The Witcher: First Five Episodes Review – One Of The Best New Shows This Year

The Witcher is probably not yet quite as famous as many other fantasy properties out there that are being developed, but it is probably one of the best. My first experience with this fantasy world was playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I had heard it was one of the best games ever made, and I decided to purchase the Game of the Year edition with all DLC’s included, which I had also heard were some of the best paid DLC’s ever created. I was not disappointed and I immediately got a Game of Thrones vibe from the game, which I’ll talk more about below. After that I was hooked and I then read some of the short stories, though I have not got through all the novels from author Andrzej Sapkowski.

When Netflix announced they were making a show of The Witcher I was excited, and then they cast Henry Cavill as Geralt, the lead character and I was kind of bummed as I just didn’t see Superman as Geralt. Well, like many in this field LRM were given the chance to watch the first five episodes of Season 1 of The Witcher a few weeks ago, and I binged those over two days. Two of us watched the show, myself as a fan of the universe already along with Joseph ‘Jammer’ Medina who was completely new to the universe. We were both suitably impressed.

A horrible yet compelling world

Yes, The Witcher is set in a fictional land called The Continent with warring Kingdoms full of quite horrible and power hungry rulers. This is a place where genocide of a species to the brink of extinction is a part of the history, a place where despite there being many chill inducing monsters and evil spirits, the worst monsters are always the Humans themselves and their actions.

The Witcher is not high fantasy, there isn’t a clear definition between good and evil and a Dark Lord that drives all evil in this place. No, instead The Witcher is a story about the cruelty of Humankind in its many forms, and that’s the aspect I loved the most from this show. In no way do the writing team try to sugar coat this horror, and the show is all the better for embracing the darkness at its roots. There are three main threads of story we follow in those first five episodes, and whilst I am going to remain spoiler free, it becomes an almost impossible show to review without mentioning that those three threads and the three leads of them, are very separate stories across the first few episodes.

The three leads are Geralt (Henry Cavill), Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and Cirilla (Freya Allan). By Episode 5, Geralt and Yennefer have only really just met and neither has met Cirilla yet. We, therefore, get the appropriate time needed to establish all three characters separately before they become entangled in one another’s destinies and this was absolutely the right choice to make. I put out some early reactions after I saw the show, but with the review embargo only lifting today, it was extremely difficult when fans peppered me with questions about how good Geralt and Ciri are together, because the truth is, I don’t know yet? For any further explanations about how they pull this off, well, you’ll just have to watch it for yourself, as I won’t spoil it.

What is it all about?

If you have never come across The Witcher before, lemme give you the skinny on what is going on here, as vaguely as I possibly can. Geralt of Rivia (Cavill) is a Witcher, and one of the few still around. Witchers were once human, but genetically mutated through various magical means and concoctions in order to give them superhuman abilities. This process called the Trial of the Grasses is not always successful and many children are killed going through the process, meaning that for every Witcher there is, there was probably a bunch of dead kids to bury that didn’t make it, ( I told you this was no fairy-tale). Geralt is no different than any other Witcher, even if he may well be the best, and his long extended life revolves around him traveling alone from town, to village, to city looking for Wicther work, which usually means they have a monster problem that requires fixing. This is how Geralt makes a living and gets by on a day to day basis, it’s a solitary life where this only companions is his horse Roach. That is, until he meets a bard called Jaskier, who decides he will follow Geralt about and make songs about the Witcher’s many adventures, and from that point on things begin to change for Geralt in a big way.

Meanwhile, The Witcher is also filled with sorcerers and sorceresses and another main character we meet is Yennefer of Vengeberg. I don’t want to say too much about Yen’s backstory, because I think you need to see that for yourself. Ultimately though Yennefer is going to change a lot in terms of what drives her on across those first few episodes and her priorities are shifted forever with an event which sticks in the sorceresses’ mind, putting her on a more rebellious path than what she first dreamed of.

