The Witcher – Season 1 Review

The Witcher Season 1

In what is the last of the “catch up reviews from the past six-to-nine months”, the first season of The Witcher was hyped up a lot before and after its release, but I initially held back due to often finding Henry Cavill quite dull in his prior roles, and a general lack of knowledge of the source material (novels and, much to my shame, the games, though if I ever get a spare few months I’d like to tackle Wild Hunt…) But I gave it a go after work colleagues were raving about it and I did enjoy it… a lot, actually! So let’s take a look at Witcher Season 1, and finally stop posting reviews comprised using notes I wrote down half a year ago…

Synopsis:

Geralt of Rivia, Princess Ciri, and Yennefer of Vengerberg. Three people who have stories to tell of how they lived, before destiny ties them together…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

The Witcher Season 1 1

Geralt gives someone the “I know I look too young to have grey hair, but hair-dye hasn’t been invented” stare.

Well, since the series is split in three, may as well look at each of the three parts separately!

We’ll start with Geralt, since he’s the poster boy of the franchise. The first thing that stands out to me is that Henry Cavill is actually really good in the role! After a few really lifeless performances (including playing the likes of Superman) I’d written him off as a thoroughly nice bloke in real life, but not much of a charismatic actor, but here! Here… well, okay, he’s not super charismatic, but he’s not supposed to be. He’s grumpy, sarcastic and most of all stoic, which plays with Cavill’s skill set very well. There are some great sword fight scenes here, really well choreographed and exciting, and his straight man to Jaskier the Bard’s funny man is a great double act. Jaskier (played by Joey Batey for the record) turning what ended up being a pretty harmless encounter with an Elven King into an epic song glorifying Geralt and then hearing that song mentioned in an episode set a few years on was a good laugh, even if the song became something of an over-referenced internet meme shortly afterwards…

Princess Ciri (Freya Allan), a sheltered little girl who has to go on the run to a potentially deadly forest to look for a person she’s never met because her family and indeed entire Kingdom has fallen, is an interesting character. She has some latent magical power that she’ll presumably learn to control and weaponise as the story unfolds, but other than the potential, her story was the weakest.

Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) starts off as an unfortunately crippled and unattractive girl who is chosen to take trials to potentially become a sorcerer, and eventually uses the magic she’s learned to make herself extremely attractive at the cost of being able to bare children. It’s an interesting arc, and it includes her falling for an attractive mage who, it turns out, is spying on her, and eventually enough time passes that she grows tired of the role of court sorcerer and regrets her decision. She’s a great character, complex and interesting. It was fun seeing her run into Geralt and the two having an uneasy relationship.

The Witcher Season 1 3

Yennefer prepares to make another “Don’t you wish hair-dye was a thing” joke to Geralt.

Speaking of characters running into each other, the way Geralt ends up tied to Ciri is a fun bit of in-universe lore. He and Jaskier are attending a banquet involving the yet-unborn Ciri’s grandparents Queen Calanthe and King Eist Tuirseach (played by Jodhi May and Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, respectively) and young mother Princess Pavetta (Gaia Mondadori), during which a hedgehog-looking man named Duny, or Urcheon sometimes (played by Bart Edwards) requests Pavetta’s hand in marriage as he’d saved King Eist’s life and was granted something of his due to the unspoken rule of “The Law of Surprise”. Queen Jaskier refuses and a brawl ensues, leading to Pavetta unleashing powerful magic much like we know her daughter later does. At the end of the day Geralt saves the situation and Duny asks him for some way to thank him, leading to Geralt to sarcastically call the Law of Surprise and asks for something he has but doesn’t yet know. Almost immediately everyone finds out Pavetta is pregnant, which means Geralt has claimed the future Ciri by way of the Law of Surprise. He simply lets out of “… Fuck.” before claiming he doesn’t believe in fate and leaving…

Eventually though he comes to truly believe he has no choice but to give in to destiny and look after Ciri and arrives at the same time her Kingdom falls and she runs off into the forest. Geralt eventually escapes from the besieged town, heads into the trees and ends up meeting Ciri as the season ends, and from what I’ve heard, linking up to the start of the first book (this season being adaptations of short stories set before it). It’s a good set up, and while naïve and scared girl looking up to tough and stoic protector who starts off uneasy but comes to love her is extremely cliché, it’s a cliché that works, and has been built up well here.

The Bad:

The Witcher Season 1 4

…. *Shrugs*. Don’t care. Let’s cut back to the good stuff!

As previously mentioned, out of the three time periods, Cirir’s is the one whose story didn’t excite, her befriending an elf boy named Dara (Wilson Radjou-Pujalte) and then leaving a potentially safe magical society in forest was… meh. Plus it involved doppelganger double-bluffs, which was somewhat entertaining, still not as interesting as the rest of the season. Plus the “evil” invading army look a bit pants, which doesn’t help…

The biggest fault most have with this season is its structure, in that each of the three strands take place in different time periods before converging at the end. I myself didn’t have that problem, and in fact when Geralt arrived at a younger Queen Calanthe’s court I thought “Oh, I see! That’s clever”. But I can understand why some people would want something like a year to appear at the bottom of the screen to tell them when each scene is compared to each other, or something of the sort. It’s not something that bothered me, but it is something to be aware of before you go in…

Overall Thoughts:

The Witcher Season 1 2

Geralt momentarily wonders if all this creature wants is to be loved…  before killing it.

I really loved The Witcher’s first season. Going in nearly-blind (I knew a bit due to the third game’s popularity and Geralt’s appearance in Soul Calibur VI) I didn’t know what to expect beyond “mature” fantasy adventure, but what I got was three interesting plot threads slowly weaving together, tied with some really impressive sword fights and magic. Looking forward to Season 2 next year, where hopefully I can talk about the show in a more timely manner…

5 Star Watch

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