Apple TV+ Reviews: Dickinson, For All Mankind, The Morning Show, See & The Elephant Queen

at .

The first of several new streaming services set to challenge Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu for streaming programming arrives on November 1.

Apple TV+ goes live on Friday and with the rollout releases four dramas and a documentary as well as some children's programming.

It's unclear exactly how each show will be debuting, but Apple has previously said that most shows will launch with three new episodes to start with weekly rollouts to follow, but others might drop entire seasons at once.

Apple TV+ Reviews File

I've had the opportunity to view many of the Apple shows including The Morning Show, For All Mankind, Dickinson, and See, as well as the stunning documentary The Elephant Queen.

To keep things simple and because there are not a lot of promotional materials to support a full article for each (not to mention the lack of time), below you can find reviews for all of the titles named above.

What to Watch Next Week: Apple TV+ Goes Live, Jack Ryan Returns, Last Modern Family Halloween

Dickinson is a coming of age story about poet Emily Dickinson starring Hailee Stanford as the enigmatic young woman about which very little is known historically.

Billed as a comedy, each episode hovers at about the 30-minute mark. The story picks up somewhere around Dickinson's 15th year. She's a precocious young woman and the apple of her father's (Toby Huss) eye.

Dickinson Poster

Emily fights vigorously against the social norms of the time with a marked distaste for women's work and without any interest in marriage. She dreams of seeing the world and becoming known as the world's greatest poet.

Emily's mother (Jane Krakowski) expects her daughters to help keep the house and eventually marry. Emily's younger sister, Lavinia (Anna Baryshnikov), is interested in marriage, but even though Emily has personally vowed never to marry, it's Emily that Mrs. Dickinson wants to see set with a proper suitor.

It's not only Emily's status as the elder of the two daughters that gets her first priority with suitors, but Lavinia's excellent housekeeping.

It's the very things her mother fiercely covets that Emily disdains, and at one point in the series, Emily's attempts to steer clear of the more womanly pursuits of the day leads her mother to believe her husband thinks her an inadequate wife.

Emily in the Dark

Central to Emily is her fascination with death (who even makes an appearance in the form of Wiz Kahlifa) and her best friend, Susan Gilbert (Ella Hunt) poised to marry Emily's older brother, Austin (Adrian Enscoe).

Although she seemed to lead a relatively normal life as a young woman, Emily eventually became what others considered somewhat of a recluse. Because of that, most of what we know about Emily is gleaned through her writing, whether her poetry or correspondence with treasured friends.

Although never officially published during her life, Lavinia pushed hard for her sister's work to get the treatment it deserved. Unfortunately, that also led to significant editing throwing further discourse into Emily's talent and what is known about her life.

To whit, it is said that Susan's name was scrubbed from her poetry. That mysteriousness opens Emily's life to interpretation, and that's what Dickinson for the teenaged Emily.

Although a period piece, Dickinson is presented with modern sensibilities -- the actions and language of the characters is from 2019.

That allows Dickinson to be more welcome in the current environment. It goes to great lengths to show Emily's fierce determination not to get trapped in the life of a traditional woman of the era that she doesn't want and wouldnt't suit her

The more you know about Dickinson and who she becomes after her years at Amherst Academy and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, the more inspired Dickinson becomes.

After all, without the freedoms offered to women today, a spirited and talented Emily might have become reclusive to protect herself from a path not her own, and through Stanfield's portrayal of Emily, you can imagine how she would have flourished if offered different opportunities.

Dickinson's Emily is full of spunk and hope of the life that lies ahead. She loves deeply and ponders life's greatest mysteries while meticulously recording her thoughts through her poetry.

Truth Be Told: Octavia Spencer, Aaron Paul Clash Over Murder in First Trailer

It's unlikely that Dickinson will appeal to genuine fans of the poet because it seems created for Emily's teenage peers.

While it rises above some of the courser offerings like Euphoria, through the first several episodes, it doesn't have a lot to say about Emily Dickinson nor her actual impact on literature.

