REVIEW: Netflix Adaptation of ‘The Witcher’ is Full of Heart and Soul

Rating: 3 out of 3.

“An endearing and entertaining exploration of the fantasy genre.”

This article contains spoilers for The Witcher.

Based off the series of books by Andrzej Sapkowski, and the subsequent video games, The Witcher made its debut on Netflix this past December. Created for streaming by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, the first season contains eight episodes and explores the lives of Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) and Princess Ciri (Freya Allan) before their first encounters with one another. While at times the season feels underdeveloped, The Witcher is an endearing and entertaining exploration of the fantasy genre that will remain in the hearts and minds of its audience.

The show consists of three varying timelines central to the characters, which inevitably link up in the season finale. While the timelines can be confusing to piece together initially, the subtle cues surrounding noteworthy events make for delightful revelations as the season progresses. The Witcher refuses to underestimate its audience, much to its benefit. By leaving room for the world and its characters to breathe and just exist, the show allows for its audience to understand the characters, world, lore, jokes and story in their own time and interest. 

The Witcher will continue to be relevant in media discussion in part due to the great strides it takes in representing diverse characters on screen, for no other sake than why ever not? Notable characters include Yennefer of Vengerberg, Fringilla Vigo (Mimi Ndiweni), Triss Merigold (Anna Shaffer), Dara (Wilson Radjou-Pujalte), Istredd (Royce Pierreson) and Vilgefortz (Mahesh Jadu). It should be mentioned, however, that the show does perpetuate the idea– rampant across fiction and particularly fantasy– that disability is solely a tragic plot device or backstory; it is displayed as something to be magically cured, looked cruelly down upon, or that one is forever tainted by. The show depicts the violent physical and emotional transformation of Yennefer of Vengerberg through magic from being physically disabled to the stereotypically beautiful sorceress she was always meant to be. While this is a common narrative across fantasy, and an event central to her character in both the show and the books it is based off, it still begs the question of when people with disabilities will find representation without violence, cruelty or stereotypes on screen?

The show will remain in the hearts of its audience as a result of the feelings of light-heartedness it inspires by never inflating its own seriousness unless absolutely necessary. The Witcher runs headlong into an embrace with the humorous, hot, and absurd, much to its great benefit. Jaskier (Joey Batey), a bard that tags along on a few of the season’s adventures, acts primarily as a comedic element during the first season, playing off the gruff and brooding Geralt– who is not without his own moments of comedy. These moments of delight make more compelling the important, serious, or tragic events across the show.

A bard is holding a small medieval guitar inside a castle.

The Witcher intimately understands a key aspect of storytelling in a way that currently runs counter to the practices of innumerable stories: people come back over and over again to various pieces of media for the feelings of love, hope, joy and understanding that can be derived from them. The Witcher has a heart and it has a soul, and by God that might just be enough.

Directed By: Alik Sakharov, Alex Garcia Lopez, Charlotte Brandstrom, Marc Jobst

Produced By: Sean Daniel, Jason Brown, Tomasz Baginski, Jaroslaw Sawko, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, Alik Sakharov, Mike Ostrowski

Cast: Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Anya Chalotra, Eamon Farren, Joey Batey, MyAnna Buring, Royce Pierreson, Mimi Ndiweni, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, Anna Shaffer, Mahesh Jadu

Release Date: December 20, 2019

Available On: Netflix