Jason Momoa Returns to Battle in the Apocalyptic Future of Apple TV Plus Series ‘See’
Apple TV Plus jumps into fantasy sci-fi television with “See,” one of those shows where the future isn’t just apocalyptic, but nearly prehistoric. As a bold gesture it proves the new streaming service is willing to splurge on grandiose visuals and expensive shoots amid forests and rain. Overall it looks great with its stellar production values. What kind of audience it reaches might depend on just how committed the viewer to this genre however.
In a distant future most of humanity has been wiped away by some as yet to be explained virus. Since then human beings have been born blind and are reduced to roaming bands of tribes or groups. In the forest world of the series the only stable area is a spot called Payan Kingdom, which is powered by a dam and lorded over by the ominous Queen Kane (Sylvia Hoeks). On the outskirts we meet a group of hunters led by Baba Voss (Jason Momoa). But his own group is suspicious of Baba’s new love, a woman named Maghra (Hera Hilmar), who wandered into the tribe already pregnant with twins. Soon a band of “Witchfinders” arrive searching for Maghra. Not only do they suspect her of being a witch, but of having been impregnated by a man who can actually see. Led by the ruthless Tamacti Jun (Christian Camargo), the Witchfinders will stop at nothing to get Maghra. Baba’s group splits and he and those loyal to him disappear into the woods, seeking a new place to settle and live in safety. But Kane herself is also seeking the babies.
“See” is the brainchild of writer Steven Knight, best known for many feature films and TV shows like “Taboo” and “Peaky Blinders.” His first offering for Apple TV Plus is an obvious attempt at banking on the void for an epic fantasy series left by HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” It’s no coincidence the lead is Jason Momoa, who before surfing the seven seas as “Aquaman” became famous as warlord Khal Drogo in that show. In fact much of his work here feels like a reprisal of that role. Momoa once again dons rugged leather and fur attire, snarls, grunts and wields large, sharp weapons and then stops to utter sentimental lines to Maghra in a hut. This is not to say Momoa is not well-cast. He’s perfect for this kind of role which depends more on the use of his large build, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Conan the Barbarian.” He’s got presence to spare. You almost feel Knight is using an in-joke when Maghra tells Baba she prefers a man who can take care of her than one who actually understands her.
Much of the first episodes of the season are extended battles with Baba Voss leading his people away from the Witchfinders, which is tricky when you’re all blind. The world-building of “See” suffers a bit from the sense of Knight trying so hard that nearly every bit of dialogue is meant to explain or describe a ritual, some fantasy history or locale with minute detail. Unlike “Game of Thrones” nobody stops to have an actual, natural-sounding conversation. However there are many fun, entertaining details that ponder the rules of this futuristic setting. How do roaming bands battle blind? For one thing they make sounds for signals, at one point during an intense bridge-crossing Baba snaps his fingers for a companion to find his way to the group. Knight also dabbles in classic sci-fi weirdness, like Queen Kane praying to some unknown deity while masturbating, then meeting with some underground council dressed in cloaks. Sylvia Hoeks fits nicely with the role, bringing to it the kind of tone you’d expect from Tilda Swinton. Alfre Woodard is slightly underused as Paris, the midwife who doesn’t just help Maghra give birth in the season premiere but also utters prophetic cadences.
Where “See” is going is hard to tell from the first three episodes which were made available for review. It succeeds in establishing a lot of great atmosphere and memorable visuals. Sharing in directing duties is Francis Lawrence, who directed the apocalyptic worlds of “I Am Legend” and three of the “Hunger Games” movies. Fantasy has always depended on imagination and this series certainly has it. Its only true flaw is that the material feels as if it’s trying too hard to explain itself rather than just let us discover this world as the story progresses. What we truly want to know is yet to come, like a clearer idea of what this cataclysmic virus that wiped out humanity (as opposed to nuclear war) actually was. For now its blend of strange rituals, rugged chases and battles may appeal to the diehard fantasy genre fan.
“See” is more confirmation that Apple TV Plus is serious about offering a diverse selection of material for the audience it hopes to grab. With talent like Jason Momoa going into battle for them, we will definitely keep tuning in.
“See” season one premieres Nov. 1 with new episodes streaming every Friday on Apple TV+.