Mon. Nov 18th, 2019

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See Season 1 Episode #02 – Message in a Bottle Review

6 min read

What They Say:
A special gift for the twins sparks tension in the group.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The opening episode of this series put a lot of the foundational aspects out there so that we could understand this world that exists hundreds of years from now. Suspending disbelief isn’t easy for some who are watching, or there are strange expectations with it, but I found the first episode to be quite engaging with what it wanted to do. It presented a solid journey to establish the new colony for the Alkenny group, giving them respite from the hunt that Witch Hunters were on. We saw a good bit of both sides of these groups and how they operate and some of the ways they’ve adapted over the centuries. All of it tickles a particular fancy of mine in a really good way while doing something difficult in this format. A world of the blind in a book is easier to write and work with since it’s all descriptive. It’s far more of a challenge in this medium but they’ve set up things in a good way so far I think.

With this episode, it takes place just after where we left off as opposed to moving forward a lot. We get a very fun moment as Baba Voss is walking through the woods with the twins only to be attacked by a bear. While he’s a good warrior being caught unaware doesn’t help and things naturally look dire. But what we get is the arrival of Jerlamarel who takes down the bear and provides some new instructions for Voss in taking care of his children. It sets the stage for that future, placing items in secret for them when they’re twelve years old and can understand it better, and giving him both tools to help survive until then as well as providing some reassurance that they are safe here for that time. It’s a brief sequence overall but Jerlamarel brings just enough to the table to cement things well. Plus, I like that we do get to see him for a bit so that he’s not just a figure of mystery for the run of the show.

The show takes an interesting turn early as Baba Voss brings that back to his hut to go over with Maghra but also to bring Paris in on it. With it filled with trinkets and books that will help to educate the child, the hut also has another person paying attention. We see prior to this that there are those that distrust Paris after some past events, notably the unknown traitor that is Gether. What we also discover is that each village has something called a Shadow, a person that operates within it unseen but part of it all. It’s a really neat sequence in seeing the incredibly silent woman come to their calling and then agree to watch Paris in order to see what she’s up to. Shadow, surprisingly, doesn’t reveal what she learns by listening in on that conversation, and that will add a new wrinkle down the line. But even Gether realizes that Shadow isn’t telling all and that feels like it goes against how they usually operate. But it makes clear that Shadow sees the real value of these children who may be cursed/gifted with sight.

While there are dangers lurking in their new home, what we see back at the dam is far more dangerous. Queen is focused only on Tamacti Jun bringing back Jerlamarel as we saw before and now months later of searching and torching villages has lead them no closer. Some of her court are basically adding falshoods to the messages being sent back to get Kane to focus on the realities going on at the dam but she’s far too aware of this kind of manipulation, resulting in her killing three of her own very quickly. While there was the initial idea that she was seeking Jerlamarel to mete out punishment for betrayal, the reality is that she is madly taken with him and wants him to sire children with sight that can lead all of them to greater power. She’s simply corrupt in her own way and is playing a harsh and cruel style of leadership in order to keep power. Again, all while things around the dam continue to fall apart.

The show does give us the first leap forward in this episode of some significance, advancing three years and showing how the Alkenny are doing. They’ve made good homes for themselves at this point and are still a very close-knight group overall. The children, Haniwa and Kofun, have been engaging well with the world but Maghra has realized that they do have sight having tested them. It’s understandable the concern because of how many in the village feel about such things and if they should find out it’ll be potentially disastrous. I like that Baba Voss reveals to Maghra and Paris that he’s known for a while but he’s intent on keeping the promise to Jerlamarel, which for Maghra means that they must live with closed eyes until they’re of age.

We get a really neat longer montage, under a story told by Maghra, that shows what Tamacti Jun and his group are up to in basically savaging the landscape and its people to find Jerlamarel or the children. We see the children as they grow older, observing what’s around them in a way the rest can’t but also doing their best to understand and exist like everyone else so that they can fit in and not draw notice to how different they are. It’s a difficult balance but it unfolds really well here while also exposing more the deep rift that it has caused between the adults aware of all of this. Of course, Paris feels that the children must know and begin their studying and growth now, causing her to reveal the truth to just the children. That’s a dangerous move, one that makes Kofun feel isolated and disbelieving while Haniwa is forced into more responsibility as she has to ensure her brother doesn’t speak of this. And to get him to begin learning, which once she does start with him, is exactly what he needed to be drawn into this larger world.

In Summary:
As I poke a bit further into the series with the three episodes that are available at launch – giving myself space between them – I also look and see how the show is being received elsewhere just to get a sample of some of the talk about it. It’s unfortunate that it’s not doing well and I’m not quite sure why, especially since half the comments basically make you feel like that people don’t understand just how much blind people can actually do. For me, this series hits a real sweet spot with its beautiful visuals, intriguing ideas in how it works with everyone blind, and in the post-apocalyptic recovery aspects. It’s not a direct comparison but it reminds me of the novel The Postman and others like it, showing the way back to civilization along the way but also making it clear how civilization will be changed by what humanity has gone through. I’m thrilled that this show is getting its shot at simply existing and that it has a second season coming and I hope that more people discover it that are open to what it’s attempting to do.

Grade: A-

Streamed By: Apple TV+

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