Like many people over the festive period, I binge-watched The Witcher. It wasn’t hard. There was a surprisingly small number of episodes and I had some time on my hands. So today, I wanted to put together a little review of The Witcher to share my thoughts on the story, characters and world-building. I know some people are on the fence because of the mixed reviews so I hope this is a fair and balanced take on it.
First of all, it’s important to note that I’m only talking about the show here. I have not read the books nor played the games. So I can’t comment on them at all.
Why the mixed reviews?
This is arguably one of if not the biggest show that Netflix put out in 2019. Everyone’s been talking about it but how does it measure up?
It’s interesting to note that there have been a lot of mixed reviews out there. Below you’ll see the Rotten Tomatoes score:
Overall, the critics aren’t a fan but the general viewers seem to love it. I’m somewhere in the middle myself. It certainly wasn’t a perfect show but it was enjoyable and interesting.
Overall thoughts: My brief review of The Witcher
I think the show started off pretty strongly. The first few episodes were great and then it started to go downhill a bit mid-season. I wasn’t sure quite where it was going and the pacing went a bit off.
I think the main reason for this was that they tried to introduce too many story threads (side quests) within a very short eight episodes. The whole thing felt a bit rushed which is a shame because I’d have liked to see some of those story threads expanded on more. I don’t think we spent enough time learning about certain characters and the world around them in enough detail.
Considering that the main problem with Game of Thrones was that it was rushed, you’d like to think other TV producers would take note to avoid making the same (very well known) mistakes.
I also think the season ended a bit bluntly but maybe that’s because the season was pretty short.
Overall, I think the show has a lot of potential but has some clear growing pains. I’d love to see how it develops into the next seasons. Already, we’ve been told season 2 will be more “story-focused” which sounds good to me!
The world-building: Was it immersive?
Any kind of world-building and high fantasy is always of interest to me. While the world of The Witcher is interesting, it feels a bit underdeveloped and not as immersive as I’d like. I would say I don’t have a strong sense of what the world is actually like, I only have an idea of what some characters are like but even they feel half-formed in lots of cases. Hopefully, this will be more developed as the series goes on.
I think the most interesting part of the world for me was Aretuza, the magical academy where Yennefer begins her training. It was probably the location that was the most developed. Other places in the world didn’t really feel as memorable to me. The creepy eels sequence was pretty memorable and says a lot about this part of the world and story.
The stuff I liked
Geralt and Jaskier
I loved these two together. They had a great dynamic and I would’ve liked to see more of them, to be honest. Also “Toss a Coin to the Witcher” is officially the banger of 2019.
Not everyone was a fan of the fighting scenes but I personally liked them. They were well-coordinated and they didn’t do the whole cut away as soon as someone attacks their opponent thing. You actually saw what was happening.
However, the spinning around mid-fight thing was a bit overused, I am not a combat expert so I don’t know if there’s ever a real purpose for that. Anyone who knows more about combat than I do, I’d love to hear whether the pirouette method is actually helpful or if it just looks cool.
The stuff I didn’t like
One of the key criticisms of this show was how confusing the timelines were at first. Someone told me after the first episode that the three main stories all took place at different times which was handy for the next episode where previously-dead characters showed up. I think I would’ve worked that out for myself because there are a few lines of dialogue which place you in the timeline. But it was a bit confusing at first.
I like a bit of mystery in narratives. However, the problem with confusing issues like this is that it pulls the audience out of the story a bit, making it feel less immersive. They probably could have been solved this title at the start. All it takes is “10 years later” although that might have made it even more confusing, who knows.
However, maybe it’s a bit refreshing to see a show which doesn’t ram explanations and exposition down your throat? Perhaps we should trust the audience to work things out for themselves.
Yennefer’s journey towards power
Of course, there are some significant time jumps so we don’t see a lot of Yennefer’s journey towards developing her powers. However, all we really see in the beginning is her doing badly compared to her classmates. As far as I can remember, we don’t really see the development, how her skills and knowledge advance which is something I would have liked to see considering how powerful she becomes. This is a good example of how the show felt a bit rushed at times.
I’m not going to lie. There was some dodgy CGI in here. It looked pretty dated and I felt like I was watching a BBC sci-fi show (Dr Who/Primeval style) at times. Some of it was fine, but some of the creatures e.g. the dragon weren’t the best. It was a little distracting.
What next for The Witcher?
While it definitely isn’t perfect, I’m intrigued by the world and will definitely watch the second season whenever it arrives.
Showrunner Lauren S Hissrich revealed some details about the next season.
“What I would say is that season 1 is very much about building blocks. It’s about constructing the world, and setting up these characters, and putting them on paths, and knocking those dominoes over.
“When you get to season 2, all of those things start to come to play, which is that characters start meeting each other – sometimes getting along, sometimes not. All those things that we set up – Geralt and Yennefer; Geralt and Ciri; Yennefer and Ciri; all of the different kingdoms that you just barely hear about in season one, start rising to the surface in season 2. So the storytelling is a little more intense in a way, and maybe a little more focused and driven in the journeys that we’re telling in season 2.”
I’m hoping they take a look at some of the criticisms of this season and apply them to the next, but we shall see! What’s been said about it so far sounds promising.
I hope this has helped anyone on the fence about watching The Witcher. If you’re into fantasy like this then yeah I’d say give it a watch but don’t expect a perfect TV show by any means.
Have you watched The Witcher yet? How does it compare to the games/books? Will you be watching season 2? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.