Post-apocalyptic shows have been a mainstay in media for as long as I can remember. From zombies and viral outbreaks through to alien invasions and natural disasters, there appears no end to the imaginative ways we depict the human race ending. On paper, Apple+’s new venture into this well-trodden field is littered with problems from the get-go. In practice though, See does well to set up a story worth telling but with a lack of background and world-building, struggles to immerse you as much as it should.
Following the outbreak of a deadly virus, we’re told early on through expository text that the Earth’s population has been reduced to under 2 million. All survivors are rendered blind and centuries later, the idea of vision exists only as a myth. It’s here we begin our tale, at the edge of the Payan Kingdom with two women singing to an unborn child in the middle of a pregnancy. Asking for her husband, we find out he’s in the process of preparing for battle. A battle that sees us introduced to Baba Voss, our main protagonist. Using ropes interlocked across the village, he heads out by following the sound of whips and readies the troops for battle.
They venture deep into a forest where he realizes the group they’re hunting aren’t a simple scavenging party – it’s a massive army. Baba Voss prepares them for battle, removing his helmet and blowing the horn; a sign that battle is upon them. Narration informs us that the army on the opposing side are that of The Witchfinders – intentionally setting out to find Baba Voss’ wife under the assumption that she’s a witch.
A solitary horse rides out to the army, prompting the leader to pull him off his horse before introducing himself as Tamacti Jun, the Witchfinder General. It turns out the man is called Gerther Bax and he’s acting as a spy on his behalf, feeding information to Tamacti Jun regarding the man he’s hunting. As he goes on, he also sheds light on the pregnant woman too, imploring him to find her and take the baby for his own. However, before he hurries off, he tells Gerther to fill him in on the details surrounding the village’s defences.
Despite giving birth to a healthy baby, it turns out Maghra’s actually expecting twins, throwing another twist in the tale as Paris, the village Elder, acts as a midwife and delivers the babies.
For some unknown reason, the various different villagers decide to put war-paint on their faces before heading into battle. Hiding out in the trees and occupying the high ground, they wait for the opportune time before striking. Partway through their skirmish, Baba Voss tells them to cease as silence descends on the battlefield. That silence is quickly broken by one of the enemy soldiers, as all hell breaks loose again. All of this culminates in Baba Voss breaking the binds and killing the soldiers. Unfortunately, this happens to only be a fraction of the enemies the Witchfinder General has at his disposal.
Sensing this, the retreat back to the village where Baba Voss struggles to control the restless villagers who believe the end is coming, while Paris senses as much and tells Maghra to prepare the newborns to leave. To prevent Baba Voss from killing the men and women outside, Paris informs of another way off the mountain; the ravine.
Leading the others to safety, she steps out on the drawbridge and allows the others to follow her while the Witchfinders arrive in the village. Baba Voss senses this and offers to stay behind to hold off their advance. As the dogs begin barking, the Witchfinders follow their cries and prepare to cross the rope bridge However, Baba knocks one of the rungs from the bridge down, prompting Gerther to call out. As a stalemate is reached, the Witchfinder General sends out a messenger bird back to his base.
Here, we’re introduced to the Queen who talks to her people about God and their divine purpose. It turns out the Witchfinder is after Jerlamarel; the legend speaks of someone who can actually see. They decide to set out and as they do, they follow the river for 30 days and 30 nights, led along thanks to the music of Jerlamarel, which happens to be items placed in the water. As they continue on, they find a ladder which leads them below the waterfall and across the great plains to a beautiful land full of relics of the old world. As the episode closes out, Baba Voss is told to remain vigilant as he holds the two babies. Unbeknownst to him, the babies can actually see.
As far as opening episodes go, See actually does a pretty good job keeping things exciting and fast-paced. It’s a smart move too as a slower pace would allow more thought provoking questions to come to the foreground which would offset the good job done with the story. I have a really hard time believing this is a world set a couple of hundred years after humanity’s decline, especially with the lack of man-made items around. Of course, the final parts of this episode do show a vinyl player but believing that humankind has regressed this much in a few hundred years is hard to believe.
I actually think See should be set on an alternate world to prevent these illogical issues coming to the foreground but despite that, the action and mature exploration of this idea should be enough to see you coming back for more. It’s not perfect, and at times the episode is a little clumsy with its characterisation, but there’s no doubting the commitment and production design here, which are both second to none. Jason Momoa does well in his role too, although if I’m honest it feels very similar to his role in Frontier too, and this show certainly echoes some of the vibes from that historical drama.