‘See’ Episode 4 review: ‘The River’ runneth into hope for change

Apple TV+ See poster

The best thing going for Apple TV+’s sci-fi/fantasy series See is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, all the while handing out solid performances in a show that’s not quite on the same level as Games of Thrones. But that’s not a bad thing. Here’s a review of the latest episode for your consideration.

  • Directed by: Anders Enström
  • Written by: Steven Knight & Hadiths Nichols Deeb
  • Episode: The River

[Editor’s Note: This post will contain spoilers for episodes 2, 3, and 4 of See.]

There are obvious comparisons to try to be made when it comes to See and Game of Thrones. They both deal with human drama in a world that’s not ruled by technology. For the former series it’s because a virus wiped out most of humankind, and the survivors crawled back to the surface blind. For the latter series it’s all medieval concepts. Different ways to go and try to tell a story with similar parameters.

But See is not trying to be the “next Game of Thrones”, which should be obvious as we dig through the second and third episodes to get us to the fourth. I’ll break it down briefly because, unlike some of the other series for Apple TV+, See is not weighed down by multiple layers of drama or storylines. It is all very straightforward and that helps keep the show moving right along.

The story so far

So, in the first episode we were introduced to the majority of the cast and primary characters. In the second episode we get to see more of the Queen (Sylvia Hoeks), and watch as the village led by Baba Voss (Jason Momoa) survives in their new home away from the mountain that was sieged by the Witch Finders in the first episode.

This show could have been about the village trying to protect the children of Maghra (Hera Hilmar) —adopted by Voss himself— from the Queen as she tries to hunt down the children who have the ability to see after a century of humans being unable to do that. And while it’s still ostensibly about that, it’s not about protecting newborn infants. Instead, we get a time jump, and the twins are all grown up. As a result of that it’s actually a little fun to watch as two people, within a group of many, and only two people have the ability to see and take the world in through that particular sensory input.

The most interesting development as Episode 3 comes to an end is the difference between the twins, what their “gift” has provided them, along with the ability to learn to read and write (thanks to the books left behind by their birth father). The whole world perceives those who can see as either witches and/or gods, and that leads to questions of whether or not they really are.

In the land of the blind, are those who can see superior to those who can’t?

That was then, this is now

Which leads us to Episode 4.

Which leads us to true fanaticism. The Queen has obviously been adamant about her calling to find the twins, the son and daughter of Maghra and adopted by Baba Voss, but this episode shows us in clear view that this is a calling built from a fanatic’s perspective. The Queen’s Witch Finder General shares that belief and will exterminate entire villages (Voss’s included) get what he wants.

And that focus is especially apparent when we see the Queen going up against parliament. We’re brought here because the Witch Finder has lost the twins – the witches that can see – yet again, and the council is questioning whether or not to call the general home. More than that, the city and its denizens are ready to call it quits on the search for the witches, which the Queen has been ordering now for more than a generation.

Things for Baba Voss, Maghra, Kofun, Haniwa, and Paris are more dangerous than ever before as they are on the run now, cast out from their village after yet another betrayal that brings the Witch Finder to their home. Luckily Voss has built a boat and they escape (but not without losses as the Witch Finder locates them, and Maghra is injured in the battle), making their way down river. They are following instructions sent from their father, left in notes handed out by Paris.

The twins continue to be two of the most compelling characters in the show. Especially Haniwa. Her ability to see leads her to want more out of life. Sometimes that’s not something she can actually nail down, and other times she sees what she wants so clearly it burns so intensely that’s all she can focus on. She wants to see the world and learn about her past — all things that everyone else around her doesn’t share, or at least not as passionately as her. Even her brother, Kofun, who can see just as well as she doesn’t want the same things as her.

But that also leads to plenty of confrontation, too, especially amongst her family members. She will drive forward no matter what, all in an effort to learn more about the world around her and her absent father. Even if that inevitably puts her loved ones at risk.

Haniwa is a constant reminder that there’s more out there, more to see, more to do, and that our past influences our present. But also that our emotions can sometimes get the better of us, and anger –at the world around you, the others around you, the hardships you face– is incredibly difficult to overcome.

She also doesn’t want to be the “strange one” anymore, hoping that she won’t have to hide her ability to see. Haniwa wants to find answers in the past, a truth that can help rebuild. Through her anger and longing she wants things to be better, and that’s something I think we can all get behind I hope.

Kofun does come around in this episode, though. He doesn’t want to hide. Doesn’t want to avoid the truth just because he might be afraid of what it leads to. He’s found his own personal strength.

An assassination attempt on the Queen leads to big changes in the city proper as the denizens riot and protest against her after she kills members of the parliament. Cutting off the water supply to those you rule is a pretty crazy decision, and the pressure it builds up immediately starts to break apart the giant dam, leading us to wonder if she’s ending her own life with the rest of the city.

Finding its rhythm

See, like the other Apple TV+ shows, needed room to grow. And while it’s certainly not as epic as some other sci-fi/fantasy shows out there, it doesn’t suffer from an absence of heart or hope. The performances continue to be strong, the cinematography is still fantastic, and the characters themselves are still interesting.

We’re off to a good start. Let’s hope it continues into back half of the series.