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Apple TV+ review: 'See' is no 'Game of Thrones'


3.0 / 5

"See" is Apple's stab at a high-budget post-apocalyptic dramatic series, meant to reverberate faint echoes of "Game of Thrones." Sadly, the table-setting for the show's future is akin to that of a slog, bruised by a concept that lacks the compulsion to seduce viewers out of the gate.

Jason Momoa in "See," premiering November 1 on Apple TV+. (Photo courtesy of Apple)

In the not too distant future, a catastrophic virus kills off most of the world's population, while leaving all of the few survivors blind. Centuries more pass, and most people believe that sight was a power that humans simply never had. That is, until a woman gives birth to twins, who can see. This sets off a battle, with those children becoming valuable in the eyes of a villainous queen (Sylvia Hoeks, best known from Blade Runner 2049.)

See allegedly cost $15 million an episode, which is comparable to the price tag for Game of Thrones towards the end of its run. That Game of Thrones vibe is amplified by Jason Momoa, who starred on the first season of that show, is the star here.

But unlike, say, The Morning Show, which cost Apple a fortune in actor salaries, most of See's budget appears to have gone towards effects.

While the series starts slow, there are a handful of intriguing moments in the first three episodes, which AppleInsider has seen. Notably, there's an especially nerve-wracking sequence in the first episode in which the blind characters lead each other across a rickety bridge, which provides the show with some palpable tension that it's missing most of the rest of the time.

Eventually, things pick up, as the babies grow up, gain the ability to read books, and therefore regain human knowledge beyond anyone else alive.

The series was filmed in British Columbia, and features lots of vistas familiar from that province's tourism commercials. That leads to some amazing photography, much of it of trees and rivers. Given the location and conceit of the show, it was inevitable that Momoa would fight a bear, and he does, early in the second episode.

And yes, there's some sexuality and violence, beyond the level of what one would find on network television. In the third episode, in fact, one character shoves a sword down the throat of another — so this is in no way the "nice" Apple that was predicted.

The score is by Bear McCreary, of The Walking Dead and Battlestar Galactica, which sounds more than a little like the music of Momoa's former show.

A lackluster world

But ultimately, the series is set in a world that's not all that interesting. The great 2006 film Children of Men had a slightly similar premise in the shocking arrival of a baby disrupting a post-apocalyptic world. Not only does See not take as much advantage of the premise, but isn't nearly as visually inventive as Alfonso Cuaron's film was.

It also doesn't help that Momoa, who's shown himself to be a compelling performer in his 2018 Aquaman movie and in a recent Saturday Night Live hosting stint, isn't given much opportunity to show his personality beyond the great name of "Baba Voss." Hera Hilmar plays the mother of the twins, while veteran character actress Alfre Woodard is Paris, the leader of a tribe.

The series has eight episodes, but they'll be spread out a little different from most of the Apple TV+ shows. The first three will arrive at launch on November 1, and the fourth through eighth episodes will arrive weekly, on Fridays, with the season finale debuting December 6. Each first-season episode was written by English screenwriter Steven Knight (Eastern Promises and Peaky Blinders) and directed by Francis Lawrence, best known for The Hunger Games.

See, like three of the other debut shows, has been renewed already for a second season, although The Hollywood Reporter revealed recently that a different creative team will be running the series going forward — and we think this is a good thing.

It continues the trend, with the new Apple TV+ shows, that the series with an entrenched creator are more successful out of the gate than those without one.

This is not Westeros

Based on what we've seen thus far of See, it has a chance to appeal to fans of dystopian fantasy anad sci-fi, as well as those who who are big Jason Momoa fans, and would prefer to see him lead factions and fight bears rather than crack wise and otherwise show his personality.

In the current streaming wars, it appears, most networks and streaming services are looking for their own Game of Thrones.

Apple TV+ may one day have one of those, but See, at least based on its start, is not that.