After watching Netflix’s The Witcher, I was left with countless questions, but one surfaces to the top: What the hell did I just watch? Netflix can be really hit or miss when it comes to their original content, and their newest big-budget television showis one of their most confusing and pointless entries yet. It is clear that the streaming giant intended to fill in the gap that the absence of Game of Thrones left in viewers’ lives while simultaneously adapting a popular book/video game franchise for television viewers. In concept, this should be an easy win for Netflix, and given the amount of popularity this show seems to have, they will see it as such. However, in execution, The Witcher Season One is a vapid mess that is too odd and terribly written to get any enjoyment out of.
The first season of this fantasy epic follows three storylines despite the marketing of the show being centered around the character of The Witcher. Henry Cavill plays Geralt of Rivia, a mutant monster hunter who is hated by the common-people for his differences and deformities. His quest is somewhat episodic, with each chapter bringing a new bounty to collect and a different monster or situation to deal with. However, within the first episode viewers are also introduced to Ciri, a princess who finds herself on the run after the kingdom she calls home is captured by the enemy. The third and final storyline follows Yennifer, a servant-like girl who finds out she has an affinity for magic and trains to become a mage. As if this wasn’t confusing enough, all three of these storylines are nonlinear in how they interact with one another, with time moving differently depending on the character shown.
The showrunners clearly wanted this structure to be different and unique, with the threads being tied up as the season goes on, but for some reason the loose ends are left unaddressed at the end of the season, making this disorganized method of storytelling completely pointless. Every time the show attempts to address some of the countless plot holes and unanswered questions, it just creates twice the amount of problems. In the grand scheme of this show, the story arcs make little sense and entire characters with great amounts of screentime lead nowhere, rendering this odd experience to an overall unsatisfying and laughable end. As if that wasn’t enough, the singular events in this series make no sense either. The missions that Geralt is given come with copious amounts of exposition to try and give the audience a sense of the lore, but the explanations are so ridiculous and boneheaded that it is impossible to get anything out of each episode other than dumb plot twists and uninteresting character drama.
In short, nothing in The Witcher makes any sense at all, but the writers and directors don’t seem to care. They seem to think that the majority of the viewers of this type of show are simply watching to see people get decapitated or eaten, and that the reasoning doesn’t matter. While they may be right given the general acclaim audiences are showering over this season, it still shows a certain amount of laziness to not put any effort into the quality of plot details. Honestly, most of the major events throughout this first season are laughable, and the show doesn’t seem aware of how continually stupid it is. At times, watching this show is like watching an unfunny Saturday Night Live parody of Game of Thrones.
The acting isn’t anything special; sometimes there is clear effort put in and other times the performances feel taken straight from a middle school play. Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia is an emotionless and brooding hunk, so his character is hard to penetrate in a character level, which isn’t exactly great given he is supposed to carry the show. The brief amounts of backstory and personality aren’t enough to get the audience to care that much, which means Cavill doesn’t have a lot to work with. He growls his way through the show, delivering a forgettable performance just like the majority of the cast. Anya Chalotra as Yennifer is the strongest dramatic performance here, but she’s not allowed to shine because her storyline is easily the worst of the bunch. None of the magic or rituals that viewers see are explained at all, throwing all logic out of the window and making it difficult to care. Yennifer’s character also has a physical deformity for her first two episodes that is borderline offensive in the way the makeup artists transform the actress into this role. It is also hard to sympathise with a character who makes constant dumb decisions and seems to blame everyone else for here own errors. Meanwhile, Ciri’s storyline is well-acted enough but nothing interesting happens for episodes at a time, and then by the end of the show it feels as if the character development has remained in the same place for the entire season. The best performance is that of Joey Batey as the comic relief in Cavill’s storyline, for he brings the self-awareness this show needed to succeed. Other than that, nothing memorable emerges from this show.
A lot of money and effort was clearly put into season one of The Witcher, which makes it all the more surprising that the show is so hard to watch. Some may enjoy this season because it contains some Game of Thrones-style plotlines and has some mindless action, but if one actually wanted to pay attention to it, they’d find a cringeworthy series of events that takes itself way too seriously. Even the CGI looks fake much of the time, adding another layer of artificiality to the whole experience. This is one of the weirdest shows I have seen in a while, and I in no way mean this in a positive way. With each passing episode, I figured that the show would start to tie itself together or that a twist would come along to make it a bit less incoherent. When that moment never came, I realized this was simply a failure from Netflix that never gets itself off the ground.
I give The Witcher a D.