Starring: Adam Levy, Anna Shaffer, Anya Chalotra, Bart Edwards, Eamon Farren, Emma Appleton, Freya Allan, Gaia Mondadori, Henry Cavill, Jodhi May, Joey Batey, Lars Mikkelsen, Mimi Ndiweni, MyAnna Buring, Royce Pierreson, Shaun Dooley, Tom Canton, Wilson Mbomio
Available exclusively on Netflix
The Witcher is a live-action fantasy series adapted from the books by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, who’s tales of monster hunter ‘witcher’, Geralt of Rivia, and The Continent, went on to inspire a videogame series by CD Projekt Red.
Netflix’s Season One of The Witcher sees three timelines come together as we follow three distinct characters: Yennefer of Vengerberg; Ciri, Princess of Cintra; and Geralt of Rivia. The series jumps to different times to follow their various paths. Our introduction to Yennefer is as a hunch backed young woman, mistreated by her family and who’s father sells her to sorceress Tissaia de Vries. de Vries takes her to Aretuza: an academy where she, and other young woman who’ve shown potential, learn the art of magic and control of chaos. As we discover, this life isn’t for everyone and not all girls are cut out to be sorceresses. Though Yennefer struggles with her emotions and seemingly lack of abilities, de Vries has more faith in her than she knows despite her strict treatment of Yennefer. Think how Terence Fletcher was with Andrew in Whiplash and you get the idea of their relationship.
Young princess Ciri of Cintra finds herself alone and on the run when her grandmother, Queen Calanthe, and the kingdom of Cintra, succumb to the attacking forces of Nilfgaard. She’s on the search for the one person her grandmother told her could help her but will she be able to find her destiny before someone else finds her or worse?
Geralt of Rivia is the titular Witcher, a monster killer for hire. Taken as a young boy into Kaer Morhen, a stronghold in which young men are trained and transformed into Witchers, Geralt lives a solitary life of slaying problem creatures for coin until he finds himself in the middle of a dispute between wizard Stregobor and a troubled, cast-out princess, Renfri. The fallout from the episode finds Geralt unfavourably known throughout the lands, so much so it becomes a challenge to find work, that is until he’s unwillingly befriended by a bard named Jaskier, who’s known as Dandelion in the novels. As songs are his trade, Jaskier seeks to improve the image of his new pal, occasionally taking artistic licence with the truth to make things more exciting, as Geralt travels with purpose to find his destiny.
Geralt’s journey across the Continent with his loyal steed Roach sees him encounter various colourful characters as well as dangerous and daring quests. The most problematic jobs usually involve interfering humans. If you’ve read The Last Wish, the series deals with the stories involving King Foltest of Timeria’s ongoing problems with a striga and the Law of Surprise wedding in Cintra. There’s a few stories missed out but the season pretty much covers what’s in the book, although what does differ is that Yennifer and Ciri are nowhere to be seen in the first novel so this is where the series ties into the subsequent books. The first Witcher game follows a completely, unrelated story and so the Netflix series is more respectful to the original material.
Henry Cavill is captivating as Geralt, managing to get down the grunts, sighs and disdain for pointless human squabbles down to a tee. He’s our level-headed portal to a fantastical world, and even though he slays monsters for money, he doesn’t always decide to kill them as not every beast is a monster. He appears to have a heart and a conscience and will as much use his speech as a weapon to warn and convince creatures to leave well alone as he is to draw his blade. He’s also quite the eye-candy and doesn’t mind sampling the many women and prostitutes who he encounters. Being sterile due to his transformation as a Witcher, he’s no risk of producing unwanted pregnancies, and with witchers supposedly suppressing their emotions, he takes moments of coitus as a bit of R&R. Though it would appear that a couple of liaisons leave a lasting impression… Fans will be pleased that there’s plenty of bath tub action for Geralt in what has become a meme from the videogame series. You’ll find no complaints here.
In any fantasy series such as this, in which we have a warrior who collects corpses of kikimores, nekkers or endregas, you expect there to be combat scenes. The Witcher does not disappoint. The fight scenes are tremendous. Whether its Geralt fighting off a monster or a bunch of bandits, or Yennifer using her sorcery to defend herself and others, there’s plenty of eye-catching action to keep you glued to your TV set. The swordplay sequence in Blaviken early on provides a tantalising taste of the fight choreography standard we are to expect from the series. The production also excels at conveying battles, such as the Sodden Hill defence of the North and the slaughter at Cintra. Scenes like these give such a grand depth to this imaginary world complimented by an array of characters with personalities and backstories that make them feel like real individuals with their own histories. The rewatch value is immense as there’s so much jam-packed into the series that more juicy information is processed on re-watch, or at least that’s what i found.
The costumes and set design are another captivating aspect of the series. You can see how much money and effort has been poured into the series to ensure it correctly portrays the world in which The Witcher is set. The rich, be it royalty or otherwise, and the peasants are instantly identifiable. Then you have those characters who sit somewhere in between. The locations, sets, costumes… everything has had thought put into it to effectively tell the minor stories as well as the overarching plot lines.
A thrilling adventure that surely appeals to the adult fans, THE WITCHER is an exciting, live-action series that thrusts you into a world of monsters you could only dream of. It respects its source material whilst creating its own path and successfully breathes cinematic life into the world so wonderfully crafted by author, Andrzej Sapkowski.