Ben’s Breakdown | “The Witcher” – Three Episode Thoughts
A young princess is forced to flee the kingdom she’s growing up in due to an invading enemy force. A disfigured woman is taken away to join a mysterious and magical Sisterhood. A white-haired man, feared and despised by many, lives a solitary life as he is a monster killer for hire. Welcome to the world of The Witcher.
Now, before anyone starts getting on me for this three-episode review, I’ll be the first to admit that we here at TG2 Squared Studios are EXTREMELY late to the game regarding this Netflix fantasy series. I’ve been hearing so much about this show for well over a year and how everyone just loves watching series star Henry Cavill as the emotionless monster killer. I had been meaning for some time to start on this, but it wasn’t until a friend commented that he had just started watching and didn’t exactly like it at first, that I felt it was time to take this series on. What we got was oddly puzzling, initially hard to follow, but with just enough of a seed to make us want to come back. I was bewildered by watching these very separate storylines being told that just had nothing to do with the other except by name in only one instance. Aside from that these stories might as well have come from three different TV shows. At least, that’s what we thought until we got to the third episode where we learned that not only was the story of Yennefer, the disfigured woman, separated from the story of the princess by several years (I’m still not sure how much time separates them) but both of those stories are separated in time from Geralt’s (the titular Witcher) story. This generated two different responses within us. First, we both felt a small sense of relief when we realized how this series was starting to unfold. Second, and I can only speak for myself, I felt a sense of irritation. I understand there was a reason as to why the first three episodes were presented in this manner by not giving any indication of the shifting of time from one storyline to the next but had it not been for our hard rule in watching at least three episodes before making a decision to keep watching or not there is a good chance we would have abandoned it. Yes, there were those aforementioned seeds that brought us back, but we were looking for anything that would make it easier for us to uphold our three-episode watch. Maybe this is a character failing in us, but a little advanced warning might have better prepared us and made the watching of these three episodes a bit less of a struggle.
As for the series itself, I find the production values to be fantastic. It’s a very dark fantasy and dare I say, gritty, fantasy. It’s dirty. It doesn’t have the polish and luster as any of Peter Jackson’s “Middle-Earth” movies have. Even Jackson’s scenes in the wild have a lovely sheen to them. Not so with The Witcher. The cinematography is so brilliant that it almost feels cold and damp at times. I can feel a sense of despair as well as a darkness that covers the land. Despite the various kingdoms and all their riches, this is a place I would not want to live in.
This brings us to the characters. Of the cast, there are three that stand out at this time, and the first is clearly Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, our Witcher. I have seen Cavill work in a number of genres and I know he has some serious acting chops. Sadly, playing an emotionless monster hunter doesn’t feel like he’s putting all of his acting abilities to good use. I do admit to enjoying having him on the screen because even an emotionless Cavill is better than having no Cavill to watch. He does bring a certain mysterious quality to the character, but it would be nice to see him have the opportunity to stretch. Perhaps he does as the series progresses, but after only three episodes he only shows a hint of disgust or sometimes even anger. Whatever it is, it is highly muted.
The second character is Princess Ciri, played by Freya Allen. She does show some interesting qualities to her, but there isn’t much else there. However, when a certain revelation about what she has been through is revealed in the third episode it is possible that this event may inform how and why she is the way she is when we first meet her.
Lastly, we have Anya Chalotra as Yennefer. This is the character I could not stop watching. With only three episodes in she not only evolves and grows, but she transforms and I’m not talking about her physical appearance. Her whole character and personality make-up changes making her someone that I find both highly compelling to watch as well as possibly terrifying.
Based on a series of books I find The Witcher to be a rather fascinating, if not sometimes depressing, fantasy series. I could only take it in small doses because the dark atmosphere of much of these first three episodes had a way of casting a pall over my psyche. I tend to prefer shows with optimism and hope and The Witcher instead shows us that most people in this world are rather terrible. Still, the attention to detail when it comes to the world-building must be respected. It is for that reason that we will continue to watch The Witcher if only to see how these three storylines, each set in their own unique time in this world’s history, eventually come together and how these characters will ultimately interact with each other.
The Witcher is on Netflix with 2 seasons available and a third season on its way, possibly in December 2022.