Dickinson -- 3/5 stars

For All Mankind Poster

For All Mankind is a story about the space race suggesting that on June 26, 1969, the Soviets made the first trip to the moon ostensibly leaving the United States in the dust.

While the United States tries to look at the one-up as an opportunity to prove that the competitive technology is far more advanced than that of the Soviets, before too long, the Soviets go a step further by sending a woman to the moon that's dramatically revealed on live television.

While real-life astronauts will be a part of the series, their roles are slight.

Instead, Joel Kinnaman stars as Edward Baldwin, an astronaut who led the Apollo 10 mission known for hovering above the moon but not descending the extra eight miles that would have put an American first.

Going to the Moon

Also starring are Shantel VanSanten as Baldwin's wife, Karen, Michael Dorman as Gordo Stevens, a fellow Apollo 10 astronaut, and Sarah Jones as his wife, Tracy.

Chris Bauer stars as Deke, the NASA training director, and Wrenn Schmidt as Margo, a well-qualified NASA employee trying to get her foot in the door of the male-dominated occupation.

There is very little by way of minority representation on the series other than the inclusion of a Mexican family illegally crossing the border, a journey they begin on the night of the first lunar landing.

It's so off-topic that it feels included merely for the current political climate.

The As-Cans

That's a shame since the use of African American's is relatively insignificant with only Krys Marshall playing a NASA engineer cum astronaut named Danielle in what almost seems like a nod to the film Hidden Figures about the African-American mathematicians who helped propel the space program in the '60s.

Danielle arrives relatively late on the scene, and other than a couple of throwaway lines about her race, she's just one of the girls and faces no further challenges s a result of it.

The girls are the group of women, mostly pilots, who are earmarked to become the US answer to the female Kosmonaut.

It's only when that story begins that the series has more purpose.

A Male Astronaut Wife

Sonja Walger joins as a Molly Cobb who represents a real-life pilot named Geraldyn Cobb who was in play to become one of the first US astronauts when the program got shut down.

That very nearly happens in this alternate world, as well, but since hindsight is 20/20, the story takes a different approach in which the women become integrated into the space program.

For All Mankind: Apple TV+ Releases First Full Trailer

Using the high-stakes space race as a statement on equality in the workplace works very well. The need to meet and surpass worldwide rivals opens avenues allowing for a lot of risks, and it's risk that gets rewarded in this alternate world.

In one of the more compelling character studies, the Stevens face significant challenges when Gordo gets grounded to make room for the up and coming female pilots of which his wife, Tracy, is a part.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Gordo struggles with life as an astronaut's wife, as he has to accept the same things he once expected of her.

It's an interesting show especially in light of our dominance in space.

Did achieving the historic step for all mankind release the throttle on space exploration in a way being second wouldn't have?

That's the supposition of For All Mankind, and for anyone who has had to fight to achieve first place from further afield, you know there is not better instigator.

For All Mankind -- 3.5/5 Stars

The Morning Show Poster

While we're on the topic of workplace inequality, The Morning Show begins the morning allegations are brought against Steve Carell's Mitch Shenker, half of a morning show duo, for sexual misconduct. 

His other half is Jennifer Aniston's Alex Levy who will take the brunt of the fallout of Mitch's actions in the public eye.

Although there are big names throughout, the show is more Aniston's than anyone else.

Alex faces challenges from every direction. If not the fallout from Mitch's behavior (how couldn't she know?), the as a result of being a successful woman without the associated network backing to keep her in the number one position.

Bradley Jackson

With the typical "she must be a bitch" sentiment when Alex wants more control over her on-air persona, the stories they cover, and who will replace Mitch as her co-anchor, the network decides to use the overall incident to push her out.

Reese Witherspoon is Bradley Jackson, a southern "conservative" reporter who catches the nation's attention when she stands up to someone at the site of a local mine collapse. Her feisty confrontation is caught on cameras and goes viral.

Head of the network Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) sees something in the scene-stealer, and soon Bradley is on the way to New York for a chat.

