The Witcher is a property that has been in development for quite a while. Before Netflix picked up and ordered a season of the show, the property saw it’s first live-action treatment with The Hexer. After that we, of course, got the CD Projekt Red developed games which catapulted the series to international fandom. Netflix’s treatment of the White Wolf’s saga is another bold move for the franchise which will continue to guarantee its success with international audiences.
The show, starring Superman himself, Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia is a serious contender for the next big high-fantasy show on TV (or, well, the web). Showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich has managed to adapt the source material flawlessly, starting with the first 2 books by Andrzej Sapkowski – The Last Wish and The Sword of Destiny. I’ll try not to spoil the plot points of the books here, although a spoiler section below will heavily discuss what happens and how the series manages to distinguish itself from the books.
First, a little backstory: The Witcher saga consists of 8 books, the first two of which are short story collections intended to introduce the world and the characters to the audience. The rest of the books tell a singular story expanded across the Continent with its principal characters – Geralt of Rivia, Yennefer of Vengerberg and Ciri. The first season adapts the short stories from the first two books and sets the stage for the expanded saga, which will start from season 2. Alright then, on with the review!
I had my reservations with Henry Cavill being cast as Geralt but my oh my has he nailed it here. Everything from Geralt’s stoic posture to his greasy voice, everything I imagined him to be, is represented well here by Cavill. While some fans of the games might take issue with certain things that the show does, I want to remind them that the series is adapted from the books. While I love the games, I’m also aware than in the larger context of the franchise and canon, those are essentially fan-fiction.
The show mainly follows the independent adventures of Geralt of Rivia, a witcher. Witchers are, to put it simply, monster hunters despised by society for being mutated and possessing no human feelings. The second part of that sentence though is just a myth. While Henry Cavill appears very monotone in his expressions, there is a certain heft behind his voice that tells you it’s all just a mirage. We also follow the adventures (and origins) of Ciri (Freya Allan) and Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), both of whom have a cosmic connection to Geralt in the larger scheme of things. As such, at any given moment the series follows 3 different characters. Of course, as a fan of the books and the games, I know that their destinies are intertwined. And part of the fun of the series is watching how that unfolds.
Ciri’s story, meanwhile, takes some beating. The character is an integral part of the saga, played wonderfully by Freya Allan. However, her first few adventures feel much less, well, adventurous and the stakes don’t feel as high as they should. There’s also not much story to tell when it comes to Ciri’s earlier years. It’s clear that the writers were trying to stretch out her story over the course of the season. I’m looking forward to how she factors into the grand scheme of things in season 2.
The Witcher season 1 is a great adaptation that sometimes might feel confusing for first-time watchers. The series faithfully recreates the stories and atmosphere from both the books and games alike. But I do wish that it followed a more coherent story.