Whether you adored the climax of Game of Thrones or are still haunted by it to this day, the television powerhouse coming to an end has undoubtedly left a fantasy itch which no might or magic can fix. Netflix’s answer? The Witcher, based on Andrei Sapkowskis much-beloved books and the more recent videogame adaptations.
The story follows the titular Witcher, Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), a highly proficient monster exterminator for hire. In this world of hideous man-eaters and creepy critters, business is naturally booming. But the tough witcher has a hidden soft side; distant yet caring, serious but witty, Cavill perfectly captures the complexity of the series protagonist. Cavill is a die-hard fan of the books and his understanding of the lore and characters certainly pays off.
Geralt is of course joined by a roster of colourful existing characters, who’s casting is equally successful. The narrative revolves around powerful sorceress Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and young princess Cirilla (Freya Allan). Along with Geralt, the intertwining fates of these three characters forms the bulk of the plot. However, the show follows the books use of time jumps to tell its story. Whilst this may work in the written form, the delivery of the show is somewhat jarring due to a distinct lack of signposting.
But in time the pieces begin to fall into place and the format becomes oddly freeing. The differing timeline allows the show to effortlessly switch between literal ‘Monster of the Week’ moments and the overarching plot, all whilst exploring character and establishing the world. It’s commendable that the show thinks highly enough of its viewers to assume they’ll figure things out themselves.
There are a few other flaws. Some of the show’s dialogue is a little clunky; overly fanciful philosophies that likely sounded cool in the book, but somewhere on the way to screen, they got lost in translation. A lot of the costuming and props are equally naff.
That being said, these are all issues easily resolved and even expected in such an ambitious new project, and there are certainly plenty of positives. The score is wonderfully fitting to the setting yet still unique, combing typical fantasy tropes with more contemporary styles. Likewise, the fight choreography definitely leans into the graphic realism seen in other areas of the genre but remains outlandish and fresh.
And therein lies The Witcher‘s true potential. The show absolutely fills the swords and sorcery sized void left by Game of Thrones, but without trying to replicate it. Instead, it presents its own pace and style, perfectly reflecting that of the books and videogames. Yet, it’s hard to be sure whether The Witcher is destined to grow to the dizzying heights of other fantasy franchises, or doomed to plateau at the love of a few cult fans.
Although sometimes clumsy in its execution, the show brilliantly showcases the source material’s rich world and characters. It’s almost like an elaborate ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ campaign, except with a massive budget. An excellent start for a series which still has plenty of room to grow.
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