This might be the be the first time in my adult life that I went out and read the books before the show came out. Having been playing the Witcher games since the second one in 2011, I was already well aware of the characters, and fell head over heels with 3 at the behind closed doors demo at E3 in 2014.
Geralt, a monster hunter/bounty hunter who is one of the last of his kind, goes from town to town taking on tasks that mere humans either can’t do because it frightens them or they think it’s below them. The world has changed and no longer needs their kind, so Witchers are looked down upon as less than human, as they’ve been mutated to endure potions and toxins and show no emotion.
The show mainly covers the first book, which small parts here and there changed and adapted for “TV”. The show has three main characters throughout the season and focuses heavily on both the witch Yennefer and Princess Cirilla as well as Geralt. This caught me off guard as it’s been a while since I sat down and binged a newer show like this.The show goes out of its way to introduce you to all these characters and takes its time to tell their origin stories. It never feels like it’s taking too long nor does it feel rushed. When one characters plot needs some time to rest, and it switches over to another character, I found myself going “Oh yeah, I forgot about them, let’s see what happens!” in a voice of excitement. I never felt like I was being dragged away from something more interesting, but it gives time for character’s archs to rest and simmer in the background of your mind, while you are given something else to entertain you.
One of the biggest concerns I had was that these characters are established with over a decade plus of voices and how they look. This is one of the biggest differences between movies based on books and movies based on video games. And yes, even though the show is based on the books, the games were based on the books, and the first game literally starts off with the full fight of the biggest part of episode 3. So we know what Geralt looks like and sounds like. We know how beautiful Yennefer is, or that Triss is a redhead. So when the cast was revealed there was a bit of a backlash. And It’s a bit off putting at first, Superman wouldn’t be my first or even 90th choice to play Geralt, and reviewing his performance and accent, there was no way to this man was going to act and sound like Doug Cockle’s Geralt of Rivia, which is the best and only voice he should have.
But, as time went on, I kept thinking that maybe this will still be an ok version of the series. That somehow it might turn out alright. When a week before the release, Netflix put out a 5 minute Youtube video of The Witcher reads The Witcher, I was blown away at the cadence that Cavil reads, even through the british accent making it interesting, and it actually got me hyped to get into the show. With Elizabeth already knowing all about Geralt and his conquests as well, from watching me play both DLCs, she was apprehensive about the show. It features some pretty crazy monsters and even though we both hate horror, the game balances it out very well. So we grabbed some pizza and soda, plopped down on the couch together and started it up. After the first episode, I asked what she wanted to do next, and Elizabeth replied with “keep watching!” We both really liked this version.
Cavill immediately gets the voice right, making it rough and gruff, almost gravely in a way that mirrors Doug Cockle’s. It might take some time to get used to, as you feel it’s fake, like in that new Batman voice. It’s almost laughable, but here is the difference, it makes sense in the universe of The Witcher, as it’s because of the years of tortuer and mutations. The show gets into all of this stuff and explains why everything is the way it is. It might be hard to follow at first, but if you pay close attention, you will pick it up as it goes along. The show doesn’t hold your hand with exposition, and even pokes fun at exposition spouting characters via Geralt’s bard-travel buddy Dandelion, who’s name has been changed to Jaskier.
I honestly can’t say anything bad about the show. It’s everything I wanted and more. The CGI can sometimes be a bit… odd looking, but there really isn’t much of it. Most go by so quickly that you really don’t dwell on it long enough, and everything is so enjoyable and interesting that you can forgive bad CGI, well… because all CGI is bad. This show is exactly what it sets out to be, a show based on The Witcher series. I hope that it does well and we get a solid four of five seasons and there is more than enough to pull form the books. All the actors do an incredible job and I was proven wrong with my initial reaction, It’s only one season and only 8 episodes long, so I will have to hold for a few more years to really see if it climbs into the pantheon of my favorite shows, joining the likes of Boardwalk Empire, The Simpsons and Hell On Wheels, but good grief is this show off to a great start.