The Witcher is a new Netflix show based off the fantasy series by Andrzej Sapkowski, and the video games by Cd Projekt Red. I’m very conflicted about this show. On one hand, I’m a huge fan of the Witcher universe, and it’s great to see a pretty faithful adaptation of the books and games. However on the other hand, the script is awful, some of the design is atrocious, and I was often cringing while watching. The Witcher is set in a fantasy universe where professional mutant monster hunters called Witchers can be hired to kill monsters ordinary soldiers or people cannot defeat. The Witcher is an antithesis to most high fantasy novels like Lord of the Rings. In high fantasy books, characters are black and white, with clear good guys and bad guys. This is not the case with the Witcher, as most characters are a mix between good and evil, and not simply one or the other. The Witcher is also incredibly dark, with themes of war, racism against non humans, and betrayal being prevalent in it. The show does an excellent job or portraying this realistic and low fantasy world. One episode features a brutal battle between two kingdoms, while another features elves being almost hunted to extinction. This faithfulness to the source material is good to see, as very often tv show adaptations fail to match tones with the original work. Something else the show did right was the main character. Henry Cavill is fantastic as Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is a Witcher, and because of that he is mutated to have no emotion. Cavill, being a huge fan of both the books and games, manages to make this work, and he’s actually quite funny at times due to good timing and understanding of the character. The show is also very entertaining at times, mainly because it uses stories Andrzej Sapkowski wrote. He’s a great writer, and his tales are intrinsically compelling and fun to watch.
Now onto the bad aspects of the show. First off, the design, it’s very hit-or-miss. They tried to differentiate themselves from the video game design of the Witcher universe, which is understandable as they want to exist as their own media and not simply copy the game. In some places this looks good, such as the Cintran armor. In other places however, it looks absolutely awful. An example of this is the Nilfgaardian armor. Nilfgaard is a major empire in the Witcher universe, and their troops are nicknamed the “black ones,” due to their black armor. The games nailed the design of Nilfgaard, and seemed to base it off of late Spanish medieval armor. However the Nilfgaardian armor in the tv show is simply ugly, with what looks like leather or cloth layer on top of oversized plates.
Speaking of armor, it doesn’t seem to work at all in the show. Characters die to one sword swing when they’re dressed in full metal plate. This is ridiculous. A medieval longsword, no matter how sharp, no matter who swings it, can never cut through plate armor. However both of these are relatively minor complaints, and don’t detract too much from the show.
The biggest problem I have with the Witcher, which does actually detract from the show, is the script. It’s terrible. Characters say awkward lines, there’s too little dialogue, and it’s actually painful to watch at times. Some of these flaws I can understand. Geralt, by nature talks only when he has to in the books and games, so him talking little in the show makes sense. But other problems are unacceptable. The show takes place in three different timelines, and I only figured this out on the second to last episode. The show does a terrible job of explaining that. The script also does a bad job of explaining the overall Witcher universe. Things like the conjunction of the spheres, kingdoms, and who characters are is all poorly explained. I watched this show with my sister, and I constantly had to stop it and tell her about events happening before the show. An ordinary person viewing this show without prior knowledge of the books or games would probably be lost. Overall I enjoyed watching the show, but this was because I was bashing it with my sister the whole time. And that’s why one should only watch this show with friends, or if you know about the books or games. If you have neither friends to watch it with, and you’ve never read a book of played one of the games, I would say do not watch the Witcher, as it will simply seem like another poorly made fantasy show.