1 out of 5
Created by: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich
Now… despite my giving this one star, I have faith in The Witcher. I’m glad it’s gotten a second season, which I will be watching.
My main dictate with adapted media – books to TV show, in this case – is that you need to shape what you’re doing to match the presentation. The Witcher looks good – without having had much experience with the books or games, all of the characters “felt” right to me, and the sets and effects sell the world they inhabit – but it utterly fails on the whole adapting-to-the-medium bit.
Henry Cavill is a Witcher, Geralt, one of a rare tribe of emotionless monster hunters. Anya Chalotra is Yennefer, a mage, who trades up for beauty and power but finds herself quite bored by it all. Freya Allan is Ciri, a young princess of a sacked realm, on the run from a dragon-helmeted knight who was leading the sacking. See how I just told you that info, in separate snippets, with very little context? That’s how The Witcher plays. There is no build up; there is no expanding on the story. On the one hand, it’s an interestingly appealing approach, and it makes the fantastical feel very everyday: the monsters Geralt fights, the spells Yennefer weaves. But on the other hand, it makes you feel like perpetually missing something, and not in a “I need to find out more” sense that encourages rewatches, rather in a way where places and names are tossed out commonplace, without any clues as to whether or not they’re important. As such, even things that are important, and that are climactic, fall incredibly flat. Our season eventually focuses on a concluding battle, but even that feels half affected. This sensation is constantly compounded by the way the series cuts between the stories of our three leads, which are often taking place at different times, although, again, we’re not really told that at any point. So you reach a possibly interesting place in story A, and then we’re on story B’s completely separate thread, and so on, and because we have these unspoken time gaps, things that occur episode to episode don’t carry over well either – two characters meet, and then next episode, apparently 20 years and tons of shit has passed, and there’s some deep history that’s tossed off with casual dialogue.
But surely it all connects! Surely. It does, yes. I felt a minor stirring of “ah, now it will pick up” at those moments, but the style of storytelling remains damningly the same, regardless of these connections: they are treated with the same minor, offhand representation as everything else.
Conceptually cool, but not great TV.
So why am I sticking with The Witcher? Well, I admire it’s braveness in going so far afield: apparently, this structure is taken directly from the books, which start out with little snippets of stories, jumping across dates and places. And because I never really doubted the depth of The Witcher’s world – I was just flabbergasted at how poorly that depth was communicated to a viewer – I’m still rather intrigued to see us get to a point where we stop having snippets and start having larger stories. So, yeah, I’ll be there for a second season, and I hope other viewers will too, despite a rather large collective confusion (going by other reviews) as to why the show was structured the way it was.