The Witcher was billed by many as the Netflix answer to Game of Thrones with a Lord of the Rings spin of wizards and Elves and Magic. But did it live up to the hype?
It does attempt to deliver from the off with bloody battles, gratuitous nudity, multiple characters and a lead with Targareyon-esque long white hair. It is unfair to expect it to live up to the grandiose expectations with a lower budget, but what it does deliver is a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy adventure that leaves you wanting more.
Our eponymous hero is played by Superman himself Henry Cavil, who although not actually made of steel, carries the same aura of invincibility. His outfit is far cooler and grittier, as is his demeanor. The Witcher prefers to grunt both approvingly and disapprovingly as often as possible rather than offering self-righteous words of advice.
Witchers are effectively genetically engineered part-elf mercenaries who move from village to village slaying monsters for a fee. They are outcasts in the human world, as humans fear and distrust all things elven. This gives free rein to plenty of fisticuffs, at least one spectacular monster kill per episode, and yes, there are dragons.
The Witcher is set in a time dominated by the ongoing conquests of the evil Nilfgardians, intent on taking over everything in the land. In the first episode, we meet them for the first time as they conquer Queen Calanthe, a battle-hardy warrior queen who is part Boudicia and part Yara Greyjoy.
The Queen’s fleeing granddaughter is one of the main characters and we follow her journey as she grows from a pampered little princess to a survivor. She has undeveloped hidden magical abilities and is destined to eventually meet up with the Witcher.
Our third main character is Yennifer. A bitter and deformed pig tender who discovers her magical ability when she accidentally opens a portal and ends up in a school for witches. It is through her story that we meet the council for the wizarding world and come to understand their importance in the forthcoming battles against the Nifgardians.
Yennifer’s battles with her self go side by side with her development of power, which leads to an interesting albeit slightly formulaic character arc. We are never really sure if she is good or bad. Naturally, she also rather disappointingly becomes beautiful and ends up in bed with The Witcher.
Overall, despite the many side characters and multiple time jumps, the story holds together well. It is clearly a first season designed to pave the way for future bigger scale storylines and leaves the viewer satisfied while also craving more.