The Witcher. Season One.
Surprisingly, I had zero knowledge of the Witcher franchise before diving into the show. I knew it was a series of short stories and novels based on Polish and European folklore, and I knew it was the basis for three popular video games, culminating in The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt which was praised by many as one of the best games ever made. Somehow, I just missed it. So when the Netflix series came out, I thought now might be my chance to see what this is all about.
We follow Geralt (Henry Cavill), a Witcher, which means he’s a mutated human created to hunt and kill mighty monsters and supernatural threats, in a medieval fictional place called The Continent. His adventures mix these monster-hunting adventures with political intrigue between warring nations. We also follow two other characters, that will eventually cross paths with Geralt. The first is a woman named Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), who is a hunchbacked woman shunned by everyone, who begins training to become a powerful mage. We also follow a young girl named Ciri (Freya Allan), who escapes as her city is attacked and is on a quest to find Geralt, the only one able to protect her.
This isn’t a spoiler but might be helpful for you to appreciate this show. I wish someone had told me this at the beginning, so I’m doing you a favor. The three characters we follow are in different timelines. The mage Yennefer begins her training long before the girl Ciri is even born. Eventually, our timelines meet, but it took me awhile to understand what was happening, when one character would die and then show up later without a scratch. And like other large-cast complicated shows, it’d benefit you to watch with subtitles on, to catch all the character and location names.
There might be a void in your life following the conclusion of Game of Thrones. You might want an epic story, with both mystical and political trappings to keep you engaged. The Witcher fills that slot nicely. At only eight episodes, it’s a little short and you might feel like we’re just getting to the good stuff, but this is the beginning of something really special.
It all centers on Henry Cavill as our lead character. While the character doesn’t emote (really, at all), his character is still interesting and provides enough action that those of you wanting badass sword fights and epic monsters will find him a satisfactory hero. It also teases a lot of backstory about Geralt that will unfold in the future, about the tragedies that made him this way. It’s all very intriguing.
I also need to mention that the fight choreography here is brutal and impressive, so when Geralt unsheathes the sword, you know you’re in for a treat.
And this world we’re exposed to is incredibly compelling. Each time a new monster or supernatural threat arrived, I found myself diving into history and trying to learn more about these things. The world is rich and interesting.
Our other two leads are also very intriguing. While Ciri (Freya Allan) doesn’t get much to do other than run from various threats, the star of the show is really Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), whose physical, mental, and emotional arc is really something to behold. You have to remember that her arc takes place over 30-something years, so from one episode to the next, she might make drastic leaps.
What doesn’t work?
This first season doesn’t have the budget it really needed, so some of the visual effects (both magical and monstrous) might lack a little. I’m hoping now that this show has gained approval, a second season might look a little more polished.
Also, the show might be confusing if you don’t get the hints about the time differences. It didn’t click for me til about halfway through, so hopefully I can help some of you out from the beginning.
This is not a perfect season. It could use a bigger budget to really showcase these wild monsters and eight episodes was not enough to get to know all these characters, especially considering they don’t engage with each other right away. However, this world is incredibly interesting and our leads captivate you to keep coming back. I was thoroughly impressed and can’t wait for what season two brings!