See, the science fiction/fantasy series headed by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and starring Jason Mamoa, was a strange beast ever since it premiered on Apple TV last year.
In both scope and aesthetic, it seemed the show was clearly meant to be Apple TV’s answer to the fantastical and high concept cultural juggernaut Game of Thrones on HBO. But as a wholly original creation with no source material from which to draw on, the first season proved to be a mixed bag of big thematic ideas and inconsistent pacing that never quite managed to deliver on its potential.
The second season, which features a bigger cast and a brisker pace from the outset seems promising from its solid and action-packed premiere episode. Now that audiences have been introduced to the world, the rules, and the major players, the second season of See is much freer to unfold in organic and interesting ways. The cards have been laid out, and now we get to watch them play themselves out without the burden of dangling murky and potentially uninteresting mysteries to keep us coming back.
The plot picks up almost directly where the season one finale left off, with Baba Voss and his sighted foster son, Kofun, squaring off against a group of Trivantian soldiers. The sprawling natural vistas and brutal violence that were trademarks of season one are present again here, and there’s some truly exceptional cinematography and production design on display.
Baba Voss steals the armor of one of the slaughtered soldiers as a means to wear his scent and therefore pose as the dead man, a nice world-building the likes of which I wish the scripts would pepper in more frequently. Baba then heads deep into Trivantian territory in order to rescue his daughter, the spirited Haniwa, after she was given up to the Trivantians by last season’s savior turned villain, Jerlamerel.
Meanwhile, some undetermined number of miles away, Queen Kane and Princess Maghra ride with the royal army into the territory of Pennsa where they are greeted by the exceedingly shady Lord Harlan, another royal sovereign who essentially proves that all civic leaders in this society are certifiably insane.
After some amusing scenes of Lord Harlan and Kane playing politics while exchanging some deliciously subtle shade, the Queen drops her bomb on him and the audience by declaring falsely that the destruction of her home kingdom of Kanzua (which she herself caused to avoid being overthrown back in season one) was in fact perpetrated by the Trivantians due to their discovery that she is pregnant with a sighted child. Cue the chaos.
While Sylvia Hoeks performance as the Queen may not definitively be the best in the show, she is certainly doing the most acting, and it’s a smart choice for the series to bring in someone else on her level both in terms of cunning and eccentricity in the character of Lord Harlan (played wonderfully by Tim Mison). One gets the sense he has some particularly nasty surprises up his sleeve, and the ticking time bomb of he and the Queen having to exist under the same roof for an unspecified spell is an enticing one.
Back in Trivantes, Baba Voss meets up with an old friend named Yakis, who informs him that Baba’s dastardly brother, Edo Vass, is now the commander-general of the town. We also learn, crucially, that the reason Edo has been hunting Baba Voss is that he seeks revenge against Baba for murdering their father long before the events of the series. The circumstances around this event aren’t spelled out just yet, but one has to imagine they’ll be a large part of the season moving forward.
After failing to break into the top-secret prison where Haniwa is being held, Baba Voss is captured when he ultimately can’t bring himself to kill a little boy who surprisingly happens to have the rare gift of sight. This character, as well as Edo Voss’s lieutenant in charge of keeping Haniwa captive, are the first sighted characters we’ve met who are not direct descendants of Jerlamerel. Needless to say, this opens a lot of questions as to how many more there may be waiting in the wings.
If the self-serious tone and lumbering swords-and-sandals style dialogue were too much of a barrier for entry the first time around, then it’s safe to say you probably won’t be won over by See season two. But it’s certainly indisputable that with the laying of all the previous groundwork, this episode has a lot more zip and interwoven moving parts than the decidedly pedestrian structuring typical of season one.
While there’s certainly a long way to go, the premiere of See season two seems an improvement over the previous one in all the right areas. There’s still plenty of blood and beautiful landscapes to go around, but there’s also a faster-paced story with higher stakes and intriguing places to go.
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