Ever since Game of Thrones ended, fantasy TV fans have desperately been searching for something to fill the hole in their hearts. Is it a show in the fantasy genre? Maybe it’ll be the next Game of Thrones! Granted, I can’t say I’ve been very helpful in making this problem go away. I’ve written two separate articles about fantasy books that could do the job! If anything, I’ve been stroking the flames!
So naturally, when everyone found out that Netflix was going to make a show around another beloved fantasy classic, everyone set their expectations. The GOT fans got ready to judge it more harshly than they should, preparing to tear it apart for not being a masterpiece. Meanwhile, the video game fans were bracing themselves for disappointment, ready to lambast what they believed to be another terrible video game adaptation. Then there were the book fans, who actually knew what to expect and prepared for what would hopefully be a decent fantasy show adapting some high-quality novels!
But the question is: is The Witcher on Netflix worth the watch? Or should you just go back to crying about George R.R. Martin’s butchered fantasy classic? Let’s find out!
Plot: Call of the White Wolf
This is probably the hardest part of this show to review. On one hand, I do enjoy a lot of the characters and the dialogue is pretty good! On the other, I can’t stand the show’s pacing! In the end, it comes together into an enjoyable but messy and unsatisfying mess!
Our story has three main characters. First is Geralt of Rivia, a legendary witcher who is often followed by the bard Jaskier as he gets roped into numerous adventures, often involving the killing of monsters. Second is Yennefer of Vengerberg, a sorceress trying to find meaning and happiness and life after making a rash and thoughtless decision. Third is Ciri, a young princess who is driven from her home by a Nilfgardian attack and now lives pursued by a terrible knight for reasons beyond her understanding. All three go on their own adventures until destiny brings them all together to face a future that is quickly growing darker.
Sounds solid, right? Well, it is! All three of our main characters are distinct, memorable, and likable. Each of their stories, whether they’re alone or tied together with one of the others, is well developed and interesting to watch! The cast has a ton of chemistry, making each interaction a joy to behold! This show is a ton of fun to watch from start to end!
So where’s the problem, I hear you ask? To that, I say: the timeline.
This show jumps all around the timeline willy-nilly without a care in the world! Yennefer’s plot takes place decades before Geralt’s, and Geralt’s takes place years before Ciri’s! It takes five episodes for Geralt and Yennefer to catch up to each other, and neither one catches up to Ciri until episode seven, the second-to-last in the whole season!
Normally, I wouldn’t mind hopping around the timeline, so long as it made for an interesting story. The problem is that the show doesn’t communicate this to the audience clearly enough! There are clues, yes, often in the form of established characters appearing in younger forms or characters talking about events from a long time ago that we then get to see. But if you aren’t paying enough attention, you’ll have a hard time placing where each scene would fall in the timeline!
Would it really have been so hard to add a blurb of text at the bottom reading ‘Vengerberg, 1232’ or ‘Blaviken, 1276’ or wherever/whenever this shit happens? Adding text is the simplest thing you can do in editing! It takes all of thirty seconds!
This wild hopping around the timeline completely muddled the pacing of the story. Rather than a smooth trip down a paved road, watching this show felt more like climbing a rocky mountain! Only the final two episodes felt smoothly paced and connected.
Certain episodes also feel very disjointed on their own. For example, there’s an episode where Ciri is tricked into following a Dopler disguised as a mentor from her childhood. Her friend encourages her to be more suspicious, but the Dopler gives her an item precious to her to further earn her trust. You’d think that would convince Ciri to trust him completely, which would lead to her almost falling into his trap, right? But in the very next scene, she’s completely suspicious and manages to quickly outwit him with a single question! If she’s just going to be suspicious anyway, then don’t bother with him giving her the thing to earn her trust! Cut that bit out!
It certainly doesn’t help that the ending is super unsatisfying! This show anticlimaxes in the most spectacular way possible, leaving off on one of the most annoying cliffhangers I’ve ever seen! Rather than leaving me frothing at the mouth for more, the show left me confused. I actually asked “Is that it?” out loud!
