Back in 1990, Polish author published a short story collection whose title, in English, was The Witcher. In 2008, someone translated the first of a series of novels in that universe into English. In 2007, CD Projekt produced a video game version. And in 2019, the first season of a television adaptation starring Henry Caville as the eponymous witcher premiered on Netflix.
We’re here to talk about the latter.
I came in with only the barest knowledge of the source material: Witchers = monster hunters. I have neither played the games nor read the books, and I didn’t research myself into a bevvy of readily-available spoilers. So I’m not going to go into the differences among the various media and instead look at it as a standalone.
Geralt of Rivia lives in a shitty world, where supernatural monsters run amok and regular monsters run kingdoms. He is a grim, gruff, mostly humorless mercenary who peddles his monster-killing services as he wanders the world. He’s brutally good at his job, and hated and mistrusted by the general population for being a little too much of a monster himself.
The other major character of season 1 is Yennefer of Vengerberg. We first see her as a farm girl who suffers from physical disabilities and is treated poorly largely on that basis. But she’s clever and ambitious. Eventually, she gets rescued from her miserable life and taught magic, revealing a ruthless side of her personality along the way.
It takes a while before the two characters converge.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED
OK, HERE GOES
The trick is, the first season is not told chronologically. I’ve seen a lot of people who found the show confusing tended not to have picked up on this. If you’re paying attention and trying to figure things out as you go (since you know that two characters with their own point of view story arcs are bound to cross paths eventually), there are enough clues to figure it out after anywhere between 2 and 4 episodes.
The Witcher is a tale of magic and monsters, of vows and consequences, and of the origins of the third major character, whose life seems to be a source of conflict set up for season 2 (which I’ve seen, but which is out of bounds for this discussion). Her storyline is the one that SHOULD have been the nail that joined the timelines together once and for all to anyone who hadn’t figured it out by the time everyone meets up.
The acting on the show is solid. Action scenes are well done for TV, even of “premium Netflix show” quality, though I wouldn’t put it quite on par with the Marvel Netflix shows like Daredevil or Punisher. The effects are up and down. Monsters are really well done; sometimes the magic (as often happens with fantasy TV) comes across as a little cheesy.
Overall, I recommend anyone who enjoys a good gritty fantasy to check it out.