Ellison is attempting a coup in which he'll replace aging Alex with Bradley, a story that is hard to swallow given the minimal age difference between Aniston and Witherspoon.

Alex Hugs Mitch

In the fictional world, though, it plays, and all of Alex's pleas to morning show producer, Chip Black (Mark Duplass), go unanswered.

"Sometimes, women can't ask for control, so they have to take it." Alex needs to drive her own future.

The Morning Show Trailer: Jennifer Aniston Fights to Save Her Job 

She does that by taking advantage of a situation very reminiscent of Kendall's redirect on the season finale of Succession (one of two times I was reminded of Succession Season 2 while watching The Morning Show).

Aniston is all in with her portrayal of Alex, and there is a scene in which Alex confronts the disgraced Mitch to great effect. Alex gave up everything for her job.

Alex and Bradley

She gave up her friends, family, and life for a job that takes everything out of her, and she counted on Mitch to do it. But in light of his fall, she realizes he's not her husband, her lover, or her family, and now he can't even be her friend. 

It's a moving scene and a pretty good analysis of what one man's fall can mean to the rest of the team.

And lest you think that Witherspoon's Bradley is, in any sense of the word, what you'd expect from a FOX News conservative, think again. The character describes herself as taking no sides, being on the side of humans with empathy for everybody.

It was highly unlikely that Aniston and Witherspoon would throw themselves into this series without their roles making a statement, and both characters are poised to stick it to the patriarchy as their unlikely union progresses.

By the end of the first three episodes of The Morning Show, it's more secure in its footing, and like For All Mankind, it's a path that promises the best is yet to come.

The Morning Show -- 3.5/5 Stars

See Poster

Then we have the fantasy series led by Jason Momoa about a future Earth. The story is that roughly 600 years earlier, a virus (or something) decimated humanity leaving the two million survivors without sight.

Generations later, the world has regrouped. Sight is something of a myth and it's not recalled fondly, at that.

There is relatively nothing left of the world that was, and in its wake, a clan leader named Baba Voss suddenly finds himself the guardian of a pair of sighted twins when the pregnant woman he's taken up with gives birth.

Just as the children are born, the clan is in a fight for their lives when the Queen's minions arrive seeking witches. Giving up their home to escape the threat and protect the children, the clan reluctantly goes on the move.

The Blind Leading the Blind

Although one would think sight was not the norm, the twin' sighted birth father isn't far from the clan and gifts a small trunk full of books to Baba and his woman that they decide will never be delivered for fear of what it would mean.

A clan elder, Paris (Alfre Woodard), has other plans for the children believing what they have is a gift. As the children grow, she eventually gives to them the books with which they teach themselves to read.

OK. So that seems incredibly farfetched, although research indicates that when children are read to early, they can sometimes self-teach reading as a result. Doing it without ever having seen a book or the written word, though, is too far for me to fetch.

So much about See is unfathomable, from the Queen who prays via noisy masturbation (yep) to the only sign of past civilization being the water bottles the clan uses to send messages by the river (uh-huh) that it's hard not to laugh, assuming you can make it that far.

Mamoa and Woodard deserve far better than the hand they're dealt on See.

Jason Mamoa on See

For a civilization that has advanced generations without sight, they haven't attuned their senses of sound or smell to the point they would know that a wood sprite was messing with them by going nose-to-nose while dancing about in the woods within their grasp.

Assuming that everything in the world (except for some of the queen's items which include a working record player -- yes, record player) has dissolved is a stretch. The clans walk through lands as if there was never a society there before it.

Charlie Hunnam to Lead Cast of Apple TV+ Drama Shantaram

They're survival mechanisms also aren't indicative of a group who has successfully moved on. They communicate by bead strings. Baba can walk gingerly through unfettered woods with a cane only on his right without ever bumping into anything on the left.

On its surface, See is Syfy quality programming when Syfy was nothing but B movies. But at least those movies embraced their idiocy, eventually leading to high-level cheese like the Sharknado series. See takes itself seriously.

