I really like this show, but, as a critic, I know I shouldn’t like it as much as I do. I have never read The Witcher books, but I am a huge fan of the games. So, when I watch this show, I watch it as a fan, and I can’t help but absolutely love certain aspects of Netflix’s The Witcher. At the end of the day, however, there are some egregious errors in storytelling that just cannot be ignored.
What is The Witcher?
For those of you who don’t know, The Witcher is a TV series that is based on a series of fantasy books written by Andrzej Sapkowski. This series inspired the massively popular Witcher video games, of which there have been three. As you might expect with a fantasy series, The Witcher concerns itself with magic, mythical creatures, swordplay, and more. What makes The Witcher unique, other than it’s European influences, is its dark and brutal tone.
And this show is certainly dark and brutal. It’s not for the squeamish; there areis enough violence and nudity to render the more conservative of viewers speechless. The political intrigue in the show also does not shy away from grim storylines as it depicts some true scoundrels. However, don’t think this is a purely macabre affair. There is a multitude of humorous moments sprinkled throughout the show’s eight episodes, much of it provided by the stellar cast.
A Monster Hunter and a Sorceress Walk Into a Bar…
The Witcher has an excellent pool of characters, with hilarious bards, rough warriors, and powerful women. And, for the most part, the cast nails each of their renown characters.
Henry Cavill is unrecognizable as Geralt. You can tell that he must be a fan of not only the books but the games, as well. His voice is an uncanny impersonation of Doug Cockle’s performance for Geralt in the games. However, he also brings to the table an incredible, unique physical performance that perfectly embodies the gruff, reserved nature of the famed monster hunter. Cavill can be menacing or vulnerable in a heartbeat, and he perfectly captures the struggle to act emotionless as to appease a hateful and prejudiced world.
Anya Chalotra delivers an exceptional performance as Yennefer of Vengerberg, delicately and expertly conveying the personality of the character both before and after her transformation into a beautiful sorceress.
Triss Merigold is in the show, but she is unjustly shorthanded. As someone who has played the games, I was disappointed to find that Triss did not resemble the character I had grown to love. I’m sure Anna Shaffer could do the character justice if she was given more material to work with. At the current moment, though, Triss is a bland and uninteresting character.
Joey Batey is an absolutely perfect Jaskier, working off of Cavill’s performance as Geralt to deliver comedic gems. Many of the characters have funny moments, but a smile, if not a laugh, is guaranteed with Batey on the screen. In general, the show does a fantastic job of building the relationship between Geralt and Jaskier. Also, shout out to “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher”; may you eventually stop being stuck in my head!
Freya Allan does a wonderful job as Ciri, although her character isn’t given much to do the entire season. Considering how young she is (18), her performance is especially impressive. But, sadly, her story is one of the biggest flaws of the season.
A Bard’s Tale
The show divides screentime between three characters: Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri. Yennefer’s story is immediately captivating, and Geralt’s starts to pick up around the third episode. Ciri’s, however, never picks up. Without getting too specific as to avoid spoilers, Ciri’s entire story arch is concerned with her finding something. It takes her the entire season, all eight episodes, to finally find what she is looking for.
So, Ciri basically does nothing the entire season. In fact, whenever she appears on screen, I can’t help but feel bad. Freya Allen is an amazing Ciri, but the way her story is written makes it dull and uninteresting. She spends the entire season running from a threat whose motivations the audience doesn’t entirely understand and never will. So, I not only got tired of Ciri running for eight hours, but I also got frustrated with the lack of explanation as to why this was happening at all. And all of this confusion and boredom just made me want to leave Ciri to her own devices and return to either Geralt or Yennefer’s story. It is in those stories where some truly enthralling, cool, and stellar moments exist. The plot may have a lot of issues, but it isn’t without its spectacular moments.
A Series of Bewildering Explanations
But that doesn’t mean that their tales are not without errors. In general, this show has one big issue: it’s terrible, and I mean terrible, at explaining things. Prepare to be confused. If you are like me and haven’t played the games in a year or two, it can be hard for even you to follow. The show struggles to simply remind viewers of rules, concepts, and histories of the world. Since I was already familiar with the lore, and struggling myself, I feel sorry for any newcomers to The Witcher.
