12:15pm PT by Kirsten Chuba
Apple's 'See': What the Critics Are Saying
After drawing early comparisons to Game of Thrones, See looked like it could be Apple TV+'s big foray into the sci-fi world and help launch the new streamer with its first wave of originals, but the show's reviews may see things differently.
The series stars Jason Momoa as Baba Voss, a warrior in a world set 200 years in the future, after a virus has decimated the planet's population and left the 2 million who did survive blind. Humans have formed tribes in order to survive and the very idea of sight is considered witchcraft. At the start of the series, Baba Voss marries Maghra (Hera Hilmar), who joins his tribe while pregnant with another man's twins, and it quickly becomes clear that the babies have the ability to see, as discovered by midwife Paris (Alfre Woodard). The show follows Momoa's journey to keep his family safe in this dangerous world, and includes a supporting cast of Sylvia Hoeks, Christian Camargo, Archie Madekwe and Nesta Cooper.
After reviews were released on Monday ahead of Apple TV+'s Friday debut, See received a Metacritic score of 47 and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 45 percent.
For The Hollywood Reporter, Daniel Fienberg says that See is a rollercoaster of a show, full of highs and lows, doing "just enough to make you believe that under the right circumstances, there might be a good show here somewhere, eventually," but for now, "is rarely better than so-so."
Fienberg notes the show's choppiness and slow pace, despite covering 18 years in its first three episodes, and critiques the lack of fleshed-out characters or explanations of this new world. That also applies to the performances, he says, with "very few parts of any substance here," including Momoa's and Woodard's. "These aren't good roles, and yet they're prominent roles and I have to, as I usually do, ask why the show wasn't cast entirely or nearly entirely with blind or vision-impaired actors," he says.
Slate's Willa Paskin calls the post-apocalyptic "violent, grim and exceptionally silly," calling it "Bird Box meets Game of Thrones, but stupider, a show about a society of blind people who still wear feathers in their Stone Age–looking caps," which is heavy on violence despite Apple's traditional aversion to it.
Time's Judy Berman reviews the show as "one of the worst TV series I’ve seen in years" and execution of the plot "an unmitigated disaster," verging on ableism when it's shown how blindness has brought out the worst in humanity. Plus, "sex scenes, including what may well be the most awkward masturbation sequence in the history of television, are uniformly creepy," she says.
IndieWire's Ben Travers says that in between the fight scenes and elaborate shots, "some of it just feels silly" and requires "a certain suspension of disbelief," questioning how this modern society has regressed so much — without power and indoor plumbing — simply after losing the power of sight.
As for Momoa's starring performance, "he’s still a far cry from multidimensionality; one can see how Momoa pulls from Drogo for Baba, building off the Game of Thrones favorite for fight scenes while imbuing the new guy with good dad instincts and a haunted past to help form a well-rounded lead," Travers says. "But Momoa isn’t a subtle performer, and scenes where he’s forced to wrestle with tough decisions or face his inner demons require Baba’s facial scars to speak for him."
Paste's Allison Shoemaker draws comparisons between See and Kevin Costner's 1995 film Waterworld, in that "both determinedly commit to even the most ludicrous elements of their premise, swinging for the fences with the energy and confidence of a dude who once read a thing about baseball and is now clearly an expert. It strikes out at nearly every turn, but you’ve got to admire the spirit."
Despite the elaborate and beautiful shooting, Shoemaker says, the creators "didn’t seem to stop to really develop these characters, and that renders all of the violence and world-building and mythology kind of a bland wash of stuff," asking that beyond the cool costumes and wild characters, "without emotional connection, intellectual heft or any sense of fun, how can that be enough?"
The AV Club's Danette Chavez says that See is largely culled from dystopian stories before it, including The Hunger Games, Blade Runner 2049, A Quiet Place and American Gods, and "this mix of influences and eras is ultimately more confusing than it is cohesive." It is because the series echoes so many previous, recent hits "that it’s unlikely to be the series that sets the new streamer apart," she says.
TV Guide's Liam Mathews jokes that "it was an unwise move for Apple to give this show a title that lends itself to denigrative pun headlines: 'Don't See It.' 'See Something Else.' 'You Hate to See It,'" while calling the show out for bad writing, acting and action scenes, as well as "aunt-nephew incest, an absolutely insane choice to make so soon after Game of Thrones."
Collider's Haleigh Foutch gives a more positive review, declaring that out of everything in Apple's first wave of shows, "See is the series I could see myself throwing down the cost of another monthly subscription for," because "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."
While commending Hoeks' performance, Foutch admits that the show is weird and goofy at times, but its decision to ride the line between camp and high concept drama, gives the show "that singular quality a show needs to stand out in the era of peak TV and the streaming wars."
The Guardian's Jack Seale also offers a positive take, noting that the show is at its best "when Momoa gets up close and ruthless with a foe who wants to threaten his people," while wielding a sharpened club, and "there are enough of those thrilling set pieces, blood spattering the camera lens, to compensate for the ponderous longueur in between."
The first three episodes of See start streaming Friday, with the remaining seven dropped weekly.