I went in with a lot of expectations considering that Netflix’s new fantasy drama, The Witcher is based on the witcher books that are been made since 1992, the famous video game (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt) and a loosely adapted film. It won’t be wrong to say that I came out 70% satisfied. Henry Cavill as the Witcher with every muscle in place and a character that is intriguing is here to gift audience a mini Game Of Thrones and I know it is a huge statement to make, let’s justify. Though it is hard to judge it on the basis of the first season, I am still impressed.
What’s The Witcher about?
As said, based on a series of books by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher is a series that talks about a magical mutant work-for-hire monster killer. The plot takes you to several characters that had or will have a part to play in Witcher’s life and their backstories. While Geralt of Rivia (Witcher) is bound by a law of surprise and his destiny is waiting for him in the woods, the quest is to find her and see how the trembling world can be saved. (Didn’t give any spoilers, Woah!).
The pilot begins with a faded shot of a skilled fighter fighting a deadly monster in a lake. There comes a moment when the man is knocked down inside the lake by the spider-like monster and is struggling to grab his sword but doesn’t use the magic he possesses, instead, he grabs the sword and kills the monster. Henry Cavill’s The Witcher proves it’s clever in the very first shot. You know there is magic but the makers are in no rush to show it to you, rather they don’t want it to look all easy due to it. Brownie points.
The writing is smart and demands your attention. There is a balance between how much of magic and action is enough to suck in the audience and make them feel it is true. The series is created by Lauren Schmidt.
Netflix’s series captures Geralt Of Rivia perfectly, a man living in a world that hates him, a job that demands him to throw himself in the front of death daily and his quest for his destiny.
We are not just following Geralt here, there is also Princess Cirilla (Ciri) who is on a run from her hunters who took over her kingdom and want to lay hands on her after killing her whole family, why? Watch the show. Then there’s Yennefer (Yen as Geralt fondly calls her), an ‘if you don’t die by my magic you will be my looks’ sorcerer with ambition to feel important. Yennefer and Geralt share a love-hate relationship and that is one of the best dynamics in the show.
Witcher swiftly travels through all these characters and you get to know all their backstories in the first season.
Henry Cavill, whom we all know as the first and most followed Superman, sheds his superhero image and gets into this conflicted character like changing a t-shirt. With every muscle in control, smile measured and action that makes him look like the sleek warrior, he makes his way to our hearts directly. He is the perfect blend of sarcastic, scary and hot.
Anya Chalotra who plays Yennefer is perfect in all ways. She is evil, holds a cunning grin, always looking beautiful and surrounded by vanity in each moment. Yennefer is a character that might have drastically looked out of place, but Anya’s performance and the makers decision to show her back story make us believe her. We know where she has come from what struggle she has gone through to become that beautiful and thus all the vanity justifies.
Freya Allan as Princess Ciri is the key character but the actress in this season doesn’t have the heavy lifting as the other two. But Freya does justice to her part and pushes us to the point that we are rooting for her to stay safe.
Coming to the execution, there is already a lot of material available for the audience to counter the makers about the show. In this case, the biggest task is to decide the very beginning. Here they don’t fall in the trap of thinking that the audience knows this world, but they explain it to you step by step and it is amazing.
The book that tells about Geralt is written in short stories and Yennefer and Ciri’s are the once in continuation. Here the show-runners use two different storytelling techniques, while Yen and Ciri have a continuous narravtive, Geralt’s story runs in episodes as in ‘monster this week’ format until the last two episodes where their worlds collide.
The parallel storylines, many important characters and the twists that follow are evidence that it is not a small concise universe but a big one like Game Of Thrones. The series has the ability to be one like the cult if it remains true to its storyline.
Already understood fact, The Witcher has some believable CGI. The magically made fireballs or Yen’s transformation from her deformed self look real and not out of the place.
Cinematography department though doesn’t have much new to offer is impressive and makes this world look lived in and beautiful.
The show is not just dark and action, it also has an underlined humour to it. Special mention to Joey Batey who plays Jaskier, Geralt’s man Friday. He brings the most amount of humour and is one of my favorite characters. I am excited to see how his character develops throughout.
What Doesn’t Work?
For a story that is not just on a single track and has many parallel narratives, it demands a lot from a viewer in terms of attention. The timeline is a huge issue. There are no notifications of which time frame we are in, the narrative the just bounces off and comes back. It is the audience that has to sit down and join the dots to understand when a particular incident is happening.
Talking about the war scenes, while we already have some extremely well-shot war sequences, the ones in Netflix’s The Witcher fail to provoke anything. It is just two lines of soldiers running into each other tearing out guts. The bar is raised too higher than this and I expect the season two excels in the department.
While I appreciated the CGI, I would want to express my sadness over the dragons. GOT has already given us not one but three dragons that looked real and were a part of our life, in this case, if makers decide to give us ones which look comical and sorry but are talking in human voices, the purpose is defeated. Maybe Drogon, Rheagar and Vyserion have my heart.
The Witcher is for sure an amazing add on to the fantasy drama list and a breeze of fresh air amidst the wannabe content that is being force pushed on the platforms.
Watch it for Henry’s brilliant performance, Anya’s grace and clever writing that does not assume anything but tells you the story that is needed. All in all, Netflix has a new show that has the potential to become a cult only if it stays on the right track and rectifies the wrongs.
Rating: 3.5 Stars