Andrzej Sapkowski’s thrilling tales of the famed Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, have captured so many imaginations through such varied methods of storytelling, first the novels, a Polish film plus television series, the trio of video games and now a Netflix series.

Set in an unnamed land known simply as the ‘Continent’, The Witcher follows Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter, or ‘Witcher’, Yennefer of Vengerberg, a powerful mage and Princess Cirilla, heir to the throne of Cintra. As the world becomes under threat from the Nilfgaardians who aim to take control over the Continent, the lives of the three main characters are changed forever.

I will say from the get-go, I haven’t read the books, I’ve only played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, so I do have a bit of background knowledge before I went into the series. The series is a direct adaptation of the novels rather than the very loose adaptation that the games went with. However, fans of the game will not be disappointed, as there are still some nods to the game, most notably Geralt’s entire persona, which is excellently pulled off my Henry Cavill.

Henry Cavill is a perfect Geralt, his version of the White Wolf is very similar to the game version of Geralt, you can tell Cavill is a huge fan of the games and the books, even adding in grunts and that super deep voice that are just signature Geralt at this point 

This is where the series excels, you can tell that they really considered the fans, of both the books and the games, catering to each. There are subtle nods to the game, like the famous bathtub scene from Wild Hunt but it was also great seeing the combat, which was wonderfully familiar. But what was extremely fulfilling was exploring the main characters in more depth, in particular, Yennefer.

Anya Chalotra as Yennefer of Vengerberg in The Witcher (2019)

Although the three main characters were excellently dealt with, the secondary characters were dull, to the point where halfway through the series there is a big-time jump, that had such little impact on me, as the characters I was meant to recall from previous episodes left such a tiny impression. This moment for me felt so unnecessary for where it is placed in the series, the story could have been told in better order and felt a lot smoother.

The pacing was entirely off for quite a few of the episodes. The first two were a total mess, with too many things being shoved into an episode alongside poor editing that made the whole thing feel so amateur. The editing was so awful in certain episodes, most notably Ep. 4, where it would cut from story to story in an attempt to keep the pacing, but you just ended up feeling unfulfilled and actually quite annoyed every time it flicked from one narrative to another.

As I mentioned before, so many of the supporting characters were dull and the actors were not up to par. But I have to mention one who was memorable for all the wrong reasons, the Bard, Jaskier. The most insufferable, unwelcome character, who was used to bounce off the strong and silent, Geralt, but ended up ruining episodes where we could be getting to know Geralt through more interesting characters; for instance in Ep.3 where we met Triss Merigold. The two work wonderfully together and the Bard is nowhere to be seen, and is, funnily enough, the strongest episode out of the entire series.

Joey Batey as Jaskier in The Witcher (2019)

What frustrated me a lot is that you don’t feel the true drive of the narrative until the penultimate episode and then it’s over in a flash. The show doesn’t give you time to digest anything as it feels so rushed and all over the place, creating a lot of set up that was necessary, it just could have been written and paced a lot better to keep the momentum going throughout the series. I can’t help thinking that series one of The Witcher could have benefited from solely focusing on Geralt and Yennefer, giving us time to get to grips with the two of them, their origin and then introduce Ciri at the end to give that drive and intrigue for the second series.

Although there is a lot to improve on with this series, I will have to give credit to Episodes 3, 5, 6 and 7. They had everything I wanted the entire show to be, they were smoother, more focused, had some really great moments of dialogue, monsters and more importantly didn’t have much of the Bard in them…

But it isn’t all doom and gloom the series shows a lot of promise, it looks stunning there are some incredible shots throughout, the monsters, for the most part, look convincing. The costume design is superb, and the score is really great, apart from some minor hiccups involving romantic scenes, where I didn’t really understand where the music was taking us.

Overall, I did enjoy The Witcher, it had so much of what I wanted from the series, but it was so frustrating as there were so many elements that weren’t polished, however, I haven’t completely written it off and I will be intrigued to see how it develops in the second season because it does show a lot of promise.

Rating: ★★★

Creator: Lauren Schmidt
Cast: Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Anya Chalotra, Mimi Ndiweni, Eamon Farren, MyAnna Buring, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, Joey Batey, Anna Shaffer

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