See gets back to its murderous best [Apple TV+ recap] ★★½

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It’s close quarters combat on this week’s See, and plenty of it. The Apple TV+ show about a dystopian society run by blind people hits a violent snag as Tormada comes for his bombs — and finds Baba Voss and his sword waiting for him.

Also, Haniwa gets an earful and an eyeful of destructiveness and it just about breaks her. Harlan has to say a messy goodbye to my favorite character, and Sheva brings out the big guns to protect her family.

See recap: ‘The House of Enlightenment’

Season 2, episode 5: In this week’s episode, entitled “The House of Enlightenment,” crazy ex-queen Sibeth (played by Sylvia Hoeks) has miraculously made her way back to Lucien (Dean Jagger) and his witchfinders (in perfect makeup, no less) after a night in a cave sleeping off snake venom.

With a rousing speech, she convinces them to join her in her latest coup attempt. And, because everyone on this show has no accumulated memory and is a big fat idiot, they all go with it. She only lost her crown and drowned everyone a couple of seasons ago. What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, at the House of Enlightenment, Baba Voss (Jason Momoa), Ranger (Michael Raymond-James), Haniwa (Nesta Cooper), Sheva (Damaris Lewis) and Kofun (Archie Madekwe) are locked inside — with a bunch of armed Trivanteans outside. Tormada (David Hewlett), ambassador Trovere (Trieste Kelly Dunn) and Lord Harlan (Tom Mison) are stunned by the massacre they happen upon.

Tormada immediately wants to ensure that all of his precious bombs are intact. Charlotte (Olivia Cheng), Lu (Mainei Kinimaka) and Wren (Eden Epstein) are leading the rest of the sighted children of Jerlmarel to safety outside. So now, Baba and company must destroy the bombs without giving away their position.

A big battle, and some bigger surprises

Harlan suggests playing everyone against each other. Sheva, after all, was one of the people who sold Haniwa and Kofun to the Trivanteans at the behest of the duplicitous Jerlamarel. Maybe he’d trade Sheva for their safety? Of course, anyone who’d think Baba would give anyone up doesn’t know him that well. They start planting a trap for them. Plus, Sheva has an ace up her sleeve: guns.

The Trivanteans break in before too long. But it’s long enough that Baba’s team prepped the House of Enlightenment with traps and broken ceramic. Ranger, Baba and Haniwa make short work of the first two waves of soldiers. Sheva and Haniwa rig a stereo to play loud music (specifically “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses, a move so cliched that someone should have their WGA card taken away for writing it). But when Sheva finally uses her gun, the sight and sound of it nearly traumatize her into catatonia.

Tormada, too, sees that he’s literally outgunned, so he moves off with the bombs. Harlan has his own secret forces sweep in and clear the rest of Tormada’s guys. He offers Trovere an olive branch, but she doesn’t want it — so he kills her (boo!). Harlan and his guys tell Baba that the best idea is to head back to Maghra (Hera Hilmar) and Tamacti Jun (Christian Camargo) to warn them about the attack and raise an army to repel it.

Baba Voss vs. the House of Enlightenment library

Before Baba Voss goes, he douses the House of Enlightenment library in gasoline and lights the whole thing on fire. When Haniwa finds out he’s doing it, she tries to stop him. But Kofun stops her, and they tussle, almost killing each other before Baba breaks up the fight.

She’s furious he burned up the last of the books from the past. But also, considering the knowledge they contained was used to make bombs, you can understand why he was so anxious to destroy them. Haniwa’s anxious to create the future; Baba just wants to get a grip on the present. But of course, Sheva allays Haniwa’s fears that all of the knowledge ever written is gone by cryptically hinting at the existence of another library.

Burning books: A fiery idea

Jason Momoa plays Baba Voss in See recap: What does Baba Voss (played by Jason Momoa) burning a library tell us about See?
Jason Momoa plays Baba Voss in See recap: What does Baba Voss (played by Jason Momoa) burning a library tell us about See?
Photo: Apple TV+

I think the idea of burning the books as the kind of ideological crossroads of See is a strong one. But unfortunately, the show immediately gets over it and moves on to the next scene. Baba Voss stands tall as the show’s hero (though he shares the mantle with Haniwa and Kofun). So what does it say that the hero of the series is content burning books on the off chance that knowledge of the old world might infect the future with the violence that destroyed it in the first place?

Letting go of technology is one thing, but letting go of history is quite another. How do you maintain any kind of perspective if you go around burning up everything ever written down, only relying on your memory of how things were?

It’s not really a question See is up to answering, but I appreciated the gesturing in its direction. No, mostly this show is about people killing each other six or seven different ways — and thankfully this episode delivers plenty of that. The high-water mark for murder on See is still the scene in season one where Baba must rescue his family from slavers without making a noise. However, I appreciate seeing the evident thought that went into choreographing this week’s massacre.

★★☆☆

Watch See on Apple TV+

New episodes of See arrive on Apple TV+ every Friday.

Rated: TV-MA

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 author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.



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