mountains and the others that live alongside the kanzua dam. That’s a distorted version of the Kinzua Dam in Pennsylvania which connects us to the Alkenny as the survivors in the Allegheny area. It’s a nice bit of simple distortion down the centuries that appeals.
Those at the dam have some amount of technology, better housing, a limited amount of power from the dam that they view as gifts from god. Those gifts are slowly failing because of the course of time is really wearing it down and that’s raising a lot of tension for Queen Kane. Particularly as she’s been very distracted by sending a significant part of her army and best soldiers to hunt for a man named Jerlamarel. A servant of hers that she became somewhat enamored of, he claimed to have the gift of sight, which is a big heresy in this world as the time of people who had sight has come to an end because of the destruction they’ve wrought on the world. While those who provide guidance to her want to focus on the more immediate issues, she wants Jerlamarel found and ups the ante as more information comes in.
That they’ve been searching for over six months says a lot but we learn that he’s tied to a young woman named Maghra who ended up in the village where Baba Voss is in charge. Supposedly lost amid a blizzard, she was three months pregnant and was taken in by Voss as he couldn’t have children himself and it made the most sense, particularly as they do seem to have grown quite close together. Naturally, it becomes easy to put two and two together where the twins that are being born as the show opens are really from and why Queen Kane wants them so badly. The show sets all of this up well and gives us some intriguing action sequences as we see how scouts and watch posts operate, traitors within seek favor, and actual combat that results in the end of the tribe being in Alkenny. As I said, those who read this kind of fiction back in the 80s and earlier will find plenty of familiar pieces and we get a solid journey that takes us to a sanctuary where we can begin to watch the kids grow (with some time jumps ahead, it seems) so as to begin to explore how they’ll change the world.
Coming in at just a hair over an hour for its opening episode, See is a really engaging show so far. I really enjoyed the pacing of it as it doesn’t try to rush things, letting you adjust to how they live and seeing through the journey the way they handle such things (with a little help along the way). While the actors are still plenty visible as to who they are – Alfre Woodard looks great no matter what – they’re also not “TV pretty” like in The 100 or something. There are some neat things that we get from the Alkenny side from what we see of them and the whole of the kanzua dam is ripe for exploration as they likely have even more customs because of their setting and structured hierarchy. Just the touches of technology alone gives it a neat feeling as it plays out.
While it’s easy to trash the show on the trailer and the concept, which I certainly saw a good deal of from when it first landed, it left me really curious to see if they could pull it off. The opening episode puts the show in a good position to do so as we get the main sides set up for now, hints of greater purpose in the offing, real challenges faced, and some absolutely stunning cinematography. Francis Lawrence was going to provide something like that as a given and while it was filmed in British Columbia, it captures that kind of universal look for something like this. It’s beautifully shot and is practically worth watching for that element alone if the story itself doesn’t draw you in enough.
Streamed By: Apple TV+