This Netflix’s The Witcher Review does not include any story spoilers at all. However, direct references to the books are made which many may find to be too revealing.
The series that has spanned 8 novels, three videos games and a range of comic books. Even if you have never played the game, or read any of the books you have seen the name “The Witcher” somewhere in your life. It has become a worldwide phenomenon and will only grow now thanks to the first show adaption. Netflix The Witcher is an ambitious show that takes place in the same universe.
It follows the man we all know all too well “Geralt of Rivia”, a mutant created by magic whose main goal is to travel the lands and hunt monsters for coin. Those of you who have played the game before will know this white-haired man and have most likely spent dozens of hours with him as you explored the vast continents of the “Continent”. The show takes place during the early years of Geralt’s career. While he is well over 100 years of age, the show picks up before he has met both Yennefer of Vengerberg and Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon.
Jumping back and forth in time, the first season of the show acts as a fantastic introduction to the world, the characters and the story which will only unfold in the years to come. Being the first season, Netflix’s The Witcher had to spend most of its time developing the main characters in the franchise and it does a great job in doing so. Sure, there’s the main story going on during all the episodes but after spending two hours learning about Yennefers cruel upbringing, I was not too worried about it.
I have not read the books but I have played all the games and read up on all the main cast in the series. I have some favourites like Yennefer and some who I could not care less about like Dandelion. However, this all changed after watching the series due to these characters being revealed in a whole new way. So many things I did not know about them made them feel more human than ever and the emotional connection I had with them could not have been felt in say the video game or the books.
That is the magic of the show; portraying these layered characters in a new and exceptional way with some fantastic acting across the board. Freya Allan delivers a strong Ciri role as she learns about herself and who she really is. Joey Batey’s annoying Dandelion character is just as irritating as in the game and Anya Choltra deserves an award for her role as Yennefer as she is most likely the strongest in the show.
Of course, we then have Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia and his performance is often a hit or miss. Much of his “emotionless” attitude often felt one-note and his mannerisms just did not sit right with me. Of course, this is mainly when he is not fighting something and swinging his sword around as he is pure Geralt in these scenes. There was just something off about it during some episodes.
The show has some great supporting roles like MyAnna Buring’s Tissaia and the fantastic Jodhi May as Queen Calanthe of which do not get enough screen time.
The Witcher jumps back and forth in time as each episode plays out but every episode was like watching Geralt complete a quest in the game. So many things are relatable like him downing a tonic he made before heading into a fight with a demon or being kicked out of the town for making a decision between slaughtering a group of thugs or saving someone. These “mechanics” will be familiar to anyone that has played the games before as the tonics are vital to surviving a hunt and the game’s deep choice system can impact not only the outcome of the game but the way you approach a situation.
The show features so many smaller references to the games and books which makes every episode a joy to watch. It also sets the show quite far off from other fantasy series as every episode plays out as if you are watching a main quest line in the video game. Each episode is also based on short stories from the book and all these play out while the main story takes the backseat for much of the show’s runtime and every episode is a new adventure.
Although the show focuses on monsters, hunting and of course, Geralt, the overall theme of “destiny” runs through every episode. From the start, you are introduced to this idea that everyone is ruled by it and cannot escape it. It is overused quite often in the show and runs its course dry by the end of some episodes. However, it ties all the characters and the plot together.
The Witcher could have been a cheesy and poor attempt to bring the series to life but luckily it is not half bad. Geralt is often overshadowed by his fellow cast and there is nothing wrong with that. The show has some strong performances with Anya Choltra being the star of the show in my opinion. There are monsters to slay, tonics to drink, magic to witness and curses to break. It is everything you would expect from the fantasy series with some fancy CG, great acting and a glorious soundtrack.
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