Netflix ends the 2019 year with the release of the first show based off the widely popular Polish books: The Witcher. The streaming company spent a lot of money in an attempt to fill the Game of Thrones sized hole in all of our hearts; and for some it did the trick. Henry Cavill stars as the main character (Geralt of Rivia) in a series of connected adventures battling dragons, shapeshifters, destiny, and incest. There was a lot of hype surrounding the show, mostly due to the already existing fanbase for the property. Not only is the story based off of books, but also the phenomenal video-game that was released a few years. The show was done well, but my biggest problem is that how it couldn’t have survived without that pre-established fanbase.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Witcher. It does give the audience a lot to love. The action was top notch. The gore was just graphic enough to make you wince. It was definitely for the adult crowd with all the language and nudity. The story was a little confusing, but I’ll get to that later. Henry Cavill is a perfect casting for Geralt. You can tell a lot of care was put into the casting of the rest of the characters as well. Fraya Allen as the child thrown into a hard life: Ciri. Anya Chalotra as the powerful witch with a massive chip on her shoulder: Yennefer. Joey Batey as the cocky bard everyone loves to hate: Dandelion… Yes, that’s right. His name is Dandelion, not Jaskier. And I guess that brings me to the biggest reason I loved/didn’t like the show… I read the books.
For some context, the first who “books” for The Witcher series are not novels. They are a connection of short stories that tell random adventures following a Witcher named Geralt. The show picked a few of the best short stories and wove them together to make a TV series. This worked in some ways, but it confused a lot of people watching. Personally, I loved the episodic nature of the show: each episode appearing as it’s own adventure with a little main plot tying it all together. As soon as a new episode started, I realized which short story it was based on and watched eagerly to see how it was interpreted. I loved watching, knowing what was going to happen but the flip side was also seeing the changes. My enjoyment of the show hinged so heavily on my love of the books that seeing changes upset me (like the character Dandelion having his name changed, or worse, seeing the Sword of Destiny story changed so drastically). And on top of that, I think this is why I’m hearing a lot of criticism for The Witcher, people didn’t read the books.
The plot has an almost ‘Quentin Tarantino style’ to it. There are a lot of time jumps between scenes and episodes. I thought the show did a good job of indicating to the audience the different time periods with exposition, but I also already knew the characters and story. In contrast, I was watching the show with another person and they were completely lost. I explained the stories and Geralt’s backstory with Yennefer and Ciri to this person and it changed her view of the show. Once she was aware of the information I was, she enjoyed the show a lot more. This has been a problem a lot of shows/movies are experiencing lately, especially with nerd culture properties. The Boys, HBO’s The Watchmen, or anything Star Wars are running into this issue. The Witcher suffers from being a show by fans, for fans, and that can’t be how shows are created. It leaves a lot of people out. Compared to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which stands alone without people needing to know the comics) this show falls short in generating new fans of the property. I really liked Netflix’s fantasy epic and will watch season 2 as soon as it comes out, but to get the major fanbase needed for a show to survive, they need to fix the assumption that everyone read the books… Who reads books anyways when you can watch the show.
TV show watched and review written by: Troy Smith