There are moments in Netflix’s The Witcher that feel straight out of the 90s or early 00s. You’ll know them when you see them — a villain says something cheesy, or the camera zooms in on our hero’s face and voice-overs boom about destiny and how “the era of the sword and the axe is nigh!”
But that quickly became part of the show’s charm for me — a built-in nostalgia from back when I’d channel surf and watch Xena: Warrior Princess or Hercules or, more recently, Legend of the Seeker.
The show begins with the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, taking on a giant CGI monstrosity. Does it look great? Not particularly. But it’s fun, and to be honest it’s been a long time since I’ve had fun watching a fantasy TV show, or any TV for that matter (in contrast, while I had fun watching Stranger Things Season 3, I spent most of my time reconciling how a moody, scifi Twin Peaks somehow turned into The Goonies).
The main cast seemed pitch perfect. Henry Cavill is Geralt of Rivia, as far as I’m concerned. Anya Chalotra as Yennefer portrays her transformation from a disfigured, abandoned daughter into a beautiful and powerful sorceress with ease (I’ll admit, it took me a while to actually like her as a character, though). Freya Allan plays Ciri, the girl destined (or doomed?) by fate to eventually cross paths with Geralt.
Full disclosure: I’ve never played any of the Witcher games, nor have I read any of the books. I do own all of the games, somehow — I might’ve picked up one or two during Steam sales over the years, but even then Gog would’ve thrown them at me with a free giveaway sooner or later. I knew what Geralt looked like, simply because I’ve seen his likeness plastered everywhere for the past several years. But other than that I went into Netflix’s rendition completely blind.
The guy’s a monster hunter? Well, shoot, why didn’t you say so? Sign me up!
The best part of this 8-episode series is the music. I’d read one or two people raving something about a bard song, but only now do I truly understand.
The main theme, Jaskier’s tunes. Sprinkled throughout the series is an intriguing score that thankfully is available right now on YouTube. No matter how terrible a show or video game or movie might be, a great score can elevate the whole production. Luckily for The Witcher, I wouldn’t class it as terrible, by any means, so this is just a bonus.
That’s not to say The Witcher doesn’t have faults. Some might not like the occasional cheesiness. I’ve heard complaints about the wardrobe, but that didn’t bother me. I just count myself lucky for having gone into it knowing about the mixed-up timeline.
The show tells its story out of order, and while I didn’t find it particularly confusing, I will say I got just a little bored when we started looping back into events we’d already seen. The Witcher might be a confounding mess for those unfamiliar with the story who choose to watch Netflix side-eyed as they browse Reddit.
My favorite episodes, though, were decidedly standalone. Just Geralt and the bard Jaskier (Joey Batey) out on a monster hunt. Yennefer’s adventure into self-discovery and training as a sorceress was interesting, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how Ciri and Geralt get along, but nothing beats chasing down a grotesque umbilical cord monster in the bowels of a haunted mansion.
Overall, this is a good beginning. It’s a solid foundation for a show that can be much greater, a good introduction to the characters. And, surprisingly, it’s a bit of a nostalgia blast for something I perhaps didn’t know I missed. If you like fantasy, or The Witcher in general, I’d say give it a spin.
Quote of the show: “Let your chaos explode!”