Jason Momoa eyes Game of Thrones-style action in See on Apple TV Plus
Review: Apple's streaming service launches with an entertaining vision from the creator of Peaky Blinders.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
See is one of the exclusive TV shows and movies available when
streaming service launches Friday Nov. 1, along with Apple originals Dickinson, The Morning Show and For All Mankind. It begins with atmospheric opening titles shrouded in darkness and offering only tantalizing glimpses of the things around you as your heartbeat turns into a drumbeat.
Then we find ourselves among tree-covered mountains, heavy with mist and silence. Up the mountain a baby is being born, while below an army of witch finders creeps closer. The remote tribe fights to defend their home, but tensions among the superstitious mountain dwellers threaten to tear them apart.
As if all that weren't enough, everyone's blind. Like, literally blind.
In this post-apocalyptic landscape, a virus has removed the sight of the few remaining humans. This is the twist that makes See look different from other fantasy shows, and it's at its best when its exploring how people survive in a world they can't see.
Sentries are replaced by scent-iers -- geddit? -- who sniff the air to figure out what's coming their way. Mountain dwellers use guide ropes and guttural call and response to find their way along the edges of a cliff. The interpersonal conflict takes on a delicious extra dimension as characters literally can't see what others around them are doing or who they're conspiring with.
Former Game of Thrones star Momoa is a sight for sore eyes in the lead role. In the kingdom of the blind, the star of Aquaman wears the crown, and whether preparing for battle with a snarling haka dance or literally fist fighting a bear he carries both his tribe and the story with his sheer physical presence.
He's also a hunk with a heart, making eyes at his newborn babies and prowling over the treacherous mountainside with the graceful movements of a capoeira dancer. But even though his character's blindness has him fumbling and feeling his way around, he moves with a coiled menace that very clearly informs you that the second he figures out where you are, you're in trouble.
Momoa leads a rural tribe that doesn't see eye to eye with a troupe of sneering leather-clad zealots, and everybody's bristling with grubby beards and fiendishly brutal semi-medieval weaponry. It's all a bit silly, obviously, especially when the cast spout lines about "the godson" and "the eternal smooth." At times, it might put you in mind of that post-apocalyptic '90s show The Tribe. But See observes the Game of Thrones template by anchoring fantasy in committedly deadpan performances and eyefuls of wince-inducing violence. And like Thrones, the po-faced action often slithers into the lurid, whether it's a bloody battle or a method of praying that wouldn't go down very well in your local church.
Also like Thrones, the world envisioned by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight has its own lore and backstory. Fortunately, it's a lot simpler to keep your eye on than the multifaceted factions of Westeros, or other complex shows like Westworld and Watchmen.
Intriguingly, the lack of sight doesn't just affect the way the people interact with their environment physically, but ideologically as well. They're attuned to the sounds of nature, and even claim to hear a lie in a person's voice. But they also seek signs and symbols to guide their decisions, relying on certain members of the tribe to prophecy the future -- and the truth of those prophecies remains to be seen.
In this superstitious world the very notion of sight is seen as dangerous heresy, which allows rulers to keep their people in the dark. See reminds us that when you close your eyes to truth, avert your gaze from fear and lose sight of justice, the real blindness is blind faith -- in religion, in corrupt leaders, in the status quo.
See? It's a metaphor!
One of See's blind spots, meanwhile, is a tendency -- perhaps ironically -- to tell us things instead of showing them. Recall the shocking impact of the opening scene of A Quiet Place, a similar story that suspensefully showed you a world in which you had to be quiet and then devastatingly demonstrated the dangers of that world. See, by contrast, dumps its intriguing premise on us in an onscreen caption. It's a quick shortcut into an unfamiliar world, sure, but it misses the opportunity to bind us to these characters by drawing us into their reality.
Shortly after, some guy wanders in and starts explaining chunks of backstory. And there's a name repeated by everyone throughout the first episode that seems to be building to a big reveal, except right at the start of episode 2 -- well, I won't spoil it.
You can see the first three episodes for yourself when
Apple TV Plus
launches, followed by new episodes every Friday. Luckily, Apple has seen fit to offer a seven-day free trial. For more information on how to watch and whether it'll work on your devices or in your country, check out our complete guide to Apple TV Plus.
A few storytelling shortcuts aside, See is an entertaining post-Thrones watch. I've certainly seen worse.