DISCLAIMER: There are *minor* spoilers in this review. If you don’t want to know any of the general plot plus some details in between, I suggest you watch and then come back!
THE PREMIERE: “The End’s Beginning”
The Witcher was highly anticipated among fans of fantasy epics and the popular video game series alike, and for good reason. The world is fascinating, full of compelling characters, and intricate weaving of the political and magical. So does that all translate to the show right away?
“The End’s Beginning” opens with our hero, Geralt (Henry Cavill), hunting a monster in a swamp. Immediately, the monster design and CGI is impressive, giving us an exciting taste of battles to come. From there, the story introduces us to the wider world, sending Geralt to Blaviken, as well as introducing us to Princess Cirilla of Cintra (Freya Allan), a young woman whose fate is tied to Geralt’s for reasons unknown.
This series premiere does a good job of impressing, intriguing, and frustrating in almost equal measure. For every exciting set piece (the Butcher of Blaviken scene is among the best and most well-choreographed sword fights I’ve ever seen), there is frustrating or downright silly dialogue and vague plotting. The writing and storytelling both improve as the series progresses, but they make for a rocky start.
The premiere does give us two very important things, though: Geralt and Ciri, heroes to believe in. The climactic battle between Nilfgaard and Cintra at the episode’s end sets a clear trajectory for the season, and promises much more to come.
Does It Pay Off?
In a word, yes.
People really wanted The Witcher to be our next Game of Thrones, but that’s clearly not going to be the case. Honestly, the show is much better for it.
By the time the credits roll on the excellent and riveting season finale, The Witcher has defined itself as a much weirder show than Game of Thrones, carving out its own name in the fantasy world. It’s funnier and even campier at times, and isn’t afraid to have fun in-between all the talk of destiny and fate.
The show makes good on the journeys that Geralt, Ciri, and sorceress Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) take, weaving them together in surprising ways. Once you adjust to the idiosyncratic storytelling (the plots take place at very different time periods until late in the season), you’ll find a world rich for exploration and characters you come to love. Yennefer definitely has the most compelling journey of the season, but Geralt really brings the show to life with his mix of deadpan humor, unique sense of honor, and fighting skills.
The end of the first season paves the way for an exciting season two, as we’ve barely scratched the surface of the wider world. If you enjoy high or low fantasy, offbeat humor, and some truly badass sword fights, then you’ll enjoy The Witcher. Come for the battles, stay for the interesting character work and world-building. Toss a coin to this adaptation.
THE VERDICT: FULL POPCORN