A few minutes into the first episode, you learn practically everything you need to know about The Witcher hero Geralt (Henry Cavill). The titular witcher – a hired monster hunter with certain useful superpowers — is first seen in a marsh, thrashed and nearly drowned by a large spider creature. In the next scene, Geralt goes to a small pub to get information on his next task, only to be mocked and scorned by peasants who are terrified of his superhuman abilities. Finally, a nice young woman saves him from a barroom scuffle, and she rapidly becomes his loving companion.
The Netflix adaption brilliantly depicts the mysterious hero. He’s trying to make it in a world that despises him, clinging to a moral code that puts him in perilous positions. He’s snarky and gruff, always up for a battle, incredibly charming, and frequently irresistible. It’s a notion that worked well in books and video games, and it’s now one of Netflix’s best series.
There are a few minor spoilers in this review.
The Witcher is based on a trilogy of fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, which gained global acclaim thanks to a video game adaptation. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, released in 2015, catapulted the series to blockbuster status. Every iteration follows Geralt, a member of the witcher family, an ancient and declining line of monster hunters. They’re modified from a young age to become stronger and faster, with restricted magical talents and longer lifespans as a result of the procedure. Geralt is a gunslinger who saunters into a troubled town, slays the inevitable magical beast, collects his reward, and moves on.
The Witcher is unlike other fantasy stories, including obvious counterparts like Game of Thrones, in this regard. The Witcher is like a fantastical detective series, with Geralt investigating dangerous magical creatures and inevitably being drawn into much larger conspiracies. It does have the elements of a vast epic tale — including plenty of political machinations and lots of warring kingdoms — but at its best, The Witcher is like a fantastical detective series, with Geralt investigating dangerous magical creatures and inevitably being pulled into much bigger conspiracies.
THE STRUCTURE FEELS ACCORDING TO THE SERIES’ SPIRIT. The way the new program smoothly mixes these two styles of storytelling is what makes it so successful. There’s a compelling overall plot here. The show also follows Ciri, a teenage princess with unusual talents on the run from a neighboring kingdom, and Yennefer, a fiercely independent witch with huge goals, in addition to Geralt. Viewers are drawn in as their three paths inevitably cross. Instead of the serialized style used on premium television, The Witcher follows a “monster of the week” format for the most of its runtime. (This shifts in the final two episodes, as the season hurries to a conclusion that plainly sets up the second.)
Each episode, many of which are based on short stories from the books, assigns Geralt the duty of resolving a different monster-related issue, such as a princess turned beast or a furious djinn who has cursed his best friend, the poet Dandelion (who primarily goes by Jaskier in the show). The format feels faithful to the series’ spirit while still working nicely for television.
It also means that the show expects a little more from its audience. The Witcher doesn’t always follow a strict timeline, and there’s no way to tell whether you’re seeing a scenario from the past or the present. Instead, you must figure out the timing based on contextual clues, such as a line regarding an event you’ve already witnessed or the distance between two actors. (The fact that witches and sorcerers don’t age makes it difficult to figure out the timing.) It took me a few episodes to figure out what was going on. This also implies that multiple viewings of The Witcher are beneficial, as you can pick up on little things you may have missed the first time around.
However, Geralt is the most important character in The Witcher. I’ll admit that seeing the first photographs of Henry Cavill in a Party City-style white wig made me anxious, but he absolutely nails the role. His Geralt is the perfect mix of terrifying, seductive, and snarky. His gravelly voice is also flawless. The wig may appear odd at times, but it does not detract from what makes Geralt so intriguing. You’ll even see him in a few bath scenes.
In an era full of nihilistic fantasy stories influenced by Game of Thrones, The Witcher stands out as a TV show. Yes, the show can be quite gruesome at times. The beautifully choreographed fight scenes, as well as one particularly difficult-to-watch miraculous metamorphosis, are highly violent. It’s a show where the bad guys are usually humans, not monsters, which is surprising. The details, on the other hand, are what set The Witcher apart. People in these stories aren’t just being bad for the sake of being bad; they’re making decisions based on love or survival, and things go awry. What makes The Witcher so interesting is how it goes into these murky waters, probing why individuals behave in the way they do. You’ll feel some sympathy for practically everyone towards the conclusion, no matter how unredeemable they appear at first.
‘THE WITCHER’ IS HUMOROUS. The Witcher, most importantly, has a sense of humour. It isn’t all doom and gloom. Jaskier (Joey Batey) regularly serves as comic relief, following Geralt about against his disapproval in order to put his exploits into song, occasionally breaking the fourth wall. “There I go again, just offering exposition,” he remarks at one point. “I love the way you just sit in a corner and brood,” the bard says the witcher when they first meet. Geralt’s caustic temperament is on full display in the meantime. With a frustrated “fuck,” he can cut through any scenario, no matter how embarrassing or unpleasant it is. A lively jig and gawking spectators make jokes accompany one of the show’s most dramatic sex scenes.
The Witcher could have gone horribly wrong. It’s easy to misunderstand what makes the series exciting, but the TV version gets it right. The Witcher is humorous, dramatic, and unsettling, and it almost flawlessly balances those diverse emotions. Yes, Henry Cavill is wearing a horrible white wig, but once he starts talking, you’ll forget about it.