Netflix has stayed true to the form of Andrezj Sapkowski’s novels and the tone set by the popular Witcher video games with its new original series.
Whether you’re a massive Witcher fan and have voraciously devoured all the source material, or you just played through the Witcher 3, the Netflix series will elicit the same excitement and enjoyment as when you first encountered Geralt of Rivia.
The Witcher is based on both the short stories and the novels, the stories of which take place at different times throughout Geralt of Rivia’s journey.
The show entwines the two timelines almost effortlessly despite this, introducing viewers to the history of Geralt, Yennefer, and other main characters while also following the adventures of Ciri, who – as anyone who has read the books or played the games would know – is central to the story.
This well-crafted format paired with the show’s excellent casting and commitment to its source material makes it a must-watch for fans as well as an enjoyable fantasy series for newcomers.
Our review will steer clear of major spoilers for those who have not read the books, and will focus instead on the overall first impressions of the series.
The right decoction
If there was one thing many fans of games and novels wanted from the show, it was a believable Geralt of Rivia – a character who strikes a careful balance between gruff stoicism, deadpan humour, and deeply-repressed emotion.
Henry Cavill pulls the character off magnificently, and his portrayal of Geralt may be the highlight of the series’ many attractions.
Whether he is effortlessly and stylishly dispatching enemies with his sword, swigging decoctions mid-battle with fearsome monsters, or complaining about courtly attire, Cavill is every inch the Geralt of Rivia fans know and love.
The show’s story also keeps close to that of the books, and it is not afraid to embrace the darker, more mature brand of fantasy The Witcher is known for.
A central theme of the show is that “humans are the real monsters”, and it does not hold back from demonstrating the morally-grey nature of The Witcher’s world and characters.
It’s no Game of Thrones, and although the comparisons between the two will inevitably be drawn as they both occupy the “dark, gritty fantasy” genre, it doesn’t try to be.
The Witcher is a series that entirely and unapologetically embraces the subject matter it is based on, which makes it even greater for its fans.
Speaking of fans, one of the biggest audiences for The Witcher at the show’s release will be those who have played through the games – specifically The Witcher 3.
Having played through the game twice myself, I was hoping to see some of the same high-octane action and character traits come through in the show – I was not disappointed.
The opening of the series’ first episode threw me right back into the world of The Witcher, with Geralt facing down a terrifying monster and showing off his impressive swordplay and combat skills, as well as his reliance on decoctions to augment his mutations.
The score is also fantastic and is more than slightly reminiscent of the video games – especially during the combat scenes.
Combat in The Witcher series is frequent and entertaining. The series is essentially about a superhuman monster hunter who regularly slays powerful and terrifying creatures, and it uses this to its advantage.
Watching Henry Cavill step into the shoes of Geralt and take down looming behemoths, large swathes of enemies, and horrifying ghouls is one of the best parts of the show.
The series knows its strengths, and almost every episode has some form of epic physical confrontation, which makes for great viewing.
It’s not only about the combat, however; Cavill does a masterful job at portraying every facet of Geralt, including his affection for his horse, Roach, his sarcastic sense of humour, and the emotions roiling beneath the character’s prickly hide.
Fans will be happy to see the return of several of the franchise’s most interesting and entertaining characters, as well as the inclusion of intriguing and satisfying story arcs which describe the origins of Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri before throwing them into their adventures together.
The Witcher is a must-watch for anyone who has played the games as well as fans of the books. The first season of the new series is available now on Netflix.