Netflix seems to have regained some street cred, especially in the sci-fi & fantasy department, with the release of The Witcher, a fantasy series based on The Witcher novel series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.
On December 20th of 2019, Netflix released Season 1 of The Witcher; 8 episodes of gore-filled yet majestic fun starring Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, a solitary monster hunter for hire whose mutations provide him with special powers and abilities.
I enjoyed the entire first season on New Year's Day, while packing in plenty of water, Gatorade, and carb-rich sustenance, and felt that I had enough to say about the series thus far to write up a quick and tasty review for you guys.
One thing that's cool about The Witcher is that its appeal can span a pretty wide-ranging audience. (One of the many ways in which myself and others will compare this show to Game of Thrones.) From your most die-hard D&D player (or Magic: The Gathering junkie like yours truly.) to your non-genre conforming lover of Netflix, sofas, and snacks. The show is comprised of a good-looking cast with Henry Cavill as its nucleus, and I think that aspect alone can have quite a draw, too.
But what's actually substantial and worth noting about this series is its production quality. I truly enjoyed and want to highlight the show's aesthetic, directing, and visual effects, among other things. When you're dealing with magic and mages, a show or film can get real cheese, real quick, but I never caught myself rolling my eyes at the fiery infernos that were being conjured up by the show's characters.
All Images: Netflix
I felt Henry Cavill does a pretty darn good job of portraying this stoic monster slayer that in many ways reminds of The Hound from Game of Thrones. (The acting across the board was pretty solid in the first season of this series.)
Geralt is basically an emo, beefcake ass-kicker with a solid moral compass. People pay him to vanquish beasts, manimals, and oversized bugs on their behalf, but what's interesting about Geralt of Rivia is that he won't just take any job or do just anything for compensation. He'll often question or ponder his hitman-for-hire task and often times, his morality takes precedence over his compensation. (My kinda guy!)
Simultaneously, He's also on a quest to find Cirilla, princess of Cintra, because its part of his destiny. Along the way, he's offered jobs, makes friends with mages and even boinks a few of them, and gets wrapped up a few times, but always finds a way to continue along on his extraordinary endeavors.
The princess herself is gifted with special abilities, but they're only teased a couple of times when she becomes extremely upset or concerned for her safety. We'll have to wait until more Witcher is released to see exactly what those powers are capable of, and why they're so important to the future of their continent, as there's currently a huge man hunt underway seeking her capture.
Geralt's swordsmanship is legit, but the occasional use of his special abilities against his foes, coupled with the look of it, is what really sends this character over the top, and I hope that in the second season (that's already been confirmed and is slated for a 2021 release) he uses even more of these special powers, because they look pretty damn rad.
Before I forget, I should also point out that I streamed this series in 4K and it looked extra awesome. I felt like the show's production team really took a lot of the scenery and shots into consideration as far as UHD is concerned because there were a lot of granular details, especially in the nature and landscape, that would not have looked as astonishing if it weren't for the 4K resolution, so a special kudos to everyone that took park in making sure the visual fidelity was top notch. (It was one of my favorite aspects of the show.)
Even the opening credits are awesome because each one is slightly different depending on what episode you're watching.
The first season of The Witcher is based on a couple of the original short stories named The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, which precede the main Witcher saga.
Some of us are quite familiar with The Witcher video game series but for those that aren't, a video game series based on the same story is highly successful and could arguably be considered a top-ten AAA title of the last several years. I haven't played The Witcher video games personally, but I am quite familiar with them, and the Netflix series definitely makes you want to become Geralt on xbox, playstation, or PC, that much more.
You'll notice that audiences and critics are pretty divided on Netflix's The Witcher series. It's hard to pinpoint any specific reason why, but I will say that the show is quite involved, and a 2nd viewing would probably be beneficial. Also, the story toggles back and forth between three different timelines, so you really have to be paying attention to be able to keep track of what's going on, so save the swiping left and/or right for another time.
The Witcher is teeming with knights, mercenaries, mages, elves, satyrs, forest-dwelling warrior women, gruesome monsters, and more! If you have even one nerdy bone in your body, you'll be smiling with rejoice as you binge your way through the first 8 episodes of this series.
It isn't perfect though, as nothing ever is. Overall, Season 1 of The Witcher does feel a smidge anti-climactic, but I have a feeling this is primarily due to the fact that this show is in its first season and is more focused on introducing you to the characters, the world, and setting the stage. As long as subsequent seasons/episodes consist of some more significant and climactic events, (and I'm sure they will) The Witcher will be on track to become a significantly popular Netflix series.
The Witcher is definitely laying the foundation for what absolutely has the potential to be a big hit of a fantasy franchise as far as television series' and mainstream audiences are concerned.
Netflix hit us with a flurry of awesome sci-fi programming several years back and then sort of entered a period of hit-and-miss content as far as speculative fiction is concerned, so I'm glad The Witcher helps bring some sci-fi fantasy glory back to Netflix, and I obviously hope this is a trend that continues.
I'm really hoping the animated Ghost In The Shell Netflix series that's coming soon is a winner, too. And there's even a Magic: The Gathering Netflix series also in the works that's being spearheaded by some of the minds behind Avengers: Endgame, so that'll be an interesting one to look out for as well sometime in the not-so-distant future.
In the meanwhile, enjoy The Witcher's fantastic entertainment, and feel free to watch it twice if you have to. I had a blast watching it, writing about it while streaming epic fantasy scores on YouTube, and I'll probably wait a couple of months and make another pass at it myself.
As always, cheers to more awesome sci-fi and fantasy across all platforms!