Geralt of Rivia, the monster hunting man hunk, has found a new home on Netflix. The eight-episode series was dumped on the video-streaming service just before Christmas 2019 and, within a fortnight, became Netflix’s second most popular original show after, unsurprisingly, Stranger Things.
Some light spoilers follow, so if you want to skip to the last paragraph, feel free.
Having seen the trailers, I expected very little of The Witcher before diving in. I expected Henry Cavill and friends to butcher the franchise, paying zero creed to the source material as it made cheap jokes that would have any gamer, let alone fan, cringing from their sofa. Think 1990s Super Mario Bros. but with Big Bang Theory references.
In short, I expected a travesty that would just make me angry.
Fortunately, the show is actually pretty good. It’s not perfect, of course, but on the whole, it’s well worth a watch. It takes time to grow on you through the early episodes, dividing your attention between three different characters and what eventually turn out to be three different periods in time that only coalesce and come into focus as you reach the series’ final stretch.
Henry Cavill’s Geralt seems pretty spot on as the gruff and world weary Witcher, while Yennefer’s character arc gives some of the backstory you don’t get in the game, and Triss… well as I said, the show isn’t perfect.
Triss Merrigold is a complex character. In the books she is friends with Yennefer and Geralt. Geralt and Yennefer love each other, but Triss is all about that silver hair. In the games, you frequently get the option to sleep with the women around you, and Triss is frequently one of those women. In the show you get nothing of that complexity. No impending love triangle, no hint of a spark between them. Maybe that’s to come? Maybe it’s not. Either way, Triss is a character that’s underdeveloped to the point where she’s a tertiary character at best.
Also, her hair is the wrong goddamn colour. It’s supposed to somewhere between chestnut and ginger.
As annoying as I found that, it’s not the most annoying thing about the show. For me, it’s the medallion. If you’ve seen the show, do a quick image search for “Geralt’s medallion” and you’ll see what I mean. The wolf medallion is a sign of Geralt’s school. It’s a silver piece of awesome that can be tuned to detect either monsters or magic, and if you want to survive in the games you need to pay close attention to it. It’s as symbolic as it is useful, and it conveniently looks pretty badass as well. Yes, you see a medallion around Geralt’s neck, and yes it vibrates once or twice during the series, but if you weren’t looking for it, you wouldn’t notice it. Instead, the happy little face on Geralt’s sword is more bloody obvious than anything else.
And while I’m ranting about swords, why doesn’t the show explain why Geralt carries two swords at all? That’s as important as it is glossed over. Granted you have to cut some stuff for the show, but lets consider that Geralt is a professional monster hunter. He’s a die-hard pragmatist who exists to kill monsters. Again, the most memorable thing about his swords in the show is how obnoxiously cheerful they are.
Rant over. There are some really good things in the show that are definitely worth your time — especially if you’re a fan of the franchise like I am. Learning more of Yennefer and Ciri’s backstory is obviously a pull, and the fight scenes are pretty exhilarating. Cavill’s portrayal of Geralt made me happy — he certainly nailed the gruff persona — it’s just a shame that he has to almost single-handedly carry the show.
The best thing about the show, from a fan perspective, is episode three. The original trailer for the original Witcher game shows Geralt going toe-to-toe with a monster called a Striga. He beats it down, expertly wielding his weapons to do no more than scare the monster off and cut off a lock of its hair. After scaring the beast away, he cures the Striga of her curse and returns her to human form — though she still has a nasty scratch when he gets too close.
The entirety of this episode, ‘Betrayer’s Moon’, is a homage to that trailer and it masterfully done. It’s such a love letter that I’m willing to overlook the issue with the swords and medallions and give The Witcher a solid recommendation. Hell, I’d go so far as to say it’s better than Game of Thrones.
Still annoyed by Triss’ hair though.