Over the break, Netflix dropped its adaptation of “The Witcher” video game series based on the books about the same main character, Geralt of Rivia.
For those unaware, a Witcher is a human who has had experiments done on them so that they can more efficiently hunt monsters. Stronger than a normal human, cat-like eyes and quick reflexes are just some of the staples of being a Witcher. They take the skills that have been given to them and make their living on the road, doing odd jobs here and there that village folk aren’t able to do themselves (and that usually involves hunting a monster or two on the way).
Being set in the time of knights and kings, “The Witcher” brings a fresh take on the genre after Game of Thrones left us wanting more medieval action, though their similarities stop at the setting. Before going into the negatives of the show, I’d like to give credit to the show for all of the things they did right.
Starting with the main actor, Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, I think he did an amazing job akin to Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine. His demeanor, tone of voice and physique are all on point when it comes to bringing Geralt to the screen. Having done a lot of research about the character he’d be playing, one can tell that Cavill put a lot of work into making sure that he didn’t let anyone down when he set foot onto the set.
From one of the very first scenes we see him in, where he walks into a tavern and is immediately greeted by nasty looks and vile comments, I believe Cavill portrays Geralt perfectly. While simply looking for an alderman in town, he is told by the tavern owner that his kind (Witchers) aren’t welcome. Such a simple scene like this is elevated by Cavill’s performance, as he uses body language and facial expressions to show a huge amount of character in just a few seconds.
The show did an excellent job casting all around -- not just with Geralt. Yennefer, the disabled farm girl turned all-powerful sorceress, and Ciri, the young girl running from her slaughtered town trying to find her destiny, both carry themselves on screen to such an amazing degree, that it can be easy to forget you’re watching a show on Netflix, and not just playing “The Witcher” game outright.
While “The Witcher” does a lot of things right, from the characters to the musical score pulled directly from the games at times, to the choreographed fighting, it also has quite a few things that it needs to improve before its second season comes along. The biggest issue I had with the series was the timeline it followed. Following the three main characters, Yennefer, Ciri and Geralt, the show doesn’t outright explain to you the jumbled timeline. When you’re witnessing scenes involving Ciri, the time period is 10 years past the scenes you see involving Geralt and Yennefer.
While they do give context clues to these hints, and everything does eventually all connect on the final episode, it can be very confusing to have the show jump back and forth between timelines, and made it very hard to keep track of what was going on until the the timelines finally merge.
Another aspect the show could work on is the narrative itself. They do an amazing job of dialogue and Geralt explains everything out loud very often. However the story can feel a bit disjointed at times, with the scenes flipping between action in one place and then slow dialogue and drawn out sequences in another. This often left me groaning in disappointment whenever the flow of the show was cut by yet another dialogue-heavy scene that seemed to have no place being there.
One scene in particular shows Geralt facing off with enemies in a cave while defending a dragon egg. As the fluid fighting and clashing continues, the scene cuts back to Geralt’s lovely bard companion back at camp for a little bit of comedic relief. Whenever this would happen in the show, I’d often miss the important dialogue they were trying to get across to me because I’d be too focused on wanting to get back to watching Geralt fight. This kind of disjointed narrative cuts into the flow of rising and falling action, and leaves the viewer unhappy.
While “The Witcher” has some work to do, I think that it did everything it could with no frame of reference, as there haven’t been any previous films or adaptations of “The Witcher.” The things the show does right heavily outweigh the things that the show could improve upon, because the negatives aren’t a deal breaker for me. I think that the areas the show falls short on can easily be improved over time with future seasons, and I think they did an amazing job on their first season. I’m excited to see where they take the series next.