So recently I wrote an editorial recapping the first season of the Apple TV+ show See. I said that I liked the concept of the show — a world inhabited by the blind and the quest of two sighted people to find their place within it. I also said that I thought the show would be great once it figured out what kind of show it wanted to be. I’ve now watched the starting episodes of season 2 of See, and I have something to say.
I was wrong. I take it all back.
Because See has figured out what it wants to be. It wants very, very badly to be Game of Thrones. And it’s so terrible at being Game of Thrones that I almost want to rewatch season 8 of that show again.
See What I Did There?
When last we left the cast of See, they’d fragmented into different parties: Mother Maghra (Hera Hilmar) was separated from her children and reunited with Queen Kane (Sylvia Hoeks), who is revealed to be her sister; Maghra agrees to help her beaten-down sister keep her power for Godflame only knows what reason. Baba Voss (Jason Momoa) rescued his adopted, sighted son Kofun (Archie Madekwe) from the clutches of his biological father Jerlamarel (Joshua Henry), who turned out to be a sight-supremacist and not the benevolent teacher the twins had thought. Baba Voss and Kofun, along with shaman lady Paris (Alfre Woodard), go on a quest to rescue Haniwa (Nesta Cooper), Kofun’s similarly sighted twin sister, whom Jerlamarel sold to an enemy nation as a slave.
The first episode of See season 2, such as it is, shows some promise. Baba Voss learns that Haniwa has been sold to his long-lost brother, Edo Voss (Dave Bautista), and he goes to the enemy nation of Trivantes to rescue her. Kofun and Paris stay behind as backup. Meanwhile, Maghra and Kane attempt to cover up Kane’s genocide of her own capital city — they inevitably clash when Maghra wants to take sensible options while Kane continues to behave in a bizarre, erratic manner. The episode ends with Baba Voss being captured, but Haniwa makes the discovery that her captor, a soldier named Wren (Eden Epstein), can also see.
It’s only in the second episode that things really start to show cracks. Maghra continues to try and hold back Kane’s crazy as the political situation in the country — which we learn is called Paya — begins to get out of control. Haniwa starts to fall in love with Wren and tries to convince her they can run away together. Kofun is captured by kingdom guards and is to be taken to his mother. Then things escalate when Edo reveals his plan to have Haniwa gang-raped and forced to birth sighted children for Edo’s army, (He graciously tells his niece he has no plans to rape her himself.) leading Wren and Baba Voss to go on a rescue mission.
Yeah, that’s a lot to take in for just two episodes.
The problem with trying to be Game of Thrones is that, at least at the beginning, Game of Thrones’s characters were actually clever. It’s what made the show’s fall from grace so hard to bear — the characters were at one point smart schemers who were fun to watch. See has no such charms, which makes the extended scenes of political intrigue and curiously unerotic sexual encounters so tedious I started playing Candy Crush on my phone. I’ve rarely ever been so desperately uninterested in anything that I needed to resort to that.
The Kids Aren’t Alright
The initial hook of the show was that it’s about a non-sighted society and how it has dominated the world and that the sudden birth of sighted people is a big goddamned deal for them. I was hoping the show would explore that a little further, but See seems to think that it’s done all the world-building it needs to and gets on with its business of being Game of Thrones for season 2.
My biggest complaint is that, despite being the stars of the last season, twins Haniwa and Kofun have all but vanished at the beginning of this one. Kofun gets a grand total of five minutes of collective screen time in the first couple episodes that is basically other characters telling him what to do. Haniwa spends most of her time either captured or having a cutesy romance with Wren, not even bothering to escape despite having the clear opportunity several times.
Also, with regards to the attempted rape scene and Wren’s rescue of Haniwa: I’m as pleased as the next person to see a gay romance, but I have also discovered that the tired trope of a formerly competent and badass woman becoming absolutely useless and needing to be rescued by her love interest doesn’t feel any less grimy when the love interest is also a woman. Oh, and would you look at that: On-screen attempted rape. Blot another box on my Game of Thrones bingo card.
The main albatross around the show’s neck is Queen Kane, one of the two primary antagonists. She’s one of the prime examples of the show thinking it’s one thing when it’s clearly another. Several characters refer to her as being “dangerous,” which is true, but they also use words like “cunning,” which is not. I thought the show understood that the root of her threat lay in the fact that she’s not intelligent — in fact, she’s probably the stupidest character in the show. That’s not a diss, by the way. It’s the only way her character works: She’s so foolish and reckless that the other characters can’t predict how she’ll respond because it’s never within reason or even in service of her own self-interest.
In season 2 of See, characters are way more permissive than they should be towards this clearly unhinged dumbass for reasons that are never adequately explained. At the end of last season, she threw a temper tantrum that resulted in the destruction of her own capital city and left her at the mercy of slavers. It’s odd that both the writers and the other characters on the show treat her like a Cersei when she’s clearly a Joffrey.
I’m not pleased, See, not pleased at all. Nothing about this season so far has any of the bleak beauty of the first, and that’s a big disappointment.