By Nick Schager
November 18, 2019 at 06:54 PM EST
S1 E5
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As conveyed by episode 5’s opening shot of a record player warping and warbling while spinning a tune in a chamber filling with water, nothing lasts in See. Everything, and everyone, is in a constant state of transition, with epic journeys bringing about changes not only to people’s locations and circumstances, but to their families — and, also, to their understanding of compatriots’ true identities.

For Queen Kane, the decision to flood her palace necessitates a flight to safety. Before she goes, she says farewell to a collection of royal busts lining a wall – including one of her father, which she tells, “Look what I did. Your story is over now…but mine is just beginning.” Daddy issues are the order of the day in See. Still, before we can hear more about Kane’s paterfamilias (whom, she claims, never loved her, even though she loved him), we’re treated to Lord Dun being swallowed up by the crashing waves, and the sight of Kane and servant Nyrie hopping into a horse-drawn iron carriage and driving away as the dam collapses and the surrounding region is submerged by tidal waves.

Back at our heroes’ camp, Paris confesses to Maghra that, before he left, Jerlamarel told her to “be careful” about Maghra. Paris had always assumed he was talking about protecting Maghra, yet now that Maghra has sent Baba, Kofun, and Haniwa into danger, unarmed, to retrieve some pouch that her father once owned, she wonders if Jerlamarel really meant that Paris should be wary of his babies’ mama. Maghra pushes back against such suspicions and has Paris pray with her for her loved ones’ speedy and safe return.

Neither of those things is guaranteed, as Baba, Kofun, and Haniwa’s mission leads them to a riverbank settlement decorated with plastic garbage. Baba recognizes it as an outpost of the Opayol, a scavenger tribe, who must have been responsible for stealing their possessions (my prior guess about Jerlamarel being behind the theft was, alas, incorrect). The Opayol sleep during the day and Haniwa immediately says she can slip in and out of the place unnoticed, and thus will go retrieve her mom’s stuff. Baba objects but Haniwa isn’t having any of it, and she arrogantly proceeds into the trash-strewn site, which features alarm-bell booby traps that Haniwa sees, and easily avoids.

Haniwa eventually makes her way to a large tower-like structure housing a variety of pilfered goods and successfully acquires her mom’s pouch. At the same time, Kofun tells Baba that Haniwa’s headstrong behavior has nothing to do with them; instead, it stems from Haniwa relating to Maghra’s desire to have something from an absentee father (like mommy, like daughter!). It’s the most head-smackingly expository moment of the series to date, spelling out obvious things in an unnecessarily overt manner, and it’s followed by a routine bit of combat, as Haniwa is assaulted by a masked adversary with a giant club. Upon hearing her scream, Baba and Kofun come to her rescue.

At the conclusion of this skirmish, Haniwa stops Baba from killing their enemy because, it turns out, he’s not their enemy at all. Rather, this dreadlocked, facially scarred outcast has a brand on his chest — a symbol of an eye with two arrows pointing in opposite directions — that indicates he has the power of sight. Bringing him back to their camp, where Maghra receives her dad’s pouch, Haniwa introduces this figure as Boots, whom the Opayol had kept as his slave.

The bigger bombshell (at least to those in the show) is that Boots is another one of Jerlamarel’s kids. Apparently, Jerlamarel has been spreading his seed far and wide in order to create a new vision-powered generation, and then abandoning his offspring when the time is right — he’s not, by all accounts, much of a stay-at-home kind of guy. Baba steps up and agrees to take Boots into their clan, later admitting to Maghra that he did so because he feared that rejecting Boots might alienate Haniwa, whom he doesn’t want to lose (especially since he expects that the end of their quest will feature a reunion between Haniwa and her real dad).

Close-ups of Maghra during this and other scenes imply that she’s hiding some mysterious secret (Hera Hilmar’s work in this episode is ominously ambiguous). Queen Kane, on the other hand, conceals nothing from anyone, telling Nyrie at a glassy riverbed that she grew up amidst the roar of the dam’s engines and can’t understand how anyone can tolerate the silence of the vast outside world. Her contempt for common folk and their way of life is rather predictable, as is the fact that her caravan is set upon by silent, deadly enemies — in this case, two mud-caked females who kill Nyrie and their driver and take Kane prisoner, remarking on her exquisitely soft skin. Kane is taken to a ramshackle place known as the City of Worms, whose leader is an elderly man impressed with Kane’s exquisite fingers.

This individual doesn’t know who Kane is, which is lucky for her since he later makes a comment about the “bitch queen.” He then launches into a speech about the fascinating silkworm, which begins small and innocent and, over the course of its life, creates a beautiful, perfect substance that’s coveted by the wealthiest in the land — only to become a “husk of herself, used up, eager for death” once it turns into a winged creature without the ability to fly. It appears Kane too will be exploited until she’s nothing more than a worthless corpse by this man, who’s curious about her background (he suspects she has aristocratic ties) and puts a noose around her neck, informing her that she’ll work hard during her undetermined stint in his operation. Kane screams bloody murder to no avail, her highborn outrage incapable of halting her descent into servitude.

Kane now realizes what viewers have known for the entirety of this episode: venturing into the badlands, with little protection and no way to prove or enforce her royal rank (and power), was probably a dumb idea. Both Kofun and Haniwa, meanwhile, are interested in thinking about their own power — and standing, vis-à-vis their comrades — in separate conversations with, respectively, Bow and Boots. Bow raves to Kofun about her ability to observe others without being detected, thereby allowing her to attain secrets she can use in whatever benevolent or cruel way she sees fit. Boots sees his vision as an advantage, albeit one that has consequences — namely, alienation and scorn from the blind. He tells Haniwa that her relatives speak to her the way his captors used to treat him (i.e. not nicely). She disagrees, claiming she’s never doubted her family’s love for her — and that Maghra will, in time, come around to loving him too.

Baba is ready to depart their current position, but with the tide out, their boat is stuck until morning. Immediate danger then arrives in the form of Tamacti Jun and his witchfinder army. Baba, Kofun, Boots, and Haniwa take up silent arms against these invaders, picking them off in stealthy fashion (as before, Baba taps and scrapes surfaces to mislead opponents about his position, facilitating his gruesome kills). Paris and Maghra are left to hide in the hollow of a giant tree. Without warning, however, Maghra abandons Paris, instigating a frantic search by Baba and company.

We don’t have to wait long to find out where she’s gone. Walking through the brush, Maghra confronts Tamacti Jun, who approaches her, ready to strike (“I hear the voice of a dead woman”). Maghra, though, halts his attack by raising up her hand and wiggling her finger, rattling the royal ring that, it turns out, was the item from her father she had so desperately craved. Hearing this, Tamacti Jun kneels in deference, saying “Hail, Princess Maghra of the House of Kane,” revealing that Maghra is the queen’s sister.

Second Sight:

  • If Maghra is Kane’s sibling, one must assume that their rift (and Maghra’s flight into the wider world) was caused by Maghra stealing Jerlamarel away from Kane, who still calls out to him (as if in prayer) during moments of crisis. It’s always, it seems, about a man.
  • Baba may be the leader of his tribe — Boots bows before him in order to join the clan — but lately, he’s been a passive participant in the action, his choices largely dictated by others.
  • Tamacti Jun’s white-haired and bearded second-in-command is one menacing-looking villain. Let’s hope we get to see more of him in the coming weeks.

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