Updated: May 21, 2020
There is always a great risk when adapting a story to a new medium, and Netflix no doubt knew this when they began work on The Witcher. From humble origins in the books to a highly respected and extremely popular video game series, author Andrzej Sapkowsk’s characters and stories have captivated the imaginations of readers and gamers alike and taking these beloved elements and making a series out of them is a very perilous undertaking. All characters and stories must be close enough to their original written personalities not to anger people who already love them. Still, they must also be different enough to distinguish the series and not raise accusations of plagiarism from other interpretations. So, has Netflix done it?
The simple answer is yes! Netflix has managed to create a series that pays homage to the original material but takes enough liberties to create a fresh interpretation of the characters and stories. Let’s dive into The Witcher and look at what makes this Netflix series one of the best works that Netflix has made to date.
The story follows the adventures of three characters: Geralt of Rivia, a man trained from a young age, and given extraordinary powers to fight monsters and magical creatures, otherwise known as a Witcher. Yennefer of Vengerberg, a poor girl, deformed from birth with a natural affinity for sorcery; and Princess Cirilla of Cintra, a young girl of royalty who is being hunted by an entire kingdom. These three characters are all tied together and continuously shape the events of the world they inhabit. Regarding how closely this series is to previous presentations, it mostly follows the story presented in the books with some variations to certain elements or order of events, but the characters’ looks and mannerisms are largely being influenced by their video game portrayals.
Actors/Actresses and their Performances
Geralt of Rivia, "The Witcher," is, in many ways, the most important character of the series as he will make or break the show. Henry Cavil, most known for his portrayal of Superman in the movies "Man of Steel," "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," and "Justice League," outdoes himself in his performance here. He already has enough of the right kind of voice and face to play Geralt, so it looks like all they needed was a white wig and couple contact lenses to turn him into the titular character. In terms of personality, Henry Cavil portrays Geralt in a familiar way, with Geralt’s blunt personality from the video games ever-present above all else. Still, Henry does manage to make some of the slightly more comedic moments in the show hit well, especially when he meets and unwillingly befriends the bard Jaskier. Ultimately, Cavil steals the show, but the other two main characters also gave an amazing performance.
Anya Chalotra also gives an incredible performance as Yennefer. Without revealing too much about the story, she takes a character who goes through some incredible transformations and has some profound development through the entire show and brings it all out beautifully and convincingly. It would be effortless for this character to fall flat given all of the stories beats surrounding her, but Anya never falters and in one scene can go from portraying a beautiful, powerful, and deadly sorceress to a vulnerable woman trying to find her purpose and regain something deeply precious that she has lost. Her performance is fantastic and cannot be understated.
Cirilla is portrayed by Freya Allan, an 18-year-old actress from England, and there is not a moment where she is onscreen, and you are not wondering what comes next for her character. Her story is deeply engrossing, and Freya convincingly portrays the fear and confusion that Ciri feels throughout the entire story as she is being chased for reasons that she does not understand. This young child is one character that the audience will constantly empathize with, and Freya is always drawing the audience in with her convincing portrayal of the hunted princess.
The show overall looks stunning. Special effects are very convincing and are used only when necessary. The camera work is very well done and precise, especially in the fight scenes, with arguably one of the best filmed and choreographed close quarters fights in fantasy television or movie history occurring at the end of the first episode. The color pallet involves a very bright and full selection, which only fades when certain scenes involving combat or other actions take place, adding to the scene’s atmosphere. In terms of dialogue, there is not much that seems unnecessary or frivolous, with a few minor exceptions. Overall, this is a very well-crafted and directed experience.
Even with all these good aspects, there are still a few issues. There is so much world-building done in such a short space of time that it can become extremely confusing to some people, with extremely important plot points contained in very hastily spoken lines. The amount of information thrown at the audience is immense and can be overwhelming at times. There are also a few characters whose motivations are not well fleshed out or don't completely make sense, Yennefer, unfortunately, being one of those characters at a few key moments. There are a few scenes involving Ciri that are not well used or don’t make much sense and seem more like a waste of time and potential. The final issue is that there is one character, named Triss Merigold, who plays a large role in the video games, and she is somewhat mistreated with little to no development. She is almost used as a plot device at times with what feels like little respect to the source material the character comes from.
The Witcher is a fantastic series that entertains and amazes with its fantastic performances, amazing visuals, and compelling story. While there are some issues with a few characters and the amount of lore thrown at the audience is a little too much to handle, the show is still a must-see for anyone who can.
Final Rating: 8/10
3: Painfully Below Average
4: Below Average
6: Above Average
Ryan O’Connor is a fifth-year senior studying physics at CWU. He is an avid gamer, nerd, and he loves to share and hear opinions about anything related to these and many other subjects. He is also the DJ on Electropolis known as LYNX.