Of Ballads, Brawlers and Bloodied Blades
Episode 1 of The Witcher: Blood Origin starts with a big battle. As a sword looks set to fall and kill a cowardly man, who is of course Jaskier, time suddenly freezes for everyone except for him.
Jaskier’s double arrives though, revealing himself. He’s not a Doppler but instead, the face suddenly changes to that of an elf. She needs him to sing a story to come to life. And with that, she shows off his lute. Specifically, she needs him to tell the Story of the Seven.
With that, we jump back 1200 years to follow six lone outcasts that are bound together for a blood quest. Fjall of the Dog Clan, Scian of Ghost Tribe, Brother Death, the mages Zacare and Syndril, along with Meldof. The’re all led by someone called Lark. And with that very expository-heavy opening, we jump back and follow Lark as she arrives at a village, singing for all the villagers. That is, until a man looks set to abuse a woman and as such she makes swift work of the troublemaker and starts playing again.
After, she sits down in the back (manspreading of course, as per the norm for female fantasy figures now) and discusses her journey.
Further south, in the Kingdom of Xin’Trea, the newly crowned King Alvitir tours the lowborn streets, where we meet Fjall and are reminded, again, that he’s part of Dog Clan. He saves the Royals from an attack and manages to secure the palace. And he also ends up sleeping with the Queen-to-be Princess Merwyn too, Unfortunately, he’s discovered by several of his brothers, betraying his oath and forced into exile.
With Fjall gone, Merwyn’s brother has found a worthy suitor for her. The King of Pryshia is a widower and a marriage between these two kingdoms would make him amenable to signing and would secure peace and a brighter future.
Anyway, Lark’s little stunt in the tavern sees her locked up by the town guard. There, she finds Fjall for company, who has also been grabbed. She’s not happy, given they have history together following a battle where he took her cousin’s eye, but times have changed. Lark points out that she’s a Raven Clan bard now and as we know, Fjall is an exile.
However, guards arrive and claim that Fjall’s freedom has been bought and after a quick skirmish between the pair, he’s released and runs into Shen, who pleads with him to come back as the King is about to start up a peace treaty between the two Kingdoms. Many advisors have their concerns over this.
Lark manages to break out of her cell, picking the lock (Are there no guards here?) and runs into her sister who’s recruited to be part of this upcoming Peace Treaty and to be with her mother, Cethlenn. She refuses though, not wanting to go down the path of the blade again. When she leaves, Lark finds herself experiencing a prophetic message when the young barmaid is possessed. Apparently, a quest in her name will bring her redemption with her clan. Lark is leaving, determined to make good of this and winning her quest.
Fjall jumps in and saves Lark when a whole bunch of assassins show and begin attacking. When they kill her sister, Lark is understandably distraught but there’s more going on here than first meets the eye.It turns out the attackers are actually Xin’Trean warriors teaming up with the Pryshians.
Fjall believes the pair should stick together, where we learn Lark’s real name is Eile. As the pair march on, we receive some narration to let us know that with highborn hostages exchanged between the warring kingdoms, the other monarchs sail to sign a treaty to end the 1000 year war.
King Midir and his Raven Clan warriors along with Queen Neera and her Serpent Clan warriors, listen as Alvitir, the brave architect, steps up. He gives a big speech about how they’re all going to be unified together and calls upon the leaders to join with him. Unfortunately, that doesn’t play out that way.
A giant CGI beast shows up, conjured by Balor, who single-handedly wipes out all 3 kingdoms. The new “Golden Empire” is now at Merwyn’s command, who has a lot of blood on her hands after killing so many people. Apparently this was her destiny, to murder all the officials.
Of course, she’s being played by Balor as anyone with half a braincell would realize, but since we know this woman is opportunistic and clearly callous and evil too, it’s easy to look past.
News of this cold-hearted move spreads across the Kingdom, where Fjall and Elie show up and immediately find themselves wanted by the officials. Knowing both their clans have been decimated, they find themselves heading out and trying to work out what to do. They decide to team up and forge a new alliance and to get revenge on Merwyn and destroy the beast that runs with her.
So why did Melwyn do this? Well, apparently she did this because she didn’t want to get married. Righteo then. Balor wants to use the gateways to conquer worlds in order to civilize them and bring a new beginning for them all. Balor’s insatiable lust for power brings him before the higher powers in another dimension whom he seems to be working with.
Imprisoned brilliant mage Syndril is the reason for all of this to begin, given it was his work that’s helped open up these gateways. While Balor heads in and thanks him, Fjall and Eile head off to find Scian of the Ghost Tribe. They plead with her to help take out Melwyn and her evil cronies. She’s convinced that they won’t make it past the city gates and refuses to join. At least until she sees the pair of them in action working together.
The Episode Review
So The Witcher: Blood Origin joins Willow, Rings of Power, Wheel of Time, Cursed and a myriad of other fantasy projects that have absolutely no discerning features to help them stand out.
All of these shows have the women acting like men and have no discernible weaknesses, each have a diverse clan joining together to defeat an unstoppable power, and each deviate from their source material drastically. As a result, these fantasy shows feel like one big sludgy, forgettable mess.
What’s particularly amusing here though is that the writers seem to know this too. The opening dialogue exchange between Jaskier and that elf, with the former claiming he’s heard this tale a number of times already before being told this story is unique, feels like a deliberate placeholder to us, the audience, to keep watching,
With Henry Cavill leaving the project and the writers actively mocking the source material for The Witcher, Blood Origin is a perfect example of how not to write fantasy.
The editing is clunky throughout, with that unnecessary bit of exposition at the start introducing all the main characters like this is a Power Rangers opening… before then introducing each of the characters naturally within the story.
It’s such a clunky way of delivering the episode and shows that even beyond the narrative, this show has huge problems too. Let’s hope the episodes ahead are an improvement.