Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Creature Columns: See For Yourself: A Review of the Apple TV+ Show by Tom "Creature" Jeffers

As of this writing, Apple’s TV+’s new show SEE sits at 42% from critics and 82% from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. IMDB has the show at 7.7.  Many people have already written the show off as a failure. I find this sort of attitude to be a bit, no pun intended, apocalyptic. SEE is trying to fill some very big shoes. There are a lot of shows coming out that are Game of Thrones hopefuls. I wanted to give SEE a try for a variety of reasons. The star power of Jason Momoa, who plays Baba Voss, was the number one draw for me. I like this man as an actor and as a person in general. I have met him, and he is truly a great guy. Despite all of that, I feel like I have remained reasonably objective in my examination.

SEE puts us into a world that is very different than the one we know. The show is bizarre in a very good way. Almost the entire population of the world has been destroyed by a virus and those two million left behind have lost the ability to see. This has become a genetic condition.  Hundreds of years have passed, and an entire society has developed where sight is mostly a myth. Vision is magic and a thing of legend.  It is also interwoven into the primary religious beliefs of the people. They feel that God took sight from men to save the world from destruction. To see now is to be a witch and to be guilty of great evil.

Some witch-finders roam the land in search of the heretical and those that do not agree with Queen Kane. Kane is played by the very capable Sylvia Hoeks. She brings a sense of fervor and near insanity to the role.  She is a religious zealot that has tasked herself with ridding the world of the light.  When she hears that two children may have been born that have sight, she is determined to find and destroy them. Her main witch-finder Tamacti Jun, played by the fantastic Christian Camargo, is dispatched to find these children and bring them to the run down dam where Queen Kane rules in absolute power. There seems to be some back story between the Queen and Jerlamarel, played by Joshua Henry. Jerlamarel is the sighted man that is the real father of the sighted twins that Baba Voss has taken as his own. He is the “god-man” that walks the land among the sightless. There are a tremendous amount of plot lines running simultaneously in the first three episodes. I think that has created some of the problems that many reviewers are taking issue with. The first three episodes take their time setting up stories that will hopefully turn into a long-running series.
*Mild Spoilers Follow

When addressing such a show as SEE, one needs to be as objective as possible. That is why I take issue with some who have prejudged the show. I think it is important to give a show time to breathe and become what is intended. My plan here is not to overly praise but to examine what the show does well and to showcase where I have questions. Thus the structure of this review will fall into three main sections. One will address what is done well. One will address what is done that may be too early to judge. Lastly, I will close with some unresolved non-main plot-based questions that I have.

What the show does extremely well:

The entire premise is fairly incredible. I believe that these characters are indeed blind. Outside help was brought in to help the actors portray sightless characters.  Those that taught the actors how to be blind were either blind or limited in sight. Every single person manages this to a high standard.  Some of the cast are blind in real life. All of this gives a very real feel to the show.

The combat sequences are some of the most creative and visceral fights ever filmed. I mean that. I absolutely loved the carnage that was unleashed on the screen. The violence is very believable and a bit of a guilty pleasure.  It isn’t that I like real violence, and barbaric fictional violence can be cheesy. This violence is in NO WAY cheesy. It is executed with tremendous precision. I think the fact that the characters are blind makes it some of the most interesting combat scenes I have ever witnessed.

Jason Momoa is perfect as Baba Voss.  Momoa simply bleeds testosterone. He is terrifying at times and shows his softer side as well. His character might be somewhat stereotypical, but it absolutely works for him.  He is the ultimate archetype.
The production values and cinematography of this show is top tier. Coming in at 15 million an episode has a way of making that happen. The setting is gorgeous. The sets are gorgeous. The costuming is perfect. The irony is that none of the main characters would be able to see any of it.

The plotlines are varied and have the potential to tell a very intriguing story. There are a lot of them running throughout this show. Right now, I honestly care about all of them. It makes me want to watch more.

The witch-finders are just awful. There is a scene where Tamacti Jun is seeking information about Jerlamarel. When he is told by a village elder that they have heard nothing, he takes his knife and shoves it into each ear of the elder. This would effectively render the man completely deaf. As he is already blind, he would be plunged into a world of dark silence. This is terrifying to think about, and it bothered me much more than the other more gore intensive scenes. This is horror at an extreme level.

There are slavers in this world, and they are shown to be as despicable as one might imagine. They are heavily involved in the back-story as well. This world is full of all sorts of characters both good and bad. It feels very real and terrifying at times.
 What has been done that is too early to judge:

*Slightly adult content.

The strange religious overtones that are in the show have me scratching my head.  I completely get that these people think that sight is a myth or a magical power. I understand how they may feel that witch-finders are necessary. I even get that the witch-finders will burn an entire village for the suspicion of only one witch’s influence; this reminds me of Warhammer 40K to be honest. What I find a bit unfathomable is why Queen Kane masturbates or has a female slave pleasure her as she prays. I actually researched this and can find no cases of this sort of thing in history. There were certainly fertility cults and sexuality does play a part in many religions, but this one is just bizarre in the extreme. It is very uncomfortable to watch. I am wondering if it is to show the queen as mentally unstable or if it is merely designed for shock value in the hope that it might cause some viewers to tune in and see for themselves. These scenes took me completely by surprise and left me uncomfortably scratching my head.  I am also hoping to understand the motivations of the witch-finders. I realize that they are motivated by their faith, but they seem needlessly cruel.

The Shadow in episode two is one of the most masterfully creepy scenes I have ever seen in a show. I was very creeped out during the entire thing. If you watch the show, you will understand what I mean. I am wondering where this plot will go. I hope more about these special characters will be addressed in future episodes. I liked it a lot but want to understand more. 

I am also curious about the background of Baba Voss. Some very dark undertones play out in the three episodes that have been released. Will this be a redemption story? Perhaps it will be a revelation of the human condition. We will have to see how the show deals with such issues.
Unresolved non-main plot-based questions:

If sight has been a myth for years, how do the people have so many references to vision?

Why would blind people care about their wardrobe so much? We have feathers, ornamentation, etc. I suspect this is for the viewer and not the characters.

Why do some fires or torches seem to be placed where they would show light when anyone around them would not need it? Again, this is probably for the viewer.

Despite the chaos that a mass plague would bring, how has humanity fallen so far from technology back to a quasi-Neolithic status?

How did the plague happen, and why is blindness genetic now?

How have humans developed enhanced senses so much that they are categorized into classes like Scentiers, those that can smell very well, and others that have special talents?

Why is Queen Kane so utterly depraved and depressed?
All of these questions and more have me very interested in returning to the world that Steven Knight has created for us. So far this is my favorite new show this year. Is it Game of Thrones? No! However, it does have the potential to be something else. Some have allowed such questions to sway their overall opinion of the show.  However, I think we should simply enjoy the narrative and the gorgeous camera work. I think we should suspend our disbelief and allow these questions to be answered over the course of the season. I think we should allow the story to unfold fully before we pass judgment. I think we should SEE for ourselves.

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Check out Tom's video review from the Creature YouTube Channel:

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