There’s a scene in See I would bet everything in my wallet (seven dollars, three old MetroCards, and five half-used coffee rewards cards) that it’ll go viral. It’s the one where Jason Momoa’s character picks up a book for the first time. Since the show is set centuries after a virus deprived humanity of sight, he has no idea what’s in his hands. He complains it smells like “dead bark” and holds it the way a toddler might hold a vegetable when they were in fact expecting a cookie. Then Alfre Woodard’s character demands he hand over what he’s found, and speaks its long-forgotten name: book.
It’s extremely funny in context, and probably debilitating out of it. It also makes See, Apple’s post-apocalyptic drama, one of my favorite kinds of shows: you could just plainly state something that happens in an episode, and everyone would swear you’re making it up. That doesn’t mean you should watch it.
Set in the ruins of our world, the people of See have adjusted to a sightless life after centuries of practice. Makeshift curtains of beads make for boundaries both audible and physical, fights involve a lot of probing contact and grappling (as does sex), and there’s a lot of finger snapping. See is extremely invested in showing you how all this stuff works, so much so that it barely delves into its characters.
Baba Voss (Jason Momoa) is a man who must take his family on the run after his adopted twins, Kofune and Haniwa, are born with sight. The trouble is, the very idea of sight is heretical — much like witchcraft in colonial America, troublesome people are accused of having the ability to see as justification for burning them alive. And there’s also an evil queen who learns of the twins, and as a religious zealot who worships the “darkness” (by, and I will testify to this in court if I have to, masturbating as she prays) she wants them brought to her for evil queen reasons.
A generous and forgiving read of See could interpret it as an attempted meditation on knowledge, ignorance, and responsibility, but See actively resists attempts to latch on to anything of substance it might have to offer. In the first three episodes made available in advance to critics, See is more interested in the logistics of its world than it is in implications.
Sometimes that leads to fun television. The third episode, the best of that initial bunch, is largely unconcerned with the season’s main arc, instead telling a story where Kofune is kidnapped by slavers and must be rescued. It’s visually striking, introducing a tribe of people that, unbeknownst to them, are living in the ruins of an amusement park. It’s got a killer fight scene, with unique choreography that clearly conveys the limitations and skills of everyone involved and depicts brutal violence with grace and skill. And it’s got personal stakes, which I won’t spoil here because it’s one of the only bits of character backstory you get in the first couple of episodes.
None of these things make See a more interesting show beyond the hour you spend watching them. It’s cotton candy, a fun confection for one moment, and just plain sugar the next.
See is clearly interested in drawing people into its elaborate and well-crafted post-apocalypse, but it’s telling that the only questions I have after watching are purely pedantic ones. Like how did a blind society make such perfect and deadly weapons, or build homes that never leak, or clothes and makeup that look so nice?
These are questions asked by jerks and spoilsports, and I wish I had better ones to ask of See. The show is strange, but fails to justify that strangeness with a compelling story, characters, or literally anything other than the list of ideas you and your stoned cousin would come up with if you wondered what it would be like if we all woke up one day totally blind, man. Maybe you’ll come up with something fun enough for posting on Twitter, but it’s not going to cut it for eight hours of television.
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