Like most of the readers here, I love video games. I have argued for years that the stories, plots, and overall artistic expression of interactive entertainment are as worthy of praise as any Academy award film or Pulitzer novel. I do not write that as an exaggeration. Video games are obviously much more these days than their ancestors like Pong and Asteroids. Now, we have dynamic open worlds with enough subplots and side quests to populate a monthly literary journal. We get to explore the moral consequences of our actions with games like Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, The Elder Scrolls and, notably, The Witcher.
So, when I learned that Netflix was producing a show based on the latter’s books and video games, I thought it was high time that Hollywood got on board with my opinion (Note: a Mass Effect production would probably make me squeak with excitement). I spent the last few days powering through the first season of The Witcher in an effort to temper your expectations, so let’s slay the beast that is toxic fandom and collect the reward…
The foremost thing one can stress about this show, it is not the video game. If you want it to be a sequel to what you have already played through or a physical remastering of the game itself, the show is going to disappoint you in a big way (and you’ll probably make some inane YouTube video about why it sucks so much, but it is you, sir, who sucks). Without giving away too much, they built the storyline off of a lot within The Witcher 3.
The show is, so far, a magnificent representation of the story definitely aimed at a larger audience than its traditional fan base. There’s a lot in there for the guys: fights, naked women, awesome special effects, etc. And, there’s a lot in it for the ladies: Henry Cavill constantly bathing, powerful female characters and, of course, fights, naked women, and awesome special effects. Cavill presents us with an absolutely awesome portrayal of Geralt of Rivia. He has managed to make me laugh out loud with his grunts of disapproval alone. Meant as no insult to Geralt’s video game voice, Doug Cockle, but Cavill blows him out of the water…
Henry Cavill’s Geralt quickly emerges as the show’s rich, creamy center. To say he is magnificent understates just how well he has both adapted the original character and added his own stamp onto his portrayal. In a sense, he’s the Geralt we all wish we experienced in the game. If I really boil it down, Geralt is my primary attraction to the show. He’s a great character on his own, but we all really lucked out that someone on the casting team bagged Cavill to do the part (or was it Cavill who bagged Hollywood into doing this project first?).
I can find few faults within the show because I love what I have watched. I get a sense of the moral conflicts presented to the player when I watch the show. In almost every episode, Geralt demonstrates an arrival at a mental crossroads where he must make an inevitable decision. While I doubt he makes the decision of which we all would approve, he definitely maintains a high ethical code and steers towards justice.
Gerry is very much the dark hero from both the books and the games. The show also follows a very gamer-influenced plot development. Each episode feels like a freestanding quest with its own objective and reward. However, just like a game, each quest takes our hero further down the road to an epic, encompassing climax.
I believe only the most cynical gamer will turn their nose up at The Witcher, but that does not make the show immune to criticism. For hardcore fans, who have already read the books and played through the games several times, it will be predictable and lack the novelty it presents to the uninitiated.
However, to that charge, I would compare Witcher to book-movies like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones: yes, we all knew the outcome before the first line, but the visual representations of our imagination carried them through. For the nerds in all of us, they also carried our passions to a wider audience, and brought in a lot more people into our nerd-tribe. That might be the greatest success of The Witcher.
I could continue at length about everything within the show that I find amazing, but I will save that for another day. At the minimum, there are a lot of terrible shows streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and others. The Witcher is not one of them. Suffice to say, I think you should watch it. 4.5/5 Bibles.