The fantasy series that became a hit game series gets adapted to the small screen.
Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) is a Witcher (oh, that’s why they named it that!), a monster hunter who was the subject of magical experiments that make him basically an unstoppable force of badass. Also, he sits in tubs a lot, which is apparently a big thing on the internet. Geralt travels from village to village slaying monsters, often accompanied by a bard named Jaskier (Joey Batey) and occasionally interacting with the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra).
Cirilla (Frey Allan) is the magical princess of the kingdom of Cintra which has been destroyed by a neighboring kingdom. Cirilla’s grandmother, Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May), tells her to find Geralt in order to survive.
The Witcher is a series of 8 books, both novels and short story anthologies, by Andrzej Sapkowski which I have never actually finished. I promise I’m getting around to it, nerds. This later led to a series of three video games which were extremely popular. Rather than adapting the novels, however, the video games were a continuation that picked up after the events of the last book. This series was adapted from the first two books of the series, which is probably a good decision since there’s both more material and a lot less potential for angry video game fans trying to burn the writers at the stake.
I genuinely enjoyed this show, because it delivered pretty much exactly what I was looking for. It has some creative world-building which contains frequent magical oddities or anomalies. It’s the kind of world that has cursed princesses or half-hedgehog princes who just show up out of nowhere and people who live for hundreds of years. It also is the kind of world where, as is frequent in fantasy fiction, the humans (especially the ones with power) are often more horrifying than the actual monsters.
The structure of the show follows three different, occasionally intertwining, plots centered on the three protagonists: Geralt, Yennefer, and Cirilla. In an interesting twist, the stories are not happening at the same time, something that appears to have irritated some viewers, but it allows the writers to better convey that Geralt and Yennefer both live for centuries and therefore have difficulty making human connections. Geralt is at least 90 years old at the start of the series and Yennefer is far older, with years or decades passing between episodes. We see a young Yennefer trying to form bonds, but that really fades over time. Cirilla’s plotline, which is in the “present,” takes place in a relatively short time period and, appropriately, involves her trying to make more personal connections.
The performances in the series are all extremely solid. They’re often very over-the-top and even a little corny, but that’s in line with the kind of show this is. Cavill does a great job portraying a relatively stoic anti-hero, something that involves a great deal of grunting. Yennefer probably has the largest character arc and the most powerful emotional moments, which Chalotra capitalizes on. The most notable supporting character is Jaskier, who not only provides the comic relief but also composes the song “Toss a Coin,” which is so mercilessly catchy that I imagine you’ve heard it already even if you didn’t watch the show.
Overall, I recommend this show if you haven’t given it a try yet. It’s not Game of Thrones, but it is entertaining.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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