TV SHOW REVIEW - The Witcher: Season 1
By The Masked Medic
You guys know that it takes me a little time to get through TV series, but I do think they’re one of the most compelling forms of media, given the ability to allow viewers to visualise stories they may have read, heard or played, whilst also not being confined to the stand 2-3 slot that films are limited by. So with the second season of this show fast approaching, I thought it was time I got into ‘The Witcher’; a Netflix series based on the popular video game.
Season 1 of The Witcher introduces us to three main characters. Firstly we have Geralt of Rivia, a magically enhanced monster hunter who is fairly well known on ‘The Continent’, the land which provides us with the background of the story. Second, is Yennefer of Venderberg, a hunchback who has magical intuition and is taken in by a witch to be trained as a mage herself. And lastly, we have Princess Ciri, the crown princess of a land called Cintra, which is just one of many warring nations on this Continent. The first season starts with the invasion of Cintra by a neighbouring land called Nilfgaard. Queen Calanthe of Cintra, worried for the life of her granddaughter Ciri, orders her druid to seek out Geralt of Rivia, so that he may look after the princess. We cut then to the past, introducing us to Geralt. Although there are a number of Witchers, Geralt seems to be an infamous one, and when he is tasked with bringing down a princess who is believed to be cursed, he begins to find out that his emotions are starting to come into play. This is unusual for Witchers who are known for their inability to feel emotion, which makes them excellent monster hunters. We see several different missions that Geralt goes on, picking up a companion in Jaskier, a bard who is keen to stick to the hunter for protection. During one episode we see Geralt and Jaskier attend a royal event in Cintra, which explains a certain link between our hero and Princess Ciri. Whilst all of this is going on, Yennefer, a young girl from a town called Aedirn, is taken to a place called Aretuza where mages are trained. After acquiring her powers and a new appearance, she is tasked with acting as an advisor to Nilfgaard, but she decides to rebel. Just how are the fates of these characters linked? And can they band together to defeat the adamantine ambitions of Nilfgaard?
So I was recommended this show by some friends, a few of them who are not particularly into this sort of genre. Initially, I wondered if the show was more horror than fantasy, but I think the horror elements seem to mellow out as the series progressed. I thought in terms of the story, it initially doesn’t tell you that there are elements of the past and the present being shown to you, and it was only until the second last episode that I realised what had been occurring in the whole season. That being said, I thought the story was exciting and it definitely pulled me in fairly quickly. What I did like was that each episode almost felt like a standalone but at the same time some threads linked to the overarching plot. In that sense, it was a tad superior to other shows like ‘The Mandalorian’. Now I’m not sure how accurate the story was to the original novel series or the video games, but I know that for me, it actually made me want to go and find out the source material because I think there’s a real potential here for an undeveloped aspect of the fantasy world. I mean, we’ve seen and heard of characters like Van Helsing, but they don’t exist within a fictional fantasy world and that’s what makes this show have the scope for multiple seasons.
Right, onto the actors. Leading the charge as Geralt of Rivia, is none other than Henry Cavill. Cavill has had a rough couple of years with Warner Brothers depriving him of the ability to continue playing Superman, so when Netflix called with this opportunity, I’m not surprised that he took it. I also know that he’s a massive video gaming fan, so he was probably pretty excited to play Geralt. Initially, I found him to be a little stiff, however, I soon came to realize, that wasn’t his acting, that was the character. Geralt undergoes a tremendous amount of character development in this first season, and from the get-go we see him challenging the stereotypes that Witchers face. Cavill did a tremendous job here! Moving on to Yennefer of Venderberg, played by relative newcomer Anya Chalhotra. Occasionally when I’m watching TV shows, I’ll become pretty enamoured by certain characters Yennefer was definitely one of them. Starting as shy and downtrodden, there is a particular scene where she turns up to a party in full mage form and I have to say she took my breath away. I felt like an asthmatic. Beautiful and ambitious, Yennefer was the highlight for me, and Chalhotra plays her very well. Finally, Freya Allen’s nuanced performance as Princess Ciri was underrated. In terms of character development, Ciri has the most in the entire season and Allen facial expressions were on point. With these three, it was difficult to focus on the supporting cast, but shoutout to Joey Batey who plays Jaskier; the comedic element, but just as important!
Okay, before I start to talk about budgets and sets and cinematography, I have to point out that the standout aspect of this entire show is the fight choreography. I’ve seen maybe one or two other shows, whose choreography could challenge The Witcher. I was just blown away and that’s why it gets so many points on the filmography and enjoyment aspect of the rating. Okay, yes, if a show is of a fantasy genre, expect to see special effects and the Witcher’s were good. The majority of effects are small, simple magic scenes, but still done to a high quality. Finally, the music. Now I’m a person that believes music can genuinely make or break a film or series, and luckily for this one, the music was good. Not only is the soundtrack well utilised during the multitude of action scenes, but also the song written by Jaskier, is now on my Spotify liked songs! Ahaha!
Overall, this was a show I was expecting to enjoy purely because I got to see Henry Cavill getting to play a main role again and that too in a fantasy TV series, but the Witcher is more for me. Decently paced with a good balance of action and drama, the Witcher should be on the watchlist of every fantasy fan, but also those looking for some good fight scenes. Bravo Netflix and I’m looking forward to the next season!
Integral vs Filler Episodes: ★★★