It doesn’t just have difficulty explaining the laws and nature of its world, though, as it has trouble explaining the plot, too. Sometimes, you are just watching characters do things, and you don’t exactly know why they are doing those things. I would keep waiting for an explanation as to what was happening, but sometimes it never came. I was constantly confused, and that fact dampened my enjoyment of the show. Which leads me to another huge issue…
An Issue With Time
The Witcher’s timeline is confusing as hell. It doesn’t tell you this until halfway through the season, but each of the character’s stories is happening at different points in time. Not only that, but each storyline jumps forward in time at different paces. So, I never knew if Geralt’s story had caught up with Ciri’s, or if Yennefer’s caught up to Geralt’s.
It’s a shame because this issue could have easily been solved. All that needed to happen was for a date to splash across the screen, and, if a certain storyline jumps forward in time, to clarify that with yet another date on the screen.
I believe the fact that all of these storylines are not occurring at the same time was supposed to be some big reveal, but it is ultimately just baffling. There were some pretty big hints dropped at certain points during the show, but I didn’t necessarily pick up on them because I was struggling to ascertain what was even happening in the plot, much less when it was happening.
A Clash of Swords
However, you don’t read, play, or watch The Witcher unless you are looking for a monster hunter to kick ass. So, it stands to reason, there is a lot of action in this show, even if there isn’t as much monster hunting as I would’ve liked. However, it’s a dream come true when you do get to see Geralt hunt a monster. We usually catch up with Geralt at the end of his hunts, which can be a bit disappointing. The action does not disappoint, though.
The choreography of each fight scene is stellar. All the monster fights are riveting despite the CGI not being ideal. For a TV show, though, the CGI was quite good. It is significantly better than the CGI in Netflix’s Stranger Things.
The sword fights, with and without Geralt, are all excellent. Some shots are incredible, highlighting the demanding physical performances of all the actors involved. It is clear, however, that Henry Cavill does his own stunts, and that just adds to the already high quality of his performance. Geralt does not utilize many signs in the show, but he does utilize Aard, the telekinetic blast, in a lot of cool and interesting ways. The magic used by the many sorceresses in the show is very cool and clever. As a whole, action fans will be pleased with what The Witcher has to offer.
In the end, I really like The Witcher. Although I have not read the books, for the most part, it does the games justice. It takes what I love about them – the dark fantasy, the characters – and adeptly incorporates those elements into its first season. However, I hate to say it, but the show is an absolute mess.
The rules and events of the world are presented in a very confusing and complexing way, and the same goes for the plot. It doesn’t help that I was constantly struggling just to know when things were happening. It’s hard to enjoy a story if you are spending half your time trying to figure out what is going on and when.
Finally, without spoiling anything, the conclusion to this season is just bad. There is no payoff whatsoever for anything that has happened the entire season. A major character does absolutely nothing in the finale, and the moment that the whole season has been building up to is the very last moment of the entire show. In other words, the whole season builds up to a moment that you never get to see.
It’s incredibly unsatisfying. I understand it is supposed to be a cliffhanger, but the ending is inconsiderate of the viewer’s time. It’s just poorly executed, and it left me annoyed and angry.
So, should you watch The Witcher? Yes, if you are a fan, you definitely should. If you have even a mild attraction to fantasy, you might want to consider giving it a look. However, don’t expect an easy watch. You will be confused; you will be annoyed, but if you are like me, you will still love it anyway.
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- THE GOOD
- Excellent Cast
- Henry Cavill as Geralt is Just… Perfect!
- Action Scenes are Exciting and Very, Very Cool
- Certain episodes and Individual Moments are Incredible
- Magic and Abilities are Presented in Very Cool and Clever Ways
- THE BAD
- Information is Delivered in a Confusing Way
- Plot and Timeline Can Also be Very Confusing
- Ciri’s Story is Dull and Uninteresting
- Series Finale is Unsatisfying