Let’s just get a few things out of the way: No, The Witcher is not the next GOT. I’m really tired of every new fantasy show being compared to Game of Thrones. We all get that it was a historic show and beloved by millions but those sorts of expectations are just not realistic and detrimental to series like The Witcher that is unique in its own right, even though it’s apart of the larger fantasy genre.
Furthermore, the barrier of entry for the show is quite high. Getting into the show might be particularly tough for your average viewer mainly because its a nonlinear story taking place at different times. There are 3 timelines interwoven between all 8 episodes and although they all converge on the last episode, there aren’t strong markers to indicate that one part is taking place say, 10 years ago or in the present. In that sense, this show really demands your full attention because even if you’ve read the books that the show is based on by Andrzej Sapkowski, you could easily get confused.
Lastly, critics are low-key annoying sometimes and I don’t know why people pay attention to everything they review. Sometimes their opinions hold water but watch what you enjoy and don’t let a critic tell you it’s bad especially if they haven't watched the whole season. (look for constructive criticism is all I'm saying.)
What I Enjoyed About The Show
Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia is one of the highlights of the show. He does a great job of portraying an aging monster hunter for hire who kills all manner of beasts with his sword and mutant abilities. Geralt as a character does not say much and is often wary of the squabbles he finds himself in-between monarchs, sorcerers and common folk.
But Yennefer, a sorceress depicted by Anya Chalorta absolutely takes the cake. Yennefer’s story throughout the season is tragic, that of a hunchback girl sold by her father to a witch to be trained in magic. She had no choice in any of this and while learning magic, she ultimately decides to change her appearance with a price: she would forever be sterile. Chalorta brings so much emotion and presence to the character, especially in the earlier episodes. These two performances alone make me excited for more. My favorite character has to be the bard, Jaskier. He’s funny, charming and has great chemistry with Geralt. Plus, his songs are really good. (I’m not the only one who has the “toss a coin to your Witcher” tune stuck in their head.)
If the characters don’t interest you, then the sword fighting choreography probably will because it’s by far some of the best I have ever seen. The most cinematic swordfight was between Geralt and Renfri, a princess whose life is turned upside down by a wizard she hopes to take revenge on. The fight is fluid, none of the cheap cuts and weird camera motions seen in so many action scenes. You could feel the impact of the swords clashing and each trying to one-up the other. Where the sword fighting scenes fall apart though, are when Geralt is fighting a monster. The CGI monsters seem weightless in many cases when they aren't humanoid and it takes away the forcefulness of each sword swing.
The show overall looks good and well worth the millions of dollars that were poured into it.
The Not So Great Aspects of The Show
To add on to the confusing timeline jumps, the first few episodes are rough. The battle in the first episode was disappointing. It was just two sides crashing into each other and duking it out. The camera would just cut to a guy getting stabbed and then another falling off a horse. The standard big battle sequence. It seemed to serve more as exposition than an entertaining battle. (can we talk about that Nilfgaardian armor because…man its hard to not pay attention to it.)
The other thing that makes the first few episodes hard to get through is all the in-world jargon that's thrown at you that isn't explained at first. Things like Nilfgaard, Blavekin and later on The Law of Surprise and the Conjunction of the Spheres. I knew a lot of these concepts already from my experience watching The Witcher game playthroughs but again for the uninitiated, it will be difficult to grasp. You get a rough idea about many of these concepts though.
Secondly, a map would have been great to visualize where all these places were. The amount of times I wanted to consult a map to see where Nilfgaard was and where they were attacking from or how far Temeria was from Cintra is a lot. I think this is more a minor nitpick but I really do think a map would have made the season a tad bit more interesting.
I really enjoyed this first season. I think it was a good attempt at getting the viewer involved by just plunging them in the deep end, no swim lessons or floating device. The source material that the show draws from is a collection of short stories and that makes the serialized but disjointedness of it make more sense. It was bold of the team working on the show to have three storylines all with different times and places coming together in the end. It worked out far better then critics are giving it credit for. The first season leaves you with many unanswered questions and a world still unexplored. In that sense, the show still has some work to do. It also feels like the first season was a taster for all that is to come. The great acting, the splendid sword fights and the gritty feel of it just makes me optimistic that the show has massive potential.
I’ll give season 1 of The Witcher a 7/10.