See (“Godflame”)

Season 1, Episode 1
Date of release: November 1, 2019 (tv+)

Of the shows announced during Apple’s big day, when the introduced Apple TV and all of its original fare, SEE was the least interesting of them all. I am not one of the people who prays for more Jason Momoa on my screen, although I am not going to bitch and moan when he does indeed turn into more than just an action star who has his career choices under control and does both film and television on a regular basis. I am also not one of the people who likes fantastical-looking settings stuck in the very past of humanity, as I have never gotten into VIKINGS because of this, let alone the syndicated franchises of Hercules and Xena, although at least the latter television show is on my long to-do list (the former made its way off thanks to Kevin Sorbo being a horrible person). SEE may be a show set centuries in the future, but it employs a post-apocalyptic premise that makes the world look a few hundreds of thousands of years younger, with the difference that humans have already conquered that world. It’s also a reason why I never got into GAME OF THRONES, although in that show’s case I simply could not deal with the misogynistic violence or its pretentious and obnoxious way of character storytelling (I guess I saw those problems with the show much earlier than all the folks who watched their way through all of it and now hate GAME OF THRONES). All this means that my pre-exposition of SEE has already built itself in my mind and I was getting into the first 57 minutes of this Mad Max world set in the mountains of British Columbia, inhabited with blind people ready to not like it. And it turns out that the crossing of a bridge was needed for me to find a liking to the show and maybe consider watching a few more episodes of it.

Wait for Baba’s signal before becoming bloody warriors!

The show definitely has the looks to make for a fantastic experience on a weekly basis, and it may have even been the show to succeed GAME OF THRONES in a spiritual sense, so that John Oliver doesn’t have to say “HBO is fucked” during his show any longer, but for some reason it landed on Apple TV and now it’s the seller of computer and phone ware that brings the potentially most expensive television drama into the world, if it happens to survive past a second season. The money that has been spent into the first 57 minutes definitely make SEE something of a spectacle, and this in spite of almost all of the story being set in the wilderness of pretty and stunning British Columbia, essentially turning into its own little character. Director Francis Lawrence, himself known as a music video director before becoming friends with Jennifer Lawrence to direct her in four of her works as an actress, makes the pretty pictures count by not using a shaky camera, by keeping the lens focused on the characters, by not cutting away to depict the action from a different angle. It made the battle scene on the slope in the middle of the forest even better, as Lawrence brought the viewers onto a journey that forces them to focus on what is transpiring in front of them. Action scenes get a little more realistic when they don’t turn out to be massacred like that one scene in TAKEN 3 which had Liam Neeson jump over a fence. Action scenes get more breathtaking when you see what is happening and who throws the blow and which extra is getting the axe or Speer into their face. Although it has to be mentioned that the level of gore in SEE is barely existent. A few blood splatters, yes, but those could almost be overlooked due to the color saturation of the episode. It’s interesting that Apple TV’s spiritual successor to GAME OF THRONES is not doing anything the show about the song of ice and fire was known to do constantly: tits and blood and gore, only in a more pretentious manner.

Unfortunately for the show, it’s only the look and feel that could convince me from ever watching a second episode of SEE. I said it before, but I don’t have the hots for these kind of premises, and I’m not sure how the story of a clan of survivors blindly wander through the woods in their search for a new home or hope of a better future is going to keep the show afloat for more than one season. At one point the people of Alkenny will be too tired to run from the Witchfinders, and at one point it will be too expensive for the show to stay outdoors and find new settings for Baba’s people to settle in. At one point the writers would have to find a different story for the characters to deal with than just having them on the run from undeveloped hunters interested in doing only one thing: do something evil with people who are considered witches. SEE would have to employ those stories immediately to prove that it can exist in a vast television landscape beyond its initial episodes (in a month during which at least 60 new television shows premier), and if the show can’t do that, not even the money Apple is putting into the production can save the show from being boring in a second season.

The bridge to temporary freedom is quite wonky.

Until then, the show still has a few episodes to wow with its imagery and visuals, and to make Jason Momoa’s character as approachable as possible as the leader of his group — one who fights and kills for his people and his greatest love (who intriguingly enough may love the father of her twins more, which could spell a love triangle if that godly person ever shows up within the narrative), but one who is also emotionally drained and potentially broken over all the decisions he had to make for his people, and will make throughout the show. If the next few episodes could do similar work with the other characters, then SEE doesn’t even have to rely on the visuals to be an exciting show and focus on the characters instead. Because if the show doesn’t, creepy Queen Kane, who has shown us that you can pray to your god while touching yourself intimately, will be nothing more than just a villain in the show who keeps her head hidden in her fortress and never comes out to play with the heroes of the narrative, instead only sends her soldiers into the fight. And television definitely does not need another terrible villain.

SEE will have to prove if money over storytelling can save your television drama to see another year. In a way it could be Apple TV+’s real frontline streaming drama, because there is so much more at stake here than with its other TV drama offerings. THE MORNING SHOW could easily turn into a weekly soap opera and it could live off of that for years. FOR ALL MANKIND has five decades of space history to work with, which could give the show a few years. But after only one episode, SEE has only a minor story, one or two A-list actors, slightly developed characters, and a healthy-looking British Columbia that could make or break the show. Lots of work to be done.