Review: The Witcher Season 1

For the fans of ‘The Witcher’ series, be it the books or the video games, this story is full of action and adventure. Swordfights, bloodshed, magic and trickery- these are the things that one expects from the adaptation of the tale by Andrzej Sapkowski. With its first episode, the Netflix series doesn’t hold back on any of that. With the immense hype surrounding its release, it had to be under incredible pressure to live up to the expectations of the fans. Even for the ones who are not familiar with the story, the series had to find a way to lure them in. And the pilot episode succeeds at that. Mostly.

The Witcher Season 1 Episode 1 Recap

Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher, a mutant trained to hunt monsters. He is a nomad who wanders here and there in search of employment. He kills monsters and gets paid for the job. The episode begins with him entering Blaviken with a dead kikimora. He believes that the townsfolk would pay him for it, but he is not welcomed. Instead, he is directed towards a sorcerer who might have some use of the dead creature. Geralt hopes that the magician would pay him something, but finds out that there is an entirely different job waiting for him.

Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Cintra, Princess Cirilla is trying to follow in the footsteps of her warrior grandmother, Queen Calanthe. She wants to be able to roam the streets freely, pick up fights and go to war, rather than doing all the things that are expected of her as a princess. Calanthe doesn’t want her to have that just yet, but with Nilfgaard threatening to overtake their kingdom, she doesn’t have any choice. A fierce battle breaks out, and with the fall of Cintra, Cirilla is forced to flee her home.

The Witcher Season 1 Episode 1 Review

The casting of Henry Cavill as the lead character is one of the best things about the show. The actor is no stranger to playing the characters with superpowers or the kind that engage in swordfights. The medieval setting is something that he has worked on in a couple of projects in the past. So, donning the role of Geralt wouldn’t really have been a challenge for him. He fits in the role like a glove; he has caught the dry, unfriendly and, often, sarcastic behaviour of his alter-ego with great ease. (Disclaimer: I am a fan of Henry Cavill, so if I come across as biased, I totally am!)

‘The End’s Beginning’ chooses a critical moment in the life of Geralt. The premise is taken from one of the short stories that appear in ‘The Last Wish’. It is not even the one that starts the book, so the choice of introducing the world of ‘The Witcher’ to the audience from here was a bold choice. And perhaps, a good one at that. It allows a lot of ground to explore the protagonist’s character, especially his sense of right and wrong. The writers don’t portray Geralt as a killer who later learns from his experiences. If that was to be done, they would have focused on his early years (which might be on the cards for the future).

The Geralt that we meet has already spent a lot of time in the profession. He has seen all sorts of monsters- humans or otherwise. And he tries to keep out of the trivial fights that they indulge in. His task is to fight evil, and no matter how lesser, greater or middling it might be, it is all the same to him. He prefers not to choose. This is one of the core principles of his profession, and the incident with Renfri shakes his beliefs. This is why it is an important point in his story, and to start the show from here was a good decision on the part of the showrunners. There is a lot of action in this episode. There is a full-out battle, a siege, and well-orchestrated swordfights. If you are walking into it expecting blood and mayhem, you will have it.

Despite all of these good things, the show is not at 100% yet, and the writing is responsible for that. The pacing, the CGI, the acting- everything is on point, but a bit more tautness in storytelling is required, which would further better the emotional range of the characters. The comparison of ‘The Witcher’ with ‘Game of Thrones’ is inevitable, and the glaring difference that the audience is sure to point out is the patience of the writers. ‘Game of Thrones’ took the entire first season to properly set the stage for the events that define the rest of the series. It had too much to tell, but it took its time to weave that tale, and in the long run, it paid off spectacularly.

I get that ‘The Witcher’ is a different story with a pace of its own, but I also know that its world is incredibly massive, and if you speed up the story, you are going to have to sacrifice the things that make it so great. The devil is in the details with fantasies, and this episode tells me that the television adaptation is cutting itself some slack in favour of speeding up things. It might work alright for now, but they should probably watch out for this habit that can turn things against them pretty easily.

Overall, the first episode of ‘The Witcher’ is a fun watch. Whether we have our next ‘Game of Thrones’ or should we patiently wait for Amazon’s adaptation of ‘Lord of the Rings’ is yet to be seen. There is definitely potential here and Netflix is pretty optimistic about it, considering the resources they have spent on it and that the second season has already been greenlit. However, I wouldn’t pass a verdict on it just yet. I would give the chance to the rest of the season; see how it all turns out. And so should you.

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