Damson - What we're watching #21
No, "The Witcher" is not the second coming of Games of Thrones, no matter what the marketing for this pricey Netflix original series would have you believe.
Straight off the bat let us say this: "The Witcher" is not a bad show at all. However, it isn't without its problems. For those unfamiliar with the source material, The Witcher is a series of fantasy books by Polish author Andrezj Sapkowski - yet the franchise is probably known to more people for the non-canon video game series. The third installment of these is considered by many as one of the greatest role playing games of all time.
The main problem here is that in the books you are in Geralt's head (the main character in the series), and in the games, you are in his world. The TV show can't quite make up its mind which direction it wants to go in and suffers for it.
A lot was made of Henry Cavill being cast as Geralt. He is famously a huge fan of the games and campaigned to get the role. He embodies Geralt well, with just the right amount of physicality and gallows humour, but has been saddled with having to put on an unnaturally deep voice that sounds a but like he's doing an impression of LEGO Batman. It's pretty jarring for the first few episodes but you do get used to it after a while.
The marketing by Netflix for "The Witcher" would have you believe that you are only ever following Geralt's story, but that couldn't be further from the truth. You are essentially following three separate stories of three separate characters, with the idea that they will all come together eventually (SPOILER ALERT - They do).
Obviously, Geralt is your first point of view character, but you also follow Ciri, a Princess on the run who has mysterious powers of her own, and Yennifer of Vengerburg who is a Mage (female magician, basically) and Geralt's on/off love interest. Yennifer especially is a bloody brilliant character. Anya Chalotra is amazing in the role and sells it all: tragedy, naivety, charisma, confidence and power, and is probably the highlight of the whole series for us. Her transformation as the episodes go on is brilliant, as she goes from a meek, disfigured little girl to one of the most powerful sorceresses in the world. A warning though: If you're not a fan of body horror, we'd suggest maybe not watching episode three. You have been warned!
The series takes a similar approach to the likes of "Supernatural", with a monster-of-the-week type story that has the main storyline slowly bubbling underneath. With Geralt being a mercenary for hire, for the most part, he has some real ding-dong battles with these monsters. Episode three (again) follows our hero as he is tasked with investigating a royal scandal in order to lift a curse. This has some genuinely brilliant and brutal fight scenes. The setting, in an abandoned gothic castle where he is stalked by the cursed princess, looks beautiful and has a very satisfying conclusion.
For all of the things that you can pick apart with "The Witcher", the overall feeling is that we really enjoyed it. The way all of the storylines finally came together in the episode is some of the most blatant "second-series sign-posting" we've ever seen. But the second series is happening. Of course it is. It was never in doubt considering the amount spent on it.
Whether this is a relatively fleeting collection of series or runs for years and years (like Game of Thrones) remains to be seen, but we are really excited to see what lies ahead for Geralt, Ciri, Yennifer and pals.
If you can get your head around the whacky dialogue and the fact that the non-linear storyline can make it a little hard to follow at times, you'll be rewarded by some of the most original TV you will have seen in a while.
February 8, 2020