For season 2 of See, show creator Steven Knight warms up a second helping of his weird, post-apocalyptic gumbo for Apple TV+. This time, he spices things up with a key ingredient — the inimitable Dave Bautista — that almost redeems See’s crazy mix of bizarre rituals, bombastic fight scenes and bad dialogue.
The addition of Bautista proves most welcome indeed. The former pro wrestler and Guardians of the Galaxy star lends his steely gravitas to a sprawling show that wants nothing more than to make its mark as a sci-fi epic.
In season 2, which kicks off on Apple TV+ today, we learn a lot more about living in a blind society. And we come to grips with a blood feud that will haunt all concerned.
See season 2 review
If you didn’t watch the first season of See, here are the basics. In the distant future, humanity has lost its sight. People have been living in brutal, violent tribes, one of which was led by feared warrior Baba Voss (played by Jason “Aquaman” Momoa), who has adopted two children who secretly can see.
When we last left Baba Voss, he was traveling to the city of Travantes in search of his adopted daughter, Haniwa (Nesta Cooper), who was sold by her birth father, Jerlamarel (Joshua Henry), the legendary sighted outlaw.
Jerlamarel promised to build a sighted utopia, but in reality he was selling his children to Edo Voss (Bautista), the general of the armies of Travantes and Baba’s brother. Rescuing Haniwa is tantamount to suicide, so Baba Voss leaves his son, Kofun (Archie Madekwe), and his spiritual guide, Paris (Alfre Woodard), behind before embarking on his dangerous mission.
Things just keep getting messier
Now, Maghra (Hera Hilmar) — Baba Voss’ wife and the sighted children’s biological mother — has reunited with her sister Queen Kane (Sylvia Hoeks). Kane is busy reconsolidating power after drowning everyone in her home base last season on a tip from God that it was right thing to do. No one knows about Kane’s mass murder except for her Witchfinder — a fancy name for a guy who kills sighted people — Tamacti Jun (Christian Camargo).
Kane tried to off Tamacti Jun when he discovered she’d killed all those people, but it turns out he’s alive in the same dungeon where they take Baba Voss after he gets captured on his rescue mission. So it’s a matter of whether Maghra, Paris, Kofun, Haniwa and Baba can reunite before Kane ruins everything again. Or before Edo can catch up with and kill them because he’s still sore about the fact that Baba killed their dad like 25 years ago.
In the land of the blind …
Steven Knight is, I must confess, maybe my least-favorite popular screenwriter right now. He’d been around for two decades (he actually created Who Wants to Be a Millionaire back in the ’90s) before he hit it big culturally with Peaky Blinders, his mind-numbingly dull series about Irish gangsters, and Locke, the movie where Tom Hardy talks on the phone in a car for an hour and a half.
Since then, Knight has written movies that range from exceedingly stupid (Seventh Son) and the famously dimwitted (Serenity, which he also directed) to boring and unnecessary (Pawn Sacrifice, Closed Circuit, Woman Walks Ahead, Locked Down, The Girl in the Spider’s Web). He also penned the hugely expensive TV show Taboo, which came and went like the 7:15 bus.
I was thus pretty miffed when I heard that Apple TV+’s stunning sci-fi series See, meant to prove what great ideas the new network had, was created by Knight. His dialogue has this effect on my brain where it’s just like listening to a construction site. So many metaphors … all this double-talk, lingo and codes. People repeat themselves needlessly all the time, and they explain things that don’t need explaining.
See: A show of extremes
Writing See brings out Knight’s best and worst tendencies. The show is frequently exciting because he clears the path for the fight choreography and the beautiful sights and sounds of a post-apocalyptic society. And yet the show is often an eye-rolling disaster because Knight can’t stop creating nonsensical customs and lingo, and giving people absurd motivations while forgetting commonsense things along the way. (Haniwa, for instance, discovers a hotel room in Travantes that looks like it had turndown service a few weeks ago … despite civilization having fallen “centuries ago.”)
For example, in the opening two episodes of the show’s second season, Edo Voss’ best lieutenant, Wren (Eden Epstein), decides out of nowhere to betray Edo when she, just as suddenly, falls for Haniwa. And then, when she helps set up Baba and Haniwa’s escape, she decides to stay behind — despite the certainty that her betrayal will be discovered.
If all it took was getting a crush on a cute girl to end her lifelong devotion to her city, her people and her general, it’s a hair unbelievable Wren stayed this long in Travantes to begin with. But it moves the plot forward, so happen like this it must.
The one-eyed men who would be king
Similarly, I’m not entirely sure why Edo Voss, whose existence was never talked about in the first season, would still be this mad about his dad’s murder. It’s just very thin and convenient that he still hates his brother this much, considering he’s got bigger problems. Like the fact that he’s in charge of defending a city filled exclusively with blind people against cities of other blind people, who are all, for no real reason, at war with each other.
Plus, when Baba has a chance to kill Edo — who has sworn to immiserate him and his family — he doesn’t take it, despite the fact that he’s already got a record of killing thousands, relatives included.
Furthermore, the whole show is predicated on the miraculous birth of Haniwa and Kofun, two sighted people in a world of the blind. And yet three episodes into season 2, it feels like there are as many sighted people as blind.
So what is this show about? Palace intrigue. And frankly, See’s writers just aren’t any good at that.
Too crazy to believe
It’s never very interesting whether Kane will keep her grip on power because she’s always been rather demonstrably insane. Hoeks has been doing some truly wild work on this show from the start. She plays the queen like a high-functioning species of extraterrestrial bird doing a very bad impression of a woman.
Furthermore, the show’s many excuses to keep separating Baba’s family, while introducing more and more characters, feels very much like See’s creative team is simply trying to keep its grip on its next series order. You can’t cancel the show now, we just met 50 new people who are very suddenly intrinsic elements of the plot! And they’re all in danger! (Apple already ordered a third season of the show.)
Knight certainly fills See with mountains of portent by making everything seem like it might change civilization forever. But it’s never quite as interesting as it ought to be. It’s good value watching Momoa and Bautista (two of our best stars) kill people and beat each other up. And the fight sequences on this show are gory and great. But there’s just way too much of everything else for See to ever build up a head of steam.
Apple only gave me access to three episodes of See’s new season to review in advance. I’m not in any rush to watch the rest.
See on Apple TV+
New episodes of See arrive on Apple TV+ on Fridays.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.