This past week I zoomed through the entirety of The Witcher (Netflix) Season 1. I went in with limited Witcher knowledge (I.E. video game I.Q.) and surprisingly really enjoyed the show. However, It’s a bit unclear in the beginning what type of show it’ll be. To be fair, does one have to know everything about a story to enjoy a story they’ve never heard?
Now the first handful of episodes, at least, have Geralt’s plotlines center each episode around him arriving in a new place and being pulled into the Monster Of The Week. And the other two characters have broadly similar structure, if a bit more sequential, sometimes very explicitly mirroring the plot and themes of the Monster Of The Week plot of the Geralt sections of each episode.
The episodes are set up with three different timelines, each following a different character. The story is three converging into one. Once that clicks in your head the show becomes much more enjoyable and far less muddled.
Geralt, the Witcher
Yennefer, the sorceress.
Circi, the princess.
This is not Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, which makes it perfect. The Witcher takes itself “seriously,” not S-E-R-I-O-U-S-L-Y©. That’s the key. It has a 90’s Hercules/ 2000’s Merlin campy, low-key, supernatural action adventure romps vibe to it. That doesn’t mean it’s lighthearted, of course. It just means the moral complexity, the humanity of this world: THAT’S what’s deep and nuanced and full of life. NOT the politics. NOT the “epic-ness.” NOT the wars. Fantasy, swords, sorcery and beasts, just the way it ought to be. I welcome any shows that tackle this slice of pulpy fiction, so I was totally game for this one, even if it took some time to get there. The Netflix show is M for mature, just like the games of the series.
Great performances by Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, Freya Allan and the rest of the cast. Decent character development and story telling. I really loved the fight scenes and the world building.
Biggest Disappointment: We didn’t have more episodes of Geralt just being a Witcher and connecting with people. Though I am really glad that, even as Wolverine/Pale Rider/Vampire Hunter D stage Geralt (where he’s laconic but not a plank), he’s still really nice to children.
Biggest Surprise: Anya Chalotra as Yennefer. I didn’t know about everyone being split off into their own mini-origin stories for 90% of the season’s run time going into this. Thank goodness her performance is so great here. Otherwise every non-Geralt sequence would slowly transform into agony. Really, the only complaints I had during Yennefer’s scenes were those shared with Geralt’s scenes: stop overstating everything and have these worlds feel more alive and lived-in…AND allow some of these themes to emerge organically rather than artificially.
Best Song: “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher” by Jaskier the bard. It’s such a dumb, mildly anachronistic song. But yep, I was humming it today. And yesterday. And the day before that. I don’t know if it’s the melody or the fact that it sounds like a modern tune in a show where it doesn’t belong but i will admit it is an ear worm. If there is another Witcher game, I need this song to be in it. I would even take it in Cyberpunk 2077 and I can’t wait to hear the remixes on remixes, Internet do your thing.
The Witcher isn’t without it’s flaws of course but damn do I want more.
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