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Honest Rewatch Reviews: The Witcher

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  • Tip Bones

The Witcher is the hottest new show on Netflix, and deservingly so. It’s an intense, emotionally driven story with a lot of lore to work with, an interesting magic system, and just the right touch of humor. But it certainly isn’t without its faults. I’ve now watched The Witcher all the way through twice to really get a feel for this show.

To boil it down simply (before going more in depth): its biggest achievement is its well-developed, interesting, complex, and equally powerful characters; its biggest shortcoming being the pacing that does not allow you to connect to the characters to the depth that you would like.

The show is based on the book series of the same name, that also spawned a hugely successful series of video games long before the show was ever conceived. The story follows Geralt of Rivia, a mutant and nearly immortal human called a Witcher whose sole purpose in life is to hunt and kill monsters. 

This show comes out of the gate pulling no punches, or in Geralt’s case, pulling no sword swipes. The show opens on Geralt fighting a monster then killing a defenseless fawn for dinner, and the episode closes on him single-handedly (and brutally) murdering ten men. It starts by showing the audience that Geralt is a force to be reckoned with, and then slowly clues us in on how he learned to be so ruthless with genuine moments of vulnerability.

And our other lead characters are no different. The story follows two other main characters, Princess Cirilla and Sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg, during events before and after when we meet Geralt, leading up to the three characters converging. (Admittedly, the time jumping can be a little confusing, but if you pay close attention, you can catch younger or older versions of the same characters to track where we’re at in the timeline.) No character is dependent on another. No character feels shunted to the side for another. They all have independent journeys and fleshed out personalities but with a single, entangled destiny.

Now let’s face the music and discuss the minor and major flaws this series has because it did hinder this show from being nearly perfect to me.

One of the minor flaws is that you can tell where the producers spent the budget and where they just had to make things work. There was one episode where the practical effects on a character were laughably bad and it looked so cheesy, but luckily that character only lasted the episode. But even the uneven quality of the visual effects took away from the experience. You could tell the places where they dished out all the money for big fight scenes between Geralt and the monsters he takes on and in other places where there is grand spectacles of magic, but it leaves the smaller moments that still require visual effects a bit lacking.

The big detriment to this show, that could have ruined the whole thing for me, was the pacing. It’s likely pacing won’t affect your viewing experience at all because it might not be something you care about, but as a story writer I think it’s incredibly important to do pacing well in storytelling. Proper pacing gives the audience the time to really connect to events and characters, and the more a show resonates with the audience the better. Even a story as fantastical as this, that seemingly wouldn’t be easy to connect to, can resonate with an audience if the character development and relationships are well done. If the pacing is too rushed, it can leave an audience feeling like they were gypped.

The Witcher suffered from what I’ll call Game of Thrones syndrome, where it tried to do too much in too short of a time and left me feeling like I was missing something, like I was being left out of something. Much like the last season of Game of Thrones suffering from too few episodes to tell the whole ending, this show too suffered from too few episodes. The whole season was only eight episodes long, so it saw two of its titular characters meeting for the first time in one episode and then in the immediate next episode they were finding each other again, except a decade or more had passed. They reference all the times they had met up in those years between episodes, but I couldn’t emotionally connect to what the characters were feeling for one another because I didn’t see it. The audience wasn’t a part of the journey, and only got brief flashbacks regarding it, so I almost didn’t care about what they had been through.

The show is still worth the watch. Just take it with a grain of salt. It’s a great show, but very uneven. So enjoy the beautiful moments that are gorgeously shot, well scripted, well-acted, and emotionally connected, and try to look beyond the things that are a bit lacking. The show has already been picked up for a second season, so hopefully we’ll get a longer season run and have ample amount of time to explore the characters more and the relationships they are continuing to build with one another.

Image owned by Netflix.