The Netflix Witcher series is surprisingly appealing. Based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s popular novels, you have everything you’d expect from The Witcher: bloody, brutal battles, intimate glances at loved characters like Yennefer and Geralt, and an unpredictable world where you never know whether someone is a friend or an enemy , As a big witcher fan, the show has a lot of things I love about the characters, such as Yennefer’s determination and menacing mind games, Jaskier’s catchy songs (AKA Dandelion) and Geralt’s dry joke. It is magical to experience these characters and their world, which until now only existed in books and video games, in a grand way on the screen. Netflix’s Witcher series is worth it for those moments, but it’s not without its flaws and disappointments.
Making a complex and detailed series like The Witcher accessible to a television audience is no easy task. Creator Andrzej Sapkowski’s rich universe and inner workings are far from elementary, and it is a big challenge to show on the screen that there are no exposure pages to convey this, and this struggle is obvious here. As a fan who could join in, I really enjoyed Netflix’s Witcher series, but it can be very confusing for newbies. Things are not always well explained (or sometimes not at all) and the show tends to jump around in time and between characters. The first episode begins with Geralt fighting a monster and then meeting a character named Renfri, who offers him a complicated situation that forces Geralt to make a decision about what “the lesser evil” is. His decision haunts him and leads him on the search for a princess named Ciri, who has a mysterious power that puts her at risk from the political war.
The first season with eight episodes is based on the short story collections The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, with Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer at the center and, like all three, connected for a greater fate. It is clear that the short stories serve as inspiration, but they are not always literal and the authors were not afraid to go into certain elements. For example, the show quickly focuses on Yennefer, where actress Anya Chalotra performs excellently as a woman who loves chaos. In one of his most intriguing arcs, the authors expanded Yennefer’s backstory, showing her struggles with her physical deformity and how her frustrations made her become a powerful sorceress. A memorable scene in which she finally takes matters into her own hands and walks into the room like an asshole with her newly won self-confidence remains with me. If you see her transform, you will be enthusiastic about her and even feel sorry for her when she makes it difficult for others or does not necessarily do something great.
A big strength of the show is its performances and that is part of what makes it work. Henry Cavill nailed the part of Geralt, from his gruff voice to his stoic demeanor, and the man can assert himself in a sword fight. Joey Batey is a wonderful jaskier who captures his talkative and annoying tendencies and at the same time has his funny energy singing songs. Geralt and Jaskier’s interactions are some of my favorite interactions in Netflix’s series because the humor is just right and you can tell that there is a bond, even if Geralt will never admit it. Freya Allan shows Ciri an innocence and concern, considering that she is blind and on the run for the whole show. Unfortunately, while Ciris Bogen begins strongly, it becomes less and less interesting as the series progresses. This isn’t supported by the slow pace either (Geralt meets Yennefer in several episodes first), and it seems that at some points the authors didn’t know what to do with Ciri because they didn’t have many options with her on the run his.
The show is definitely more character based than action packed. This will be disappointing for some; After all, Geralt is a monster hunter and it’s part of the draw to see some of these iconic villains recreated. Fortunately, there are some bloody and great fights, especially in the first and last episodes. Since the fights are always interesting and well choreographed, I would have loved to see a few more, especially since we have some powerful sorceresses on hand.
After reading the books, you will understand and look forward to what the series brings. However, be prepared for a very abrupt end. Seeing a huge and devastating political battle is a big stage, but it ends in a way that makes it clear that we haven’t even scratched the surface of Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri’s connection. I’m glad that the show has already been extended for another season because the current cliffhanger disappointed and disappointed me. This is a promising and impressive start, but there will certainly be some big shoes to fill in season two.
To learn more about the thinking process when adapting the series, read our interview with showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich.