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An Honest Review Of 'The Witcher'

It's PERFECT for fantasy fans who were salty about how 'Game of Thrones' concluded the series!
PHOTO: The Witcher/Netflix

The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers

Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) is a Witcher, a contracted monster hunter who goes from town to town ridding the place of foul beasts but ends up meeting humans who are so much worse! You see, he lives in a world called The Continent, where its inhabitants are constantly warring and discriminating against one another. The dude is just trying to get some coin but trouble keeps sidetracking him from his original quest. Despite scaring people off with monosyllabic grunts of "hmm" and "fuck" he still ends up making friends anyway with a cheerful bard named Jaskiel (Joey Batey) and a mysterious sorceress named Yennefer (Anya Chalotra). Unbeknownst to him, a larger threat is looming in the form of a bloodthirsty kingdom looking to take over the whole land. Somehow, despite trying to keep to himself and doing his own thing, destiny has other plans for Geralt. He is meant to save the princess of Cintra (Freya Allan), one of the fallen kingdoms, and stop the impending threat.

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The Short, Honest Plot

A silver daddy, a sexy sorceress, and a cute princess try to meet up but their schedules won't align because stuff happens in the Continent.

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The Actors And Where You Last Saw Them

Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia

Before he became the subject of an LSS-inducing medieval song in The Witcher, the actor was best known for playing the role of Clark Kent/Superman in the recent DC movies.

 

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Anya Chalotra as Yennefer of Vengerberg

Before portraying a powerful sorceress, Anya starred in BBC shows The ABC Murders and Wanderlust.

 

Freya Allan as Princess Cirilla

The young actress made a brief appearance in the shows Into The Badlands and The War of the Worlds.

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Joey Batey as Jaskier

Toss a coin to this actor-musician who captured our hearts as the enigmatic bard in The Witcher. He was previously in the BBC miniseries, The War of The Worlds, which was shown in 2019.

Did You Know?

1. The showrunner Lauren Hissrich shared during the Manila press con that she already had Henry Cavill's voice in her head as she was writing the script. She says, "When I first met Henry, we had such a good meeting and really got in-depth into the character and the way that I wanted to tell these stories. But I was very honest and said that we don't have scripts yet. As I had continued writing those scripts, I always had Henry's voice in my head." To which Henry replied, "That's a terrifying prospect! (Laughs)"

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2. The Witcher had several locations across Europe but unfortunately, Henry Cavill never went to any of the beach locations. He was always stuck in colder places thanks to his story arc.

3. If you would like to share the love for The Witcher with showrunner Lauren Hissrich, you may find her interacting with fans on Twitter.

"You know it's been really exciting, I don't know if there's ever been pressure though because, um, I've tried to draw from the very beginning is the fans' enthusiasm, energy, and what they love. [These are the] fans of the books, fans of the games, fans of the old show 20 years ago in Poland. I want to know what was appealing about this franchise."

4. Henry is a big fantasy genre fan and his father would read him fantasy books when he was younger. Aww!

5. It ain't easy maintaining that fine head of silver hair on Geralt. During the Manila press con, Henry Cavill shares that there are actually three wigs being used throughout the series. And it also takes him around two hours to get into Geralt mode before he goes Witching.

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What My Friends Think:

"Fantasy series, especially those based on books, are often hard to translate into good TV series (Hello, David Benioff and Dan Weiss). The first season of The Witcher, however, knocks it out of the park with its amazing cast, stunning visuals, and sharp, witty dialogue. People were skeptical of Henry Cavill and Anya Chalotra, but this season proves that the haters need to take a seat because they are Geralt and Yennefer." Tala Wong

"Netflix's The Witcher is a great entry point for people who have been curious about the lore but didn't have time to play the games or read all the books. If you can get past the confusing storytelling, it'll be easier to appreciate what its universe has to offer and will definitely appeal to the mythology buff in you. Ripe with action-packed sequences and an interesting set of characters, you won't even miss Game of Thrones at all, or any high-fantasy shows that came before it. Perhaps it'll also help to view it through this lens: What you are watching isn't merely just another piece of pop culture, but a worthy adaptation of Eastern Europe's rich mythos." Nadine Flores

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What I Think:

After a certain divisive show concluded last year (no points for guessing), I was skeptical about watching another dark fantasy series. I dreaded the inevitable exploitation of the female body and gratuitous violence against women (a term called "fridging" that furthers a man's character arc at the expense of a woman), excusing these choices as a product of its setting. But after watching The Witcher? I have invoked the Law of Surprise because I am shooketh! Not a chainmail bikini in sight! The warrior women are actually wearing practical clothing providing more mobility during combat. (With the exception of the fancy sorceresses and their enviable sartorial selection but hey, they've got money and magic on their side.) Yes, there are mature scenes but they are tastefully done and feel intimate instead of just a fanservice moment. Less male gaze-y and more about depicting relatable sex moves.

The people who were vocally against Henry Cavill's casting as the Witcher need to choke on the entire humble pie. Not only is the actor a huge fan of the video game series, but he's got the pure physicality of the character and the guttural, gravelly baritone voice down pat. (Consequently, sending shivers down this reviewer's spine every time he speaks. All the YES!)

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While the series initially introduces Geralt as our protagonist, the first season is also about two more people: Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and Cirilla (Freya Allan). The ladies of The Witcher actually have prominent roles, aren't reduced to victims of their circumstances, and clap the eff back! Yennefer is a powerful sorceress who could be the equivalent of the modern-day career woman. She doesn't let haters stop her from pursuing a thriving career in magic. (I stan!) Cirilla on the other hand, is a kid born of privilege but can rough it out and is resilient when times get tough. Anya portrayed a complex anti-hero well, she got us engaged in her journey and understanding of her negative traits. Freya's portrayal of the struggling young princess kept us emotionally invested as she fought for survival despite having zero combat skills. Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May) and Tissaia de Vries (MyAnna Buring), who are the ultimate kickass titas of the Continent, deliver the most quotable inspirational/scathing lines in the show. However, both have also made some side-eye worthy moral decisions. There are many ways that both men and women show inner and outer strength as well as their tragic flaws and vulnerabilities that make them all the more human.

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Can I just commend this serious for having such a gorgeous cast, though? And for having characters of all ages and races. Come through, diversity! Aside from Henry Cavill, the rest of the main cast are relatively new in the scene so I'm glad that they are giving opportunities to everyone. Taking a chance on them will be well worth it once they rise to stardom after this season.

Admittedly, I only got hooked after the second episode because the first one was such a bore chore to get through. The pacing was sluggish, which made me zone out a bit so personally, and I don't think it's the best introduction to the world. On a more positive note, the first episode contains a well-choreographed fight scene, one of many that you can expect in the series. Every clash of the sword raises the tension. My personal favorite is the action-packed brawl that traded blows and witty barbs, as food and furniture flew across the room (not so different from an unfortunate drunken episode at a family reunion), in the fourth episode. However, once you get past that it only gets better and more exciting after every succeeding episode. While the garb looks practical, some of it can also look borderline janky. Hopefully, the success allows for a bigger costume budget to fund more intricacies woven into the wardrobe.

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The Witcher visuals are colorful and saturated, proving that dark fantasy has to be, well, dark. If you put it on mute, you could easily mistake the establishing location shots as a travel show. The living, breathing poster boy of these vibrant visuals is Jaskier (Joey Batey), the traveling bard. You may have heard of his viral song, "Toss A Coin To Your Witcher" before even starting the series. The song positively slaps and elevates his comic relief status to true companion/Geralt's BFF. I was eternally thanksliving for his odd couple interaction with the stoic and gruff Geralt. Their joint adventures are highly entertaining and kinda feels like you're playing a video game sidequest. Like Geralt, his constant presence will grow on you like a scab. Except to be singing this LSS during random hours of the day.

Following the narrative can be jarring and confusing if you are entirely new to The Witcher lore. (Those familiar with the video game and books may have an easier time keeping up.) Without spoiling anything, I enjoyed watching everything unfold so just trust that the chaos will be organized.

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There were some excellent symbolic scenes such as an episode that shows a parallelism of transformation between characters from two different subplots and the sound editing just made it all the more visceral and gave me chills.

I fondly think of The Witcher as the little series that could, successfully proving itself in the face of an overly reactive audience. Certain parts of the fandom were highly critical of the casting choices with some unfortunately offensive remarks deriding the diverse racial representation. Unlike most fictional adaptations, The Witcher production didn't use the story's "medieval context" as an excuse to keep its cast pasty white. They weren't afraid to diverge from the character looks of the video game adaptation either, risking the ire of others. That said, everyone involved still respected the fandom's desire to see the best interpretation of their beloved source material. They were able to balance taking those concerns into consideration without being completely influenced by them and trusting their own process. Which is not always the case!

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The Continent is described as an unfair place where zealots, xenophobes, racists, and sociopaths run rampant preying on the innocent. It's not a far stretch from the real world. The inhabitants are far more vicious killers than any monster could ever be because they can murder for several reasons other than to eat. They insist on justifying the terrible means as a "lesser evil." But our boy Geralt sees through all the B.S. and retorts, "evil is evil" still choosing to do what's right in a morally bankrupt world while going about his Witching. There's also the idea of destiny and how people linked to it will always find each other. Whether this is something that rings true or fake news remains to be seen in the series. However, no matter how focused Geralt is in getting that coin, he always ends up in a heroic situation. Even if you're not down with monsters and magic, there's something very relatable about seeing good people mess up big time and working towards doing better. And something aspirational about people choosing to do good even when it's difficult and detrimental to their own survival.

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I'd Recommend It To:

  • Readers who followed the books will be pleased that the story takes after the original source material.
  • DC fans who were sad to see Henry leave his role as Superman.
  • Thirsty Henry Cavill stans.
  • Female fantasy fans who are sick of seeing impractical clothing on women.
  • Musicians who will feel represented seeing Jaskier surviving the turbulent times as a bard. (Maybe even do a cover of that)
  • Geeky titas who will fangirl over the badass older women like Queen Calanthe.
  • People who play tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons can find inspiration here.
  • Hardcore players of The Witcher video game adaptation will enjoy the overall look that's highly reminiscent of the game.
  • For fantasy fans who were salty about how Game of Thrones concluded the series.
  • Europhiles who will enjoy all the scenic locations and may feel inspired to travel.

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