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Sunday, March 3, 2024

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The Witcher review: Willful and Worth Watching


Basis: Book series of the same name by writer Andrzej Sapkowski 

Creator: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich

Main cast:

Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, Freya Allan as Cirilla / Ciri, Anya Chalotra as Yennefer of Vengerberg, Eamon Farren as Cahir, Joey Batey as Jaskier, MyAnna Buring as Tissaia de Vries, Royce Pierreson as Istredd, Mimi Ndiweni as Fringilla Vigo, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte as Dara, Anna Shaffer as Triss Merigold, and Mahesh Jadu as Vilgefortz of Roggeveen.

Streamed on: Netflix 

About: Geralt of Rivia, a mutated monster-hunter for hire, journeys toward his destiny in a turbulent world where people often prove more wicked than beasts. (Netflix site) 

Thoughts: I have many thoughts on The Witcher, a show centered around a bevy of characters with ostentatious names; yet none so dire that they kept me from consuming the entire series in a span of 24 hours.

Geralt of Rivia is shocking once you discover that it is Superman actor Henry Cavill, though probably not as shocking as trying to decipher how one wears so much, so tightly. His opening duel with a large mutated arachnid, then slime covered trek into a small town pub are not quite as telling on his status as the look he receives from the townspeople.

The first ten minutes alerts us non-Witcher savvy watchers that one, a Witcher is not a revered character in this world, no matter how broodingly handsome. Two, the normal, decidedly smaller men, are very confident in their aim to best a man that makes a living killing the monsters that kill them. And three, women in this world have unquestioned prestige. This last point is important in the fact that the majority of the characters that matter, and set the tone, are female. From Princess Renfri (Emma Appleton), who gives us the first taste of a fascinating world devoid of patriarchy, when she tells the men in the bar intent on dying by Geralt’s sword to stop, and they do, just as effortlessly as it was said.

After Renfri we meet Queen Calanthe of Cintra (Jodhi May), who leads the army and is the muse of her devoted king. Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), a mage, who up to her transition leads us to think she may be a victim of all the shortfalls of a fickle vain world, but this alternate universe is not that simpleton. She is open about her desire for power, seeks it out, and all the while I waited for a white knight, a savior, but none came. Because Yennefer, and almost all the women that inhabit the Witcher’s world, can honestly take care of themselves.

This, coupled with an array of characters that actually reflect a diverse world, because yes many of us would exist in an alternate universe thank you, makes the Witcher seemingly easy to watch which is good considering the storyline seems to run on three different tracks initially. One deduces the time line jump somewhere within the third episode or so, which culminates to an astounding “OH!” In the seventh episode, but even this only forces you to watch the episodes back to back in quizzical hunger.

My insistent need to understand the tie between all of them left me up till 2am one night, and without a proper meal for much of the next day. But as soon as I got it my head could not help comparing it to Game of Thrones. It didn’t ruin it for me, but it did leave me questioning the broadness of fantasy based shows. I quickly shook that off with a quick reminder that GOT let me down, and I just may never recover from Jon Snow being sentenced beyond the wall. Luckily the Witcher’s sense of duty are still questionable at this point, though Superman makes a very convincing martyr. 

Worth it? The Witcher is worth a watch (say that five times fast), but you must be dedicated to watch it beyond episode 4, no matter how confused you are. The names of the monsters and places, multi syllable and overly blessed in vowels, do little to help the memory; but take heart that the horses are easy to remember, gifted simply with names like Roach, Clip, and Clop. The one grating issue I feel needs mentioning is the soundtrack, something we have seen prior fantasy tales excel in. For while GOT, LOTR, and Harry Potter’s soundtracks remain permanent ear worms in pop culture, The Witcher has been granted an ascending scream/cry not unlike an aspiring reality contestant. It haunts its rightful place of full dramatic interlude, progressing behind the characters to alert you that this is a moment you should pay attention, but with all the grace of a cat in heat.

Luckily the Witcher is interesting, or confusing enough, that most people are unaware of the chords. I promise you it does all tie in, and they do give you somewhat of a flashback in the last episodes to help you through, but the ending itself may leave you with additional questions. Which hopefully guarantees another season. 

All photos courtesy of Netflix and credited to Katalin Vermes.

Have you watched the series? What are your thoughts? Want to talk to me about this show? Feel free to chat with me on Twitter or leave a comment below!

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