Since its announcement, Apple TV+ has remained shrouded in an air of mystery. Aside from series announcements and very few industry presentations, their lineup is a star-studded question mark. But if there’s one thing Apple’s new streaming service is making clear in their inaugural content rollout, it’s that they’re in the business of cinematic, high-production-value series. And none make that more obvious than See, the new post-apocalyptic sci-fi/fantasy series about a future human civilization without the sense of sight.
Created by Easter Promises screenwriter and Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and featuring the work of Constantine and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence, See stars Jason Mamoa as Baba Voss; the warrior leader of the Alkenny village. Set generations after humanity lost the ability to see, the series drops us in the midst of another historical change for the human race when Baba Voss’ adoptive twins are born with sight, and thus, the potential to upend his society’s entire belief structure.
See introduces us to this new world with a brief informational scroll that breaks down the need to know details: a deadly outbreak devastated humanity in the 21st century and left behind a worldwide population of just 2 million people, stripping the survivors of sight. Now, the power of sight is a myth, and those who would so much as speak of it are labeled heretics destined for the flames of the queen’s witchfinders. This is the world into which Baba Voss and his newfound love Maghra (Hera Hilmar) bring their twins.
And See wastes no time getting to the action. We enter the world at the same time as the twins, who are born during a great siege on the Alkenny homeland. With the babies imminently on the way, the queen’s forces press down on the mountaintop the Alkenny have called home for generations and we get a quick, efficient introduction to this new world and culture, from their birthing rights to their battleground traditions (which give Momoa a chance to cherish his Hawaiian roots on-scren in an Alkenny take on the Haka.)
In addition to Baba and Maghra, we meet Paris (Alfre Woodard), the mystical spiritual leader of their clan who speaks to owls and hears the future in her dreams; Gether Bax (Mojean Aria), a traitor to the Alkenny who believes his treachery is righteous; and Tamacti Jun (Christian Carmago), the queen’s Witchfinder General, who leads a ruthless, relentless pursuit to find a heretic by the name of Jerlamarel (Joshua Henry), who claims to have the power of “light,” aka sight, and who also happens to be the birth father of Maghra and Baba’s newborn twins.
As Maghra gives birth, Baba Voss leads the Alkenny into battle (Momoa remains a hulking delight in combat scenes) against the forces of Queen Kane (Sylvia Hoeks) and we learn about some of the world’s more fantastical elements — the Scentiers, who pick up smells and sounds at a long distance, and the Ayuras, who seem to have an otherworldly gift for sensing emotion and spiritual truths in the wind. See quickly announces a world that’s both grounded in survival and politics, while also being heightened with flourishes of fantasy.
There’s lots to be said for the performances here, especially Hoeks as Queen Kane, who channels a more volatile version of the stoic certainty that made her so terrifying in Blade Runner 2049, but ultimately it’s the world-building that makes See such compelling watching. It’s clear that Knight and his creative team have given a lot of thought to what their dystopian post-sight world looks like; from literal visual clues, like the abandoned dam that the Queen now calls her castle and the long-forgotten bicycles grown into tree trunks, to the broader strokes of invention. From architecture and communication to class structures and religion, See builds a complex and believable future for the human race and unveils the details with a series of well-structured reveals.
Apple TV+ made just three episodes of See available to the press for review, which isn’t a lot to judge a new series by, but it was certainly enough to get this viewer hooked. It’s obvious the series is striving to fill the high-fantasy drama space left by Game of Thrones (and it’s got a Momoa-sized head start on that count,) but even if can’t quite match that calibre yet, it’s on its way to building a vast fantasy world all its own. Out of everything in their first-wave lineup, See is the series I could see myself throwing down the cost of another monthly subscription for. It’s compelling and immersive, promising a sci-fi/fantasy epic that will span a generational tale, filled with impressive battle scenes and a dystopian future world that’s rendered with a visually spectacular cinematic production value that gives the whole world a massive sense of scope.
It’s also downright weird and goofy at times, deliciously so, sometimes bordering on campy and giddily dipping a toe right over the line in the midst of the high-concept drama, giving See that singular quality a show needs to stand out in the era of Peak TV and the streaming wars. That flourish of high camp in the peak of prestige fantasy won’t be for everyone, but it definitely worked for me. I was genuinely bummed when I ran out of screeners, which is always a surefire sign of highly watchable series. Will See prove to have the staying power of Game of Thrones? Probably not. But if nothing else, See is absolutely the only show you’ll see this year where a blind Jason Momoa wrestles a bear, and really harnesses the whole silly-meets-serious vibe of the show.