With the Watchmen, for example, I hadn’t seen the original movie and while I’m about 1/2 way through the series, I’ve yet to finish it. I’ve done better this time as instead of starting to write a review while watching the show episode by episode, I’ve decided to binge the whole series first so I know what I’m talking about. I did better with the Boys so maybe I’m learning my lesson when it comes to all of the amazing television that is currently out there.
With the Witcher, I came into it green as I’d not really played the game at all so while I knew it was a fantasy type title, I didn’t have any real knowledge of the characters or challenges in that world. My immediate thoughts on starting the show were that it seemed to have been filmed as a direct competitor to Game of Thrones. Now, this was primarily for two different reasons:
The Nudity – there were lots of naked female bodies on display at various times and through various episodes of the show. In all honesty, I’m not really sure if it was necessary for the story? There were some scenes where it was definitely valid, but in others, it definitely seemed gratuitous which is a pity as that seemed to only be in response to the nudity in Game of Thrones.
The Death – just like Game of Thrones, it seems that no-one is safe as many characters that are quite cool and enjoyable end up dead. In addition, there is no lack of blood and guts in the way that people get killed and dismembered. Again, this seemed to be a direct response to GoT as other stories of a similar vein (Lord of the Rings for example) manage to fight without strewing body parts in all directions.
Now despite what I have just said … after watching the whole show, I have to probably say that by the end of it … I’d changed my mind. The Witcher is not simply another Game of Thrones. While there is definitely blood and gore and nudity aplenty, there is other stuff that makes this story a little bit more enjoyable for me. While GoT kept its monsters to the sidelines, the Witcher puts them front and center right from the beginning scene. Magic is used by many and while courtroom drama abounds, it is not where your attention needs to be focused.
The Witcher, as it stands right now, is Netflix’s highest-rated original series on IMDB, beating out the likes of Stranger Things, Peaky Blinders, Black Mirror, The Crown, Ozark and Haunting of Hill House. Game of Thrones took several seasons to build out its more fantastical elements. The White Walkers and dragons came later. Its first few seasons swirled around distinct characters and the courtly intrigue that kept the plot moving and all our favourite characters dying. The Witcher manages to hook you in one season and keep you engaged.
It’s not that The Witcher isn’t a political story, just that it’s politics are radically different than Game of Thrones. Thrones is a story about the upper classes, the landed gentry who move the world. The Witcher is a story about the lower classes, the people oppressed by prophecy and power. For all his supernatural strength, Geralt of Rivia is a dog catcher. He’s a working-class guy who hunts monsters for a living. More often than not, the society he works for despises him and sees him as no better than the monsters he’s hunting.
While Henry Cavill’s character of Geralt is perhaps a bit too brooding and dour, his physique and sword skills cannot be discounted. It would be nice if he didn’t always talk like he was gargling rocks, however. Yennefer’s story played by Anya Chalotra gives another perspective of the world that Geralt inhabits & perhaps gives us our first insight into the time frames that these characters deal with.
Immortality seems to be a thing for those that have magic or the ability to use magic & one only wonders what might be possible for those that are truly old in this world? The opposing viewpoint in skill and age is off course the Princess of Cintra. Ciri played by Freya Allan is not your typical spoiled rich girl which is nice to see. However, she also does not seem to understand the true plight of her subjects or their ire at her Grandmother as she’s constantly surprised with the reception she receives. With some unspecified yet powerful power within her, Ciri is bound to play a much larger role in the second season.
With three different, yet intertwined stories, told across multiple different fragmented timelines, The Witcher is at times confusing, even if you’re a fantasy buff; are these elves different from the elves you’re familiar with, how does magic work here, which empire is evil, what the hell is a curse – that sort of thing. However, it kept me coming back for more and by the end, I was definitely a fan. The Witcher builds good drama and rewards your investment, rather than punishing it. While it can be quite brutal and bloody, it’s also often fun, with a goofy sense of humour that is refreshing in this often portentous genre.