A spoiler-free review of episode one of Netflix’s new Witcher series.
Netflix rolled out the highly anticipated series The Witcher on December 20, 2019 and, so far, the series has yet to disappoint. After being renewed for a second season prior to the premier, I expected a stellar series. In this breakdown, we will go through episode one and analyze what we can free of spoilers, but first, I think a little explanation is in order. This series follows Geralt of Rivia, who is a witcher. Witchers are basically people who have been mutated by magic and alchemy so they are more enhanced for any type of foe or problem they may face.
Going into episode one, I tried to scrounge up the few memories I had from playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but my mind failed me. I only remembered Geralt’s demeanor and a few odds and ends from different quests. So, I tucked what little I remembered back into the folds of my mind and started the pilot free of heavy comparison. One thing that I noticed within moments was how amazing the visuals were. Since we know, going into this story, that there will be battles, sorcery, and monsters, and the first monster we see looks so good! Nothing looked cheesy or like they were trying too hard, but creepy and realistic even in the high-fantasy world. This is one thing that will push me forward through the series, even if I hated the plot lines, there will always be awesome monsters from the vast world of The Witcher. Another thing that can make fantasy stories seem incredibly cheesy if not done right is sorcery and magic. I was glad to see that magic, while it is still in the world, is not overplayed to a point where it gets in the way of a scene when it is used. Overall, the cinematic choices of this episode gave me a great idea of the type of visual experience we can expect throughout the series.
If there is one thing I love analyzing it has to be characters and their attributes. Admittedly, the most I remembered about playing the videogame was Geralt’s demeanor and attitude. He is a no-nonsense type of guy who has a quiet confidence that he can get jobs done… for a price of course. Henry Cavill quickly shows that he was the best person they could have picked for portraying Geralt. He has the look and he has the subtle body language and dryness that Geralt delivers to everyone. The other character that gets a lot of screen time this episode is Princess Cirilla, played by Freya Allan, as we begin a storyline with her as well. She is a teenage girl and heir to the kingdom of Cintra, she is a little sassy and likes to push the boundaries of what she can do as the princess. Even though Cirilla is an interesting character, I have to give a shout out to Jodhi May for her performance as Queen Calanthe of Cintra. She is the perfect balance of poise, humor, and badassery.
Even though I have a lot of good feelings about this series, there were a few things that drove me crazy in this pilot episode. The showrunners were very adamant about making sure the central themes were burned into my brain. The characters talked about destiny, the overall theme of lesser and greater evils, and a prophecy that was given to Geralt many, many times throughout just the pilot; so I am a little nervous about how many times these things may come up throughout the entire series. However, this is a very small bump in the road while watching this show. The one thing I hope to see as I move forward to episode two is a more episodic feel, where we see individual plots each episode that maybe have to do with a certain monster or quest. Even though there is an overarching story, I think an episodic format is a great way to see as much lore as we can.
Overall, the combination of stellar acting, gorgeous visuals, and compelling lore, make The Witcher an absolute hit. Even with a few repetitive lines and ideas, the storyline of the pilot episode beautifully sets up this diverse world while delivering a steady stream of action.