Netflix’s The Witcher Review: Is it worth a watch?
3 out of 5
THE show to binge-watch right now on Netflix is The Witcher, starring Henry Cavill. It seems every network is frantically searching for some sort of content to rival the success HBO had with The Game of Thrones. As you scan the world of streaming and regular TV — there are a lot of people dressed up to look as though they just stepped out of a Lord of the Rings movie. Heck, Amazon skipped doing something original altogether and just went with a Lord of the Rings series. That’s what I’m guessing Netflix is attempting with The Witcher. So did it work? Well, from the trailer and all of the artwork released — I really thought the series looked like it was going to be a home run. Instead, in terms of baseball speak — I’d say it’s a safe base hit. Like The Mandalorian on Disney +, this show would have been more effective if it was just a movie. The first episode is interesting. Things are being setup on a large scale — and there are some awesome scenes involving Cavill’s Witcher character, Geralt of Rivia, as well as a large battle involving an invading Nilfgaardian army, and a Princess who is lost to the wind in an attempt to escape death. It is in the next few episodes where things go sideways a bit, as the show periodically checks in on the Princess to show you she is still alive, but for the most part these chapters are devoted to the Witcher and a Mage in attempts to fill you in on their backstory — and by and large, much of the content really doesn’t have anything to do with the main plot. Instead of the dark and serious tone set in the first episode, the show gets a bit lighter in its delivery, and really feels disconnected from where it started. Once you get to the end of the first season, these middle episodes really stick out. What was conveyed in them was required — I suppose — but could have been done in a much better way as it all related to the story we end up with. In addition, the tales being laid out in those entries are not taking place concurrently. This tends to make things a bit muddy as it’s not until the fourth or fifth episode that the varying timelines become clear to the viewer. When it all does finally come together and starts to really pull you in — it’s over, with some cliffhangers that we’ll have to wait for answers to in season two.
I’ve not read any of the source material, or played any of the videos games that feature The Witcher story, perhaps if I had — what I watched would have made more sense. But for the size of the production, and the talent attached to it — I really think it could have been more cohesive. Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Geralt of Rivia is perplexing to me as well. For those of you that have read the books or played the games, is Geralt really that boring? Cavill’s voice throughout the entire production rarely changes octives, and almost sounds like Billy Bob Thornton’s Slingblade character, with a more eloquent British accent. Often times, his only response to a conversation or situation is simply, “Hmm.” It seems like the two biggest characters that Cavill has been given (Superman and Geralt of Rivia) have been hampered by how he has to play them. With DC’s Superman, Zach Snyder’s interpretation of the character just seemed sullen and off, and now with The Witcher, Cavill seems boxed into a small area he is allowed to perform in. In both cases, he just isn’t given much to sink his teeth into.
As for the look and feel of the show, there are times where the production values are magnificent, and then moments where it’s obvious money was spent elsewhere. In the latter case, this mostly refers to the CGI for the supernatural elements of the series (especially with dragons who talk, but don’t have mouths that move apparently), which give the show a Cable TV production feel at times. Of course, if you’re going to compete with Game of Thrones, you must have some great action scenes — which The Witcher does — and plenty of gratuitous nude scenes — which, again, The Witcher does.
All in all, the show is worth watching. Going into season two, some continued backstory on the characters would be okay here and there, but only if its done in the context of the journey they are all on — especially for Cahir, the leader of the invading Nilfgaardian army — who it seems is being set up as the main adversary. Just as with any show with intended longer runs, I have a feeling it will get better in future seasons, as we learn more about the world we’re watching and the people and creatures who inhabit it. Now that the table is set, hopefully the writers and producers can start to dig into why these characters are on the journey they’re on, and who they are battling against.
The Witcher can now be streamed on Netflix, is rated TV-MA or Rated R, for adult language, adult situations, graphic violence and nudity.