Screenshot: Netflix’s The Witcher

There may be very mild spoilers in this review, proceed at your own discretion.

When The Witcher was first announced I was fully prepared to hate it. I’ve tried to play the games a few times but to no avail. The first one was clunky and playing it for even a few hours seemed like a slog. The second Witcher game I got into a bit further but nothing about the story was enough to really capture my attention. As a result, I never tried to play the third despite it being the best among the three. That doesn’t matter too much with respect to the Netflix series because it’s based more heavily on the books. When Henry Cavill was announced as Geralt of Rivia I rolled my eyes. The casting further justified my pre-emptive contempt for the show. I’ve got nothing against Cavil, I tend to enjoy him in most of his films but something just didn’t say “Witcher” to me when I looked at him, he was too handsome. The first teaser image they put out of him in the wig just added to the fire as he looked like someone trying to cosplay a very bad Legolas. Now that The Witcher is out I’ll be the first to admit that it’s actually pretty good but it’s not without its faults.

The Good

The Witcher is a story about a man purposefully mutated to become stronger than you average or even above average man so that they can fight and kill monsters. The Witcher is a monster hunter who employs the use of potions and tonics and most importantly magic. The world of The Witcher is full of magic, mystery and monsters and so the first thing that stood out to me was how great the visuals were. It’s very easy for non-block buster productions to skip out on the SFXs and look cheap. The monsters look fantastic and for the magic they took more of a less is more approach. When Geralt flashes his hand in a certain there’s a flash of light and a shimmer, it’s not much but it gets the job done. The big magic like the Fireballs and Lightning is saved for the mages later on in the show and is just as cool.

Henry Cavill as Geraly of Rivia is actually perfect. He hits this perfect mixture of standoff-ish and charm. He’s both intimidating and dangerous but when you see through the cracks of what people consider ‘monsters’ there’s a protector there. It’s the story of the reluctant hero who already knows people rely on him as such. All the other characters hit their mark perfectly from Yennefer the hunchback turned mage to Princess Ciri who is on the run for most of the show.

The Improvement

I don’t want to necessarily call this the ‘bad’ because based on what the show runners had to work with I think they did about as well as they could have. There are three major characters that the show follows; Geralt of Rivia, Yennefer and Princess Ciri. Season One of The Witcher is based on the book The Last Wish which is a series of short stories. You may start to notice around episode 4 that the three characters we’re watching are actually in different time lines with various number of years passing between them. Yennefer’s story takes place far in the past, but about two lifetimes. Geralt’s story is somewhere in the middle and spans over a decade or two and Ciri’s story is closest to what will be considered the present and takes maybe a few months. I think all these stories are important because through season one we get a big sense of who the characters are as the stories slowly converge, which they do in the final episode. The problem is that it’s not very fulfilling and instead of leaving the viewer with the feeling of a completed puzzle, you’re instead left wondering if you’ve put the pieces in their proper place.

The show runner has stated that they have enough material to do nearly seven seasons. There are somewhere around 8 different books for the Witcher and when Season Two comes around it’ll be based on an actual book and have a more focused and coherent storyline. I’m excited about that and I think with what we’ve seen in Season One even with it’s stumbles The Witcher is set to become one of Netflix’s flagship shows.

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