It’s been said that in the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king. See, a new science fiction drama premiering Friday on Apple TV+, aims to test that theory. And it turns out the odds may not be in the favor of those with sight.
See envisions Earth 600 years in the future, after a disease has decimated the human population and left the survivors blind. Needless to say, after centuries without sight, humanity has learned to function with only four senses. Moreover, vision has become a feared myth. Those that are suspected of having the ability are considered heretics and accused of witchcraft.
Viewers' entry point into this world is the tribe of the Alkenny, which has taken in a pregnant woman, Maghra (Hera Hilmer), who quickly married the tribe’s leader, Jason Momoa’s Baba Voss. Although they’re not his children, Baba Voss raises Meghra’s twins as his own. However, the couple soon realize the children have the ability to see, which could prove a threat to everything they know.
The three episodes available for review are increasingly compelling. Unfortunately, however, it’s the pilot that’s by far the weakest of the batch. After a brief set of chyrons establishing the premise, the show takes off running. Meghra is about to give birth, aided by tribal elder Paris (Alfre Woodard), while Baba Voss and the rest of the tribe prepare to defend their mountain-top village against the witchfinders who are about to attack.
The witchfinders are on a mission for Queen Kane (Sylvia Hoeks), the dictator of another community, who’s searching for a supposedly sighted heretic they suspect may have fathered Meghra’s children. Within the first 10 minutes, the Alkenny are hyping themselves up and charging into battle.
Yet while the pilot works to establish the world of See, and is beautifully shot and edited, it doesn’t penetrate on an emotional level. There’s plenty of action and intrigue, but we don’t yet care about the characters, so the episode becomes long and tedious. Plus, the pilot seems enamored with its high-concept premise but doesn't appear to have anything deeper on its mind.
The side effect is that the extended fight sequences invite scrutiny. According to the actors and filmmakers, the production did an extensive amount of research on what it’s like to be blind, and the characters’ lack of sight was considered in every frame. However while watching this first episode, parts of the battle sequences come across as a bit too polished.
It’s in the second episode, after the Alkenny escape their persecutors, that See becomes significantly more interesting. As Baba Voss and Meghra's twins grow, and they have to determine the best way to deal with their children’s mysterious ability, both the characters and the show itself become far more nuanced.
The entire cast, which includes several blind and low-vision actors, is strong. While he looks to be playing a strong-man character similar to his roles in Game of Thrones and Aquaman, Momoa displays more range here, especially during tough and tender moments with Baba Voss’ adopted son and daughter.
Also, while the most obvious conceit of the series may be its sightless civilization, it’s also fascinating to encounter a future dystopia that isn’t based around advanced technology. Instead, in See, humanity has devolved technologically and scientifically, resulting in a much more primitive culture. It’s in the third episode, when the sighted twins, Haniwa (Nesta Cooper) and Kofun (Archie Madekwe), start to learn from books and develop an understanding of the world unlike anything the rest of humanity could fathom, that the show’s premise starts to pay off.
The twins have different perspectives on their ability to see, and their responses help to illustrate many ideas, including the roots of prejudice and fear, the positives and negatives of education, and what makes an individual superior to others. That's not say the series becomes excessively heady and didactic. Instead, by See's third episode, these ideas are embedded in an entertaining story with characters who have become much more complex and emotionally engaging.
The show also sets up several mysteries and other ongoing storylines that will continue to play out through the remainder of the series’ eight episodes. Despite the weak start, by episode three, I was hooked. I was invested in Baba Voss’ family and wanted to know what happens to them next. If you can make it past the pilot, I suspect you will be too.
Starring Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard, See will launch with Apple TV+ on Friday, Nov. 1.