What’s the story?
Geralt of Rivia is a witcher, a group of enhanced humans that dedicate their lives to killing the monsters that threaten villagers and noble alike. No witcher works for free, though, and their guild has earned a grim reputation for their lack of emotion and perceived greed.
Unlike some of his colleagues, Geralt shows a little more emotion than other witchers, and also an elevated sense of ethics and morals. In his own words, when faced to choose between two evils, he’d rather not choose at all.
One of Geralt’s jobs ends up in tragedy, as he’s reminded of the difference between him and the rest of humanity. The death of a dear friend in his hands also makes him reevaluate the way he does his job, as he finds that sometimes the monsters look more human than they seem.
Even though Geralt tries to travel alone most of the time, some companions decide to join his journeys from time to time. Among them is Jaskier, a bard who finds Geralt’s exploits worthy of singing about, especially because he profits well from doing so. Yennefer, a sorceress, also intertwines her life with Geralt’s, as the two discover that their lives are bound to be together.
Parallel to Geralt’s adventures, Cirilla, a young princess of Cintra, also discovers that her destiny goes beyond her royal obligations. When she shows signs of holding a supernatural power, the invading forces of Nilfgaard show interest in capturing the young princess.
Ciri and Geralt’s destiny are bound together by fate, even if neither of them knows each other yet. The story of their life’s supposed to be together, as someone with whom Geralt has a chance to see as a daughter and a father for Ciri.
The show opted for using a rather confusing nonlinear narrative between many time periods. The story jumps from Geralt to Yennefer, to Ciri’s timeline, and never makes an effort to properly explain when’s everything supposed to be taking place. That would be forgivable in a simpler show, but a high-fantasy drama might be overstepping its boundaries by using such a method of storytelling.
Is it any good?
Coming from Netflix, it’s surprising to see such a high-profile show with as many baffling production decisions as The Witcher. First things first, let’s begin with the timeline: the decision to split the show into different periods makes sense in paper, what doesn’t seem reasonable is to not properly identify such periods in a way that’s easy for the audience to know how the events connect.
Yennefer’s story takes place decades before Geralt’s journeys in the series begin, and Ciri’s story is the last one of the bunch, but the series doesn’t give you an outright explanation of why it jumps timelines so much. Imagine if Game of Thrones suddenly decided to tell Ned’s childhood stories along with Daenerys’ conquest, without explaining that one’s happening 30 years before the other; that’s what you can expect from The Witcher.
The acting is also another sloppy point in The Witcher. While Henry Cavill’s Geralt is very good, some of the other actors really don’t fit their roles. All in all, The Witcher isn’t a very polished experience, and as such, it’s far from being a good Netflix original, let alone a good show on its own.
While The Witcher might not be a must-see, some of the elements of the show definitely work in its favor. The atmosphere of the world’s spot on, and some of the characters look just like their videogame counterparts without being overly cheesy.
It’s clear that Netflix bit more than it can chew with The Witcher, and the result is a disjointed mess of ideas that struggles to find a coherent narrative. As it is right now, The Witcher might be good only for die-hard fans of the franchise, although maybe some of the changes made to some key characters might be too insulting for fans.