Uphill Defense

The biggest insult is that 600 years into the future sight loss wouldn't allow humanity to move out of the clan mentality, out of caves and back into human-made dwellings, or out of pelts and into hand-sewn clothing. The future doesn't think much of the blind.

No doubt, there will be people who believe there is something to see with See. Just don't expect Game of Thrones level entertainment, which is what it was likely aspiring to be.

See -- 1/5 Stars

The Elephant Queen Poster

And finally, there is an excellent documentary that you shouldn't miss.

Narrated excellently by Chiwetel Ejiofor, The Elephant Queen follows a matriarchal elephant named Athena as she guides her herd for survival.

There are a lot of documentaries in 2019 that attempt to explain nature's place on this planet, but none of them do it as well as The Elephant Queen.

Nature doesn't peach -- it just is. Life is harsh in the wild, and Athena uses all of her wisdom to ensure that her herd lives through the harshes of circumstances.

Athena on The Elephant Queen

Athena and her large family prove to love and communicate much like us. She has a daughter named Princess with whom youngster WeWe wants desperately to befriend. When he doesn't find that door open, he proceeds with the youngster of the herd, Mimi, a sweet girl who doesn't find life in her new world to be as easy as some of the others.

The cinematography is breathtaking, and the elephant herd is only part of the story to be told. An entire kingdom of creatures counts on Athena and her herd for survival. Frogs, geese, fish, and other species live and die based on her decisions.

Filmmakers Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone spent four years creating this family-friendly experience, and they paid attention to the smallest details to drive their points home.

The film has a lot to say about the environment and its changes, but it does it through Athena's lens without adding to the narrative.

Athena Leads the Herd

What she sees is what we see, and regardless of where you stand on changes in our environment, you'll have better regard for it after watching The Elephant Queen because we all see more clearly when we take ourselves out of the equation.

Although this is a child-friendly documentary, don't expect your adult heart to escape unscathed. In my experience, you become softer toward animals as you age. And what tragedies children can take in stride will knock you onto the floor.

Jennifer Garner Reunites with Alias Creator J.J. Abrams for Apple Series

That is to say that the constant search for water in Africa during a terrible drought has its casualties. There is nothing that tears at the heartstrings harder than an animal in peril, and life in the desert isn't easy.

The Byrds Turn, Turn, Turn comes to mind while watching, as for every creature there is a season, and the way Deeble and Stone drive that point home and Athena's role in it is beautiful.

Baby Mimi the Elephant

The adventure is filmed in a way that you'll grow close to the creatures and warm to how similarly their familial connections mirror our own.

It isn't a work of fiction, but Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone frame the narrative to make it a cohesive story with all the ups and downs the wild families endure.

The Elephant Queen -- 4.25/5 Stars

The Elephant Queen rises above the series offerings that are initially delivered on the platform, but it also offers hope that if the Apple TV+ execs could get behind it, they'll similarly find series that tick all the right boxes.

The Herd on The Elephant Queen

For all the time Apple TV+ had to hit the ground running, they've made some questionable decisions with their programming so far. But at least two of the series have great potential, and the documentary is memorable.

Later in the month, Apple TV+ will release Truth Be Told with Octavia Spencer, Aaron Paul, and Lizzy Caplan and Servant with Toby Kebbell, Lauren Ambrose, and Rupert Grint. We'll have reviews of those series as their release date draws closer.

Is Apple TV+ worth the monthly cost of $4.99? Yes. One movie costs a lot less and doesn't always deliver. This is their first foray into entertainment of this caliber, and despite some initial stumbles, Apple will ultimately prove a worthy entry into the streaming market.

---------------------------------------------

Editor's Note: Our system got updated! Now, you'll be able to scroll through many articles at once. That required a bit of a change to the comments, though, and now you have to click the blue "comments" bar at the bottom of an article to access them. 

There are also two segments to comments now. You can either comment using Facebook or Disqus. Either way, you can SEE both types of comments. We hope that will be more inclusive of our community at large and that the conversations will grow as a result.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

Show Comments
Tags: ,