See: 1.04 The River
Now four episodes in and the flagship launch show for Apple TV+ continues to frustrate, baffle and entertain in equal measure. After last episode's time jump, we pick up the story in the immediate aftermath of Gether Bax’s betrayal. His message in a bottle may have taken several years to be discovered, but it has finally led Tamacti Jun and his witch hunters to the Alkenny village. The sighted twins, Kofun and Haniwa, are now seventeen years old and must flee with Baba Voss to seek out their birth father Jerlamarel.
If you think thats sounds like a lot of made up gibberish names then spare a thought for me and my poor autocorrect. Yes, we’re squarely into high fantasy cliches here. If See was a book it would undoubtedly have a hand drawn map at the beginning. Seemingly aiming for Game of Thrones levels of greatness, See is currently nowhere near those giddy heights. However it isn’t without its charms, as ludicrous as they are.
The main action set piece of The River is fantastically staged as our heroes attempt to flee their pursuers on a raft. See finally does what I expected it to do with its premise and gives us a tense scene where we can see what the protagonists can’t. Our heroes have to stay silent as they slowly glide past riverbanks full of witch hunters. When things inevitably kick off, the action is frenetic and brutal. Grappling hooks are hurled, dragging villagers into the water where they are pounced on and hacked to death. Baba Voss dives headfirst into the melee and this is where Jason Momoa really shines, his imposing stature lending a credibility to his prowess. Unfortunately, it’s to the shows detriment that we have hardly got to know any of the villagers before they are killed.
I hate to keep making comparisons to Game of Thrones, but as that show did this sort of thing so well, it is somewhat inevitable. You soon realise that Baba Voss has effectively brought along a bunch of “redshirts” on his new quest and they are all despatched off pretty quickly. We are left with just Baba, his beloved Maghra, the twins, the old wise woman Paris and Bow Lion - who, you ask? I'll come to her in a moment. I had to look up the names of the other dispensable raft victims, as they’ve been so underwritten as to be indistinguishable from one another. It’s very hard to form any sort of attachment to a character when they are barely more than a background extra.
As for Bow Lion. I didn’t even realise she was there to begin with. It wasn’t until after the battle had finished and Kofun had gone to comfort her, that I realised she was on the raft. The preceding scenes are pretty hectic but somewhere along the line, she appears to have got lost in the edit. Of course the main issues with the episode are again the instances where you have to accept the almost preternatural skills of the blind characters - but also just some dumb writing decisions. You do need to accept that Boba Voss has singlehandedly built a large raft from scratch. He has cut down trees and fashioned an incredibly professional looking vessel complete with a mast and sail. He has also apparently done this in complete secret. This pretty phenomenal feat of boatbuilding is seemingly explained away by Baba Voss being described as a “builder”. Also, if a group of blind people are hurriedly fleeing through unfamiliar forest, wouldn’t it make sense to put the only two people who can see at the front of the line? It’s little things like this that seem quite petty but when you add them up it all just seems like sloppy writing.
Queen Kane isn’t having it all her own way this week, as political machinations threaten her position on the throne. Sylvia Hoeks gives her absolute all as the ever so slightly unhinged self proclaimed ruler of her people. Unfortunately, for her all these years of being single-mindedly preoccupied with finding the twins means she has neglected her kingdom. The people are getting restless and her court of Lords and Ladies have decided to remove her from her position. They try to do this however with a convoluted plot involving a poisonous spider which gives her plenty of opportunity to thwart their plans. Hoeks is probably the best part of the show, with her insane rantings and seeming refusal to take things too seriously. For sheer entertainment value the rest of the cast should embrace this same philosophy.
The episode finishes as Quen Kane turns off all the ancient turbines that are part of the hydro-electric dam where her people dwell and seemingly brings the whole thing down on top of herself. Hopefully she finds a way to escape because she’s currently the best part of See and the show could do with keeping her around, lest it collapse under the weight of its own unwarranted seriousness.