Still, despite my issues, I can’t help but enjoy the story. Its flaws run deep and they definitely get on my nerves. But I can’t deny the amount of fun I had watching this show from start to end! The good far outweighed the bad!
Although I do feel that the credit for that should go to the next two categories.
Visuals: A Show From Both Today and 2005
If only the CGI department brought their A game. They’re sure making the amazing job the cinematographer did much less impressive. Though neither one can touch the composer!
Let’s get the negatives out of the way. The special effects in this show are pretty bad. The spells look pretty impressive and convincing, but I can’t say the same about any of the monsters. They look like they were taken straight out of an early PS3 game! Sure, they’re all animated well, but the models themselves just look awful! They look so bad that the director tried to hide it by having most of the monster fights take place at night!
It didn’t work.
The fight scenes are pretty up and down. At best, they’re incredibly choreographed and a ton of fun to watch! At worst, they’re hard to follow and horribly unconvincing (any fight with more than three shaky-cam shots is awful, any fight without them is amazing). I do think the good outweighs the bad here, but that doesn’t make the bad go away.
Luckily, I’m now done talking about the bad. From here on out, I have nothing but praise for this category!
The cinematography of this show is pretty good! Each shot is memorable and visually impressive! The lighting is always on-point and the camera angles are creative and effective! When there aren’t unconvincing monsters on screen, this show is a joy to look at!
And the music! Oh my GOD, this music is incredible! Every track is a joy to listen to! ‘Toss a Coin to Your Witcher’ is one of my new favorite songs! I need this soundtrack and I need it now!
This show definitely looks better than it doesn’t. It isn’t perfect, sure. But it does look pretty good!
Much like the star of the show.
Performances: Oh, Henry Cavill CAN Act!
If only more people would give him good material to work with. Cough cough, DC comics film department.
While I do think there were a few weak performances here and there and not every character is faithful to their appearances in the book, I have little complaints about the cast as a whole. Their performances are mostly super solid.
The stand out performance is, without a doubt, Henry Cavill. He absolutely kills it as Geralt of Rivia! The costume looks amazing, featuring some incredible made-up scars, badass weapons and armor, and the iconic white mane and golden eyes! His voice is gruff but still more than capable of expression! Whether he is shouting in fury or concern or laughing in condescension, Cavill brings the iconic witcher to life brilliantly!
Plus, hearing him growl and say “Fuck” is always a delight.
If I had to point at a weak performance, I’d have to aim the finger at Freya Allan, the actress behind Ciri. She’s far from the worst actress that I’ve ever seen. While I do think that most of her performance is decent, she does have a few scenes that feel like they came out of a B movie. Although I do think she’s pretty good at screaming.
I’m also not sure how I feel about Anya Charlotra as Yeneffer. She definitely looks the part, don’t get me wrong. But quite a few of her lines just felt kind of… off to me. Kind of like she was hamming it up. When she’s good, she’s one of the best in the show! But when she falls behind? She falls far behind.
Still, despite my criticisms, I can’t say this is the worst cast I’ve ever seen in a show. They are all, at the very least, convincing. It’s a bit rough around the edges. But hey! So is everything else! I can at least appreciate a show that’s consistent!
It’s more than I can say about a lot of other shows these days…
The Witcher is rough around the edges. Its problems are numerous and abundantly clear. Frankly, if someone told me that they hated the show, I wouldn’t be able to blame them in the slightest! But at the same time, if someone told me it was their new favorite TV show of all time, I’d be able to understand where they were coming from as well! There’s a solid argument for both sides!
Personally, I do like this show far more than I don’t. Yes, this first season was a little unpolished. But that just gives me hope for the future! Maybe season two will be able to iron out those problems and give us a truly amazing fantasy experience!
Despite its flaws, I’d still recommend watching The Witcher on Netflix. It’s a fantasy series with a lot of potential, one that could become one of the best shows on the platform! It isn’t the best show to come out in recent years, but it is very far from the worst.
Also, I really can’t stress enough how good ‘Toss a Coin to Your Witcher’ is. I’ve listened to that song so many God damn times. It’s amazing. If you still aren’t sure about whether or not you want to watch it, just go listen to the song! Trust me on this!