Why you should catch up with See on Apple TV+
James R | On 01, Nov 2019
This spoiler-free review is based on the whole of Season 1.
From Peaky Blinders and Taboo to even Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, there’s no doubt that Steven Knight is a man who knows an interesting idea for a TV show when he sees it. That’s true once again for the biggest Apple TV+ launch title: the dystopian fantasy thriller See. Set in a future where a virus has decimated mankind and left the survivors blind, it’s a fascinating concept executed with a glossy budget and gritty conviction.
Jason Momoa – because who else? – plays Baba Voss, the leader of the tribe who has recently married an outsider: Maghra (Hera Hilmar). She is pregnant, but not with his children: their father is the infamous Jerlamarel (Joshua Henry), an elusive, mysterious figure who is suspected of witchcraft. Actually, his sinister reputation stems from another kind of ability altogether: he can see. Inevitably, his children, Haniwa (Nesta Cooper) and Kofun (Archie Madekwe) inherit that gift, which makes them a target for Tamacti Jun (Christian Camargo), a witch hunter and tax collector rolled into one violent package – essentially the worst local authority official you could possibly imagine. And so the stage is set for a boiling pot of tensions, with tribes on the brink of warfare, children on the brink of adulthood and independence, and humanity on the brink of a rediscovered, much-feared power.
The series doesn’t waste time trying to get things simmering, ostensibly racing through more than a decade in its opening three episodes. A constant source of heat is Momoa, whose hairy, hulking presence is put to excellent use as a character whose defining traits are, well, being hairy and hulking. Carmargo is equally well cast as the loathsome henchman, while Sylvia Hoeks is wonderfully over-the-top as Queen Kane, the head of a rival tribe holed up at a nearby dam. In between them all, Alfre Woodard quietly brings gravitas as the tribe’s spiritual leader, Paris, who emerges as a vital adviser to Baba Voss.
But the real star of this show isn’t the ensemble of characters; it’s the world-building going on around them. Knight’s conceived a convincingly detailed community that uses ropes to communicate and sounds to detect enemies in their midst. Director Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games, Constantine) doesn’t do anything radical to depict the characters’ perspectives of the world, but he shoots some jaw-dropping action sequences that are choreographed in a unique way (the cast may not be inclusive but the crew of the programme is sizeably made up of people with visual impairments). The lush landscapes in the background, too, bring a breathtaking sense of scale.
While you initially wait for the show to grow into a fully fledged epic, See’s strength is the way that it dares to keep things small – even as the world expands, the focus narrows on Baba Voss and his kids. That means a welcome chance for Nesta Cooper and Archie Madekwe to capture both the excitement and isolation that comes with their coveted ability, a combination that feeds into distrust of them by the wider world and vice versa. And, as the show inexorably moves them towards Jerlamarel, what emerges is a furious, intense and intimate story of nature, nurture, loyalty and love. Joshua Henry charismatically subverts our expectations, making sure that his egotist outsider isn’t who we expect him to be, and the climactic showdown between him and Baba Voss turns this deceptively heartfelt story into a clash of fatherly duty. Who’s the real aberration here? That’s the question that See asks, and that ambitiously emotional canvas forms the bases of a tale where sentiment trumps senses.
Even with the occasional duff bit of dialogue, there’s a gruff earnestness to this whole outlandish premise that’s undeniably involving. It’s hard not to enjoy a programme so sincerely committed to its own ideas, especially when they’re this well thought-out. Packed with action that feels refreshingly different to the TV norm, there’s than enough gruff potential on display to make See worth a look.
See is available on Apple TV+, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, with a seven-day free trial. For more information on Apple TV+ and how to get it, click here.