“The River” is as handsome as usual, boasting an impressively tense escape sequence and some dissent in Queen Kane’s court, but little actual narrative progression.
This recap of See Season 1, Episode 4, “The River”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the first three episodes by clicking these words.
Nothing much of consequence happens in See Episode 4, most of which is set on a river running nowhere fast. That meandering body of water plays host to an enjoyably tense action sequence — this show is very good at those — and some idle chit-chat about where to go once it has run its course; you get the sense that See itself is as unsure as its characters. Here’s what you can be sure of: the show’s ample fifteen-million-dollars-per-episode budget remains well spent and Jason Momoa remains well cast, as comfortable in the scarred skin of Baba Voss as he ever has been, and seemingly destined to make a career out of playing hulking, hairy woodsmen.
Baba Voss has taken to the river — along with Maghra (Hera Hilmar), Paris (Alfre Woodard), Kofun (Archie Madekwe), Haniwa (Nesta Cooper), and some extras to be sacrificed at the action altar — because Tamacti Jun (Christian Camargo) has rounded up the villagers. They sneak away on a raft that Baba Voss has somehow secretly constructed just for this eventuality. The ridiculousness of that aside, See is very well-suited to the following scenes, in which the Witchfinders, tipped off by Gether (Mojean Aria), pursue the raft down the river while the heroes attempt first to sneak away and then to fight back.
Lush aesthetics and suspenseful construction notwithstanding, See Episode 4 never quite manages to convince anyone that this isn’t simply filler. The Witchfinders — who execute Gether, proving snitches get stitches, and order the expunging of the entire village — behave like arch cartoon villains. We have no real sense of their ideology or ultimate goal beyond a servile devotion to Queen Kane (Sylvia Hoeks). The tribe, too, are similarly thin. We’re expected to find their desire to live in peace and isolation to be a relatable one, but their insistence on continuing to pursue that desire despite harboring two children of a supposed prophet — and all the long-forgotten literature and knowledge they were left behind — is difficult to accept. The Witchfinder General butchering the Dreamer should have had much more emotional punch, but I only really found myself thankful that Tantoo Cardinal could enjoy playing a better character over on Stumptown.
The B-plot of See Episode 4 is a conspiracy to overthrow Queen Kane, whose masturbatory communion with her nebulous Gods has rightly been challenged by followers who think she’s trying to justify a delusional crusade at the expense of her own domain. And they’re right, obviously. But we still don’t know anything about her, how she became queen, why she’s so adamant on pursuing the offspring of Jerlamarel (Joshua Henry), or why anyone would follow her. The assassination plot involves tricking her into fondling a venomous spider, by the way, which is a fun idea as long as you don’t think about it too much.
What works about See Season 1, Episode 4 is what worked about the first three episodes, and what doesn’t didn’t in the first place. I’m more tolerant of this show than most, in part because I think Momoa is an underrated screen presence and the show’s action and finer details are often excellent, but its macro plotting and worldbuilding still leave a lot to be desired. Hopefully, subsequent episodes improve things a bit, tugging on some of the threads left dangling by “The River”, but despite all this week’s watery shenanigans, I won’t hold my breath.