There was a vacuum created in the adult-fantasy space when Game Of Thrones ended earlier this year. In The Witcher, Netflix's new fantasy drama, Henry Cavill is a wandering warrior (medieval bounty hunter) roaming from town to town in search of beastly bounties from humans who don't like his kind. Fans of The Witcher book series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski were waiting for a long time to see Henry Cavill take on the leading role of Geralt of Rivia. While the story has been adapted into comics, video games and even a previous television series, this is the first time that the story has got pumped with star-power and money into it.
The eight-part series tells the story of Geralt of Rivia, one of a rare breed of monster-hunters known as Witchers. These are mutated supernatural beings who roam the pseudo-medieval land hunting down the locations of monsters’ lairs and using their special powers to slay the vicious beasts. Geralt’s first is a tremendously horrible giant spider thing for which the writer of this review was not at all prepared.
In episode two, Geralt picks up a capering comic sidekick, Jaskier the bard. Joey Batey is great fun as the talkative companion who helps bring out even Geralt's comic side and wit. In the first couple of episodes, Geralt fetches up in a succession of muddy villages with a monster problem to solve. When he goes in search of the killer creature, he quickly discovers there's more to the story, usually involving humans blaming monsters for their sins.
Then there's also the gritty and compelling story of a kingdom being invaded and a princess on the run, and the sinister tale of an embittered young woman sold into witchcraft. Geralt's monster hunting escapades feel like little side missions while much weightier Game of Thrones-esque intrigue and mystery unfolds in the other stories, making Geralt feel like a passive minor character in the first couple of episodes.
Things start to make sense in episode three, however. There is a chilling gothic horror mystery involving a deserted palace, a perverted king and an obscene creature of the night and it becomes clear that the separate storylines aren't so separate after all. There are various Celtic and Nordic references, as is the case with several fantasy shows. All in all The Witcher is well-constructed, well-acted, and refreshingly straightforward in its storytelling, spinning an epic fantasy yarn full of familiar fantasy tropes blanketed by grim European folklore.
The Superman star handles the action scenes with grim aplomb and it is a charismatic performance. The scale of the show is massive, and Netflix has put enough resources into its production that everything looks quite good. Every interior, from a random village tavern to a grand castle hall to the solarium of a magic tower, is convincingly detailed and effectively staged. Battle scenes feature what seems like hundreds of extras. Shot mostly in Eastern Europe, the Continent’s exteriors look appropriately sprawling and vaguely mythical.
We suggest you stream it and binge watch it over the weekend.