The End’s Beginning – | Review Score – 4/5
Four Marks – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Betrayer Moon – | Review Score – 4/5
Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Bottled Appetites – | Review Score – 4/5
Rare Species – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Before a Fall – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Much More – | Review Score – 4/5
Back in 2015 I took the plunge and bought a PS4; the first game I played was The Witcher 3. I poured an ungodly amount of time into that game, obsessively collecting all the cards and slaying every monster on the exhaustive list of side missions. That’s to say nothing of the engrossing storyline and expansive lore that made the world come alive like no other roleplaying game had. Since then I’ve dabbled a little with the books but admittedly my knowledge expands only as far as the games.
When Netflix announced they’d be adapting the books and turning them into an expansive fantasy series of the same name, I remained cautiously optimistic that the streaming giants could pull off the unthinkable and rekindle the joy I had playing through The Witcher. In a way it does, delivering a satisfying and well written slice of high-fantasy, with enough magic, monsters and sword-fighting included to keep things rooted in danger and tension. While it’s unlikely to dethrone some of the better fantasy offerings sitting at the top of the pedestal right now, the first season does enough to intrigue and keep things interesting for the already green-lit second season.
For those unaware, the story revolves around a monster hunter named Geralt. Vilified by human-kind, these white-haired, emotionless Witchers spend their time hunting creatures and getting paid to do so. The first episode really acts as a scene-setter, introducing our core cast of characters and splitting the screen-time between Ciri, a princess in a neighbouring city on the brink of war, with Geralt, as he’s given a new bounty. The second episode introduces Yennefer, a mage-in-training who stumbles upon her powers by accident. From here, these three stories run parallel to one another for much of the first season whilst introducing key concepts from the books and games.
While there is an overarching plot that keeps everything tied together, each episode operates with a different monster and plot for Geralt to tackle until the final 2 episodes where everything comes together. In that way, the series takes nods from the source material, introducing a combination of investigative work and monster slaying. This ties in around Ciri’s escape and subsequent journey to find Geralt while Yennefer undergoes rigorous training to become a powerful mage, with her fate intertwined with Geralt during the second half of the series. All of this builds up to a climactic finale and a pretty epic fight sequence that leaves things hanging in the balance in the aftermath. With a second season already green-lit, there’s certainly plenty to chew over.
Given I’m not completely clued up on the books I couldn’t tell you how accurate this is to the source material but the fantasy elements are brilliantly worked into the plot and the characters play their roles perfectly. Henry Cavill is sublime as Geralt Of Rivia while Anna Shaffer slots into the role of Triss Merigold well too. The rest of the cast do well too although for me, the banterous bard Jaskier injects a little too much humour into situations that doesn’t always hit the right tone. Given how dark some of the segments are here, seeing these slapstick and comedic moments felt a little off for me. Thankfully when Yennefer and Geralt share the screen, their chemistry is enough to look past time.
Taking inspiration from the fantastic soundtrack to the game, The Witcher reintroduces those Slavic and Nordic influences within some great instrumental scores. The battle scenes are heightened because of this, and some of the sombre moments are accompanied nicely by suitable tracks too, that’s to say nothing of the understated main theme of the show which is simple but effective. Of course, the costume and general production design is top notch, using every square inch of the scene to paint a beautiful portrait of this world.
Hype is likely to be The Witcher’s worst enemy and I’m struggling to see how it’ll slay this behemoth going forward. Those expecting the next Game Of Thrones will be left very disappointed. This is a high-fantasy series that marches to the beat of its own drum and does so in a consistent and enjoyable manner. It’s a solid, enjoyable effort that sets the foundations for a second season to follow without doing anything particularly groundbreaking or unique for this genre like Game Of Thrones did. The adaptation is a good one though and absolutely worth watching, even if it is likely to disappoint those going into this with expectations of Game Of Thrones 2.0.
Verdict - 8/10