The Witcher is a fantasy Netflix series created by Lauren Schmidt and stars Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, Freya Allan as Ciri, and Anya Chalotra as Yennefer. The show follows the three protagonists on each of their individual journeys. Geralt is a solitary monster hunter who travels the Continent in search of his next monster contract. Ciri is the princess of Cintra and the granddaughter of queen Calanthe. The show follows her journey as she escapes Cintra after a Nilfgaardian invasion to look for Geralt of Rivia. Finally, Yennefer is a powerful sorceress with a difficult childhood. The show explores her early life as she struggles to control her powers and then follows her journey as a sorceress later on.
I’ll admit, prior to watching the show, I was a bit skeptical and had a few concerns with some of the choices made during production. As a big fan of the books and the games, I was still looking forward to it and watched it with an open-mind. And I’m glad I did. I can safely say that this season of The Witcher is a faithful adaptation of a selection of short stories from the first two books and an overall solid first season. The show is not without its flaws, but I was able to disregard its shortcomings because it got a lot of things right. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
I’ll start with what I didn’t like so much. First of all, the timeline of the three main characters can be quite confusing, especially if you haven’t read the books. I watched the show with my wife who hasn’t read them, and I found myself having to explain what was happening and when it was happening. I understand the challenge of developing these three characters in one season, especially since the Ciri sequences happen in the second set of short stories while Geralt’s adventure spans both books, but I think it could’ve been handled better. I think moving forward, the show will be a bit more linear since it’ll start the main story from the books and so hopefully it’ll be easier to follow.
My second issue with the show is some the casting. I am overall happy with the main cast, but there is one cast member that completely threw me off, and that’s Mahesh Jadu as Vilgefortz. In the books, Vilgefortz is an all-powerful mage who’s respected and feared by most. In the show he just seems silly and not that powerful in my opinion. I’m not sure what the writers were thinking, but I guess I’ll have to wait for the second season to see how they further develop his character.
My final concern (more of a nitpick) with the first season of The Witcher is just some of the visual effects. Most of the effects were good to excellent, but on the very few occasions where it wasn’t so good, it had an impact on my immersion with the show. This might be a budget issue, and it’s understandable for a show like The Witcher because of the variety of monsters in the lore. I hope that Netflix will invest more in the show in later seasons as it becomes more popular in order to polish these small problems.
Now for the things that I liked in this first season of The Witcher. I loved the main cast of the show, they all do an excellent job portraying complex and nuanced characters. Henry Cavill is great as Geralt, and you can tell that he’s passionate about it and that he prepared for the role. He’s strong, caring, and conflicted, just like in the books. As a bonus, he also delivers great and hilarious one-liners throughout the show. I was a bit skeptical about Anya Chalotra as Yennefer prior to watching the show, but I’m happy to say that she does a great job portraying the powerful sorceress. I still think she’s a bit young for the role, especially compared to Henry Cavill, but besides that she was terrific. Freya Allan as Ciri was also great. From the moment they cast her, I thought she would be perfect for the role, and she really is. She’s a great actress, and she looks a lot like what I think Ciri looks like.
The action sequences in the show are also great, my favorite one being the battle in the market in Blaviken. The sequences are thrilling and well-shot, and they really show Geralt’s insane swordsmanship. It felt like the words from the books were coming to life, and I hope the quality of the action sequences remains good in future seasons. Another thing the show does really well is the nuances between monsters and humans. Just like in the books, it shows that not all monsters are bad, and that sometimes humans can be monsters too.
Finally, I think my favorite thing about the show is how true it stays to the books when it comes to themes like family, love, and destiny. I was afraid that they would turn the show into a mindless epic fantasy, but I’m glad to say that they didn’t. While they do include a few large scale epic sequences, they’re not the main focus of the show, and they help improve the worldbuilding, something that wasn’t done very well in the books. I was also very happy to see the care put in by the showrunners in developing the individual journeys, as I think this is an important aspect from the books. Each character has an arc that explores their struggles, imperfections, and growth.
Overall, I am very happy with the way the first season of The Witcher turned out. I was a little skeptical prior to watching it, and I’m glad to say that I was wrong. While the show does have some timeline issues, I think it makes up for it by having strong character growth and by respecting the central themes of the books. Going into this show, it’s important to remember that this is not “the new Game of Thrones” and that it’s not actually based on The Witcher games. It’s also important to remember that even though this is an adaptation of the books, some things will be different. I’m overall extremely happy with the way the first season of The Witcher turned out, and I’m impatiently waiting for the next season to continue this fantastic adventure.
Star Rating: (8 / 10)
Have you had a chance to check out The Witcher on Netflix? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Let me know in the comments below!