After a Titanic-esque debut season, Apple TV+ has been quietly getting on with things. Jason Sudeikis’s football charmathonTed Lasso has led the way, but there has also been the second series of the under-watched Trying, with Rafe Spall and Esther Smith, and the moon drama For All Mankind. The Morning Show, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell’s breakfast TV saga, was met with a muted response but became engrossing as it went on and has another series on the way. Apple is not exactly HBO yet, but it’s getting there. Thankfully, here’s the second series of See, to remind everyone why the streamer’s launch was thought to be such a disaster, and why wizened tech bros instantly wrote the service off as a rare Apple misstep and possibly a sign the whole business was in trouble.
To recap: See is set several hundred years into the future, after a mysterious disease has wiped out all but 2 million of Earth’s population and left the remainder blind. Humans have adapted to the new environment, with heightened senses of hearing, touch and smell, and are living in a kind of medieval-steampunk dystopia. Fur-clad masses shuffle through chilly wastelands, ruled over by callous warlords and mad queens. The handful of children in this world who have been born with sight are treated as second-class citizens, feared and forced into menial slave-like tasks. It’s The Road meets Game of Thrones meet Mad Max, except less good than that sounds.
In See’s defence, the first season preceded the pandemic, so it can claim a certain frisson of anticipation. Beyond that, though, it’s hokum, tripe, high twaddle. Jason Momoa seems like a lovely chap but until there is an Oscar for amiable beefcakes, he won’t be winning one. As the fallen warrior Baba Voss, he shuffles around the landscape swiping his sword on the snowy paths in front of him like a kind of knight-errant curler. He’s on a quest for a mysterious general (Dave Bautista, as usual an enormous and welcome presence). In Seeland, everyone’s on a quest for something. We won’t go into the details but there are queens and families and witches and betrayal and anonymous ranks of peasants and surprisingly finely worked weaponry.
As you’d expect, Croesus Productions has not skimped on the budget. The whole thing is shot in the gloom, as if to remind viewers what blindness might be like, but when you can discern what you’re looking at there is some spectacular cinematography. Ruined cities with ghostly, half-crumbled skyscrapers. A factory as a vision of hell. Dilapidated mansions where the wallpaper is, understandably, in need of a spruce-up. The plentiful fight scenes are satisfyingly kinetic and gory, and the scenes with Momoa and Bautista together must rank among the highest volume of man ever squeezed into a single camera shot. But See can never decide whether it wants to be a portentous Big Theme drama, rich in biblical and philosophical allusion, or a happy-go-lucky dystopian stab-em-up. I realise the allegorical force of subjugating the people blessed with vision, but in the context of the world, it doesn’t make much sense. The one-eyed man might not yet be king, but surely he’d at least be middle management by now.
See was more popular with the public than with snooty critics. If you’re already committed to its thorough nonsense, then you can look forward to more of the same. If you’re wondering whether to bother, the answer’s in plain sight.