Near faithful adaptation that will please fans of the books and games
Complex plot and large world makes it a high barrier of entry for casual viewers
Slow burn, requiring much patience for plot to pay off
Lots of needless nudity... probably pushed by studio executives to be the next GOT
Netflix’s eagerly anticipated The Witcher has arrived and many are already calling it the next Game of Thrones (GOT).
Fans of the book series might beg to differ and rightly so. Sure, even in The Witcher, you get your dose of gratuitous violence, epic battles, political intrigue and on-screen nudity–elements that have become synonymous with the GOT formula, but that’s where the similarities end.
The show follows three protagonists, the titular witcher Geralt, the sorceress Yennefer, and Princess Ciri. There’s also a greater intricate plot about fate and destiny surrounding the world of The Witcher, but this can often translate poorly on screen as cryptic messages. With little explanation, these are more likely to leave viewers confused than intrigued. But all this pays off in the form of delayed gratification when their paths dramatically and ultimately intercept.
I absolutely loved that Netflix has gone ahead to adapt one of the most defining short stories from Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Last Wish as the introduction to Geralt of Rivia. In it you’ll learn how Geralt comes to be known throughout the books and games as the infamous “Butcher of Blaviken”. And as the name suggests, Geralt does quite a bit of slashing, his first victim is a gigantic arachnid creature. By the end of the episode you’re treated to a flashy sword fight where he cuts down 10 men in a matter of seconds. But you’ll learn quickly that in The Witcher, violence often comes at a heavy price, and in this instance, Geralt is forced to make a brutal decision against his better moral judgement.
Witchers are magically enhanced humans trained from young to fight all manner of creatures. They walk a lonesome path once released from their school, and many, like Geralt, spend the rest of their life putting themselves in danger for people who think of them no different from the very monsters they are paid to slay.
Universally distrusted and yet grudgingly needed, Geralt struggles along the margins of society trying to find a foothold. With a skill set such as his, Geralt is continually persuaded by others to bend his moral code. Such tension inevitably brings to light that sometimes people are the real monsters. But the more the witcher refuses to budge, the greater the respect he inspires in me, and that’s a hero I can get behind.
With the show’s non-chronological format, it can be disorienting when it jumps between time periods or perspectives. It demands that you pay attention to details in order to figure out the time frame. Dialogue is heavy with exposition and after one too many name-drops, you might find yourself struggling to keep up (expect to need some Google-fu).
However, these gripes are tolerable in the face of intriguing and genuinely likeable characters. Geralt is as broody as he is funny, often deflecting haters with witty one-liners, perfectly delivered in his signature deadpan gravelly voice. You might find yourself rooting for Geralt’s romantic interest Yennefer, as she rises from abused farmgirl to powerful sorceress, and enjoying Jaskier the goofy bard who follows Geralt, all the while pestering him (on behalf of the audience) for more much needed exposition.
While it’s certainly funny watching Superman in a white wig on a bad hair day, the amusement dies the moment Henry Cavill spurs into action. The Witcher is a fantastic, near faithful adaptation of the source material, artfully blending lavish world building with memorable characters and superbly choreographed fight scenes.