Apple TV+ 'See' would have served its audience better were it told from the POV of the sighted twins as its auditory elements disappoint
There is a dissonance between the sound-centric world of the characters and the visual-centric world of the audience. As viewers peering into this strange tribal post-apocalyptic society, we are forever, unwittingly, feeling superior like Nesta Cooper's Haniwa
You don't hire Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) and not have him front and center in a show that is trying to recreate the Game of Thrones' success for the fledgling Apple streaming service. So, it is understandable why 'See' has decided to throw the weight of the script of its "$15 million an episode" show on the capable shoulders of this gentle giant.
But should it have? Storytelling-wise, the premise of the show is a gamble. It is trying to bring to life a sightless society to a visual medium through the camera that 'sees' -- it is not a podcast or a radio show where listeners can immerse themselves in the audio-centric world.
It is because of this dissonance between the sound-centric world of the characters and the visual-centric world of the audience that there is an immediate barrier. As viewers peering into this strange tribal post-apocalyptic society, we are forever, unwittingly, feeling superior like Nesta Cooper's Haniwa.
We are "gods" like Jerlamarel (Joshua Henry). Instead, the twins, Haniwa and Kofun (Archie Madekwe) are much better as audience stand-ins than Jason Momoa's Baba Voss for this show.
From the very beginning, there are shots in the show, like the twins (as babies) looking up in wonderment as an eagle flies up high. What if the story was started with them opening their eyes and slowly getting introduced to this world, just like we are.
A lot of the plot holes would be less inconspicuous with the camera's POV taking the twins' perspective, at least for the Alkenny tribe scenes. The twins also have the most interesting character arc and the internal struggle around sight being considered heresy and a long-lost evil that has returned to the world in their bodies.
Their mother has fed them stories of the evil power of Vision to make prejudice and strife come to life. Yet, the books they read and the remote area they are cloistered in, add secret fuel to their fantasy to "see" the world.
But all that potential is lost in a more mechanical (rather than a soulful and character-driven) exploration of the world. The entire world-building of the show suffers as a result. The dissonance between sound centric characters and visually-led audiences for the scenes in the queen’s city nestled in the ruins of a dam would remain. But given that the queen’s city is the heart of corrupt power, this isn’t a bad thing. (Whoever felt 'comfortable' in King's Landing, really?)
It would also have helped if instead of the well-lit interiors, the queen's city was shown as a dark, depressing hole with its denizens living in darkness. It would also make sense to have less light in these scenes, logically, rather than have wall torches light the way. (The utility of these light torches are never explained by the way.)
While Apple seems to have taken to heart the criticism against Game of Thrones' near-black scenes, surely there is a middle path? If you are going to show the clash between light and dark, between knowledge and power, then some symbolism isn't amiss in the set dressing and mise-en-scene, surely?
While some elements are beautifully done, like the Queen Kane's (Sylvia Hoeks) rattlesnake-like shaking of bracelets to get her servants to come to her, there is less emphasis on the auditory elements than one expects in a show like this.
Unfortunately, overall, the first three episodes of 'See' seem like an affectation; of the visually blessed slumming it for a while in a blind man's world, which couldn't be what the creators of the show were going for.
'See' is available for streaming on Apple TV+.