As for Cirilla, she is the Princess of Cintra and lives in comfort and peace with her Grandmother Queen Calanthe and her husband. Calanthe is a warrior queen and one was one of my personal highlights so far in this show. Calanthe also has her own sorcerer advisor in Mousesack, who also acts as a guide and protector of Cirilla. However, Cirilla’s back story is one she is not fully aware of and actions in the past have consequences in the future. The Kingdom of Cintra is being attacked by the seemingly relentless Nilfgaardian Army, and they give no quarter to their foes in battle. Cirilla’s life is thrown in to turmoil and whilst they do not know it, these three characters lives are about to become entangled with one another for ever more.

The cast

Ok, so I was worried about Henry Cavill as Geralt, and up till how my fears were unwarranted, Cavill has said he was inspired to play the character like the Geralt he played in the video games and it shows, and works. Geralt is taciturn and perceived as violent, but he firmly has his own moral code and it is far stronger than that of some of the regular humans who hire him. He is feared and reviled by most humans he meets, until they need his services and there are times when he is attacked and cheated by people for no good reason. But you do not want to get into a fight with Geralt of Rivia, and in this aspect Cavill excels and you can tell he has put the hours into his sword training for this. I would declare him as perfect if it were not for the fact that Geralt as a character is going to go through a lot more development towards the end of this series (which I have not seen) and into subsequent Seasons. So I want to see how Cavill handles a different set of emotions for Geralt before I am ready to say he was perfect casting, all signs point towards this though currently and I can admit when I’m wrong….Sometimes.

Cirilla, equally I need to see more of, of the three main characters she has the least screen time in the first five episodes and so far I am only seeing the Cirilla who is young, naïve and ignorant of the dangerous world she inhabits. Ciri, as her shortened more common name is, is going to change a lot over the course of the many Seasons on this show and as such I want to wait and see how Freya Allan handles this. For now though Allan looks perfect and delivers the perfect version of Cirilla for this early part of the story.

As for Yennefer, well I saved the best for last because Anya Chalotra is far and away the star of this show, he is phenomenal as Yen here. This character goes through the ringer in these early episodes and that constant pain, betrayal, and hurt is what makes her the character she is. When Geralt first meets here, she has very few redeeming qualities, but we as an audience understand that pain, because the writing is so good and Chalotra’s performance so on the nose that we fall in love with her even when she has little to love about her. I don’t want to spoil Yennefer’s story, but trust me, when she appears in Episode 2 for the first time you are going to be mesmerised by Chalotra, it’s a phenomenal turn from her and despite her young age, she brings that ageless experience to Yennefer that I always loved about the character.

Will I like The Witcher?

Do you like Game of Thrones? If you do, then I think you will love The Witcher, and yet the two are very unlike one another. The Witcher focusses on 5-6 main characters only as opposed to Thrones large ensemble cast. However, it is in the world-building that both shows have a kinship, both present a world grounded in reality and yet having fantastical elements to them. The Witcher certainly goes deeper into the fantasy than Game of Thrones ever did (The TV version anyway), but it still works, and if anything the people that inhabit The Witcher are just as self-centered and compassionless as the worst villains of Game of Thrones. That being said, I wouldn’t say that if you didn’t like Game of Thrones you won’t like The Witcher, because there are huge differences and this is not in any way a similar plot and story to Thrones. However, if you don’t like nudity, violence and complex moral choices, then this might not be your bag.

This is a complex story though, so bear with it, you may well get confused to begin with, as Jammer did because he doesn’t know the Universe. But by the time you get to around the fourth for fifth episode it will all become clear and you’ll understand the story that is being told here and how it is being told. I predict this will be a huge hit for Netflix and the massive Thrones crowd will mostly take to this as well. In fact, although I wrote this review earlier this week for publishing today, as you read this I am probably binge-watching those final three episodes as I am more excited for that than I am watching the next Star Wars film, which I will have watched yesterday by the time this is published.

ALSO SEE: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Spoiler-Free Review – A Clunky Conclusion

So far The Witcher is in my top three new shows this year along with The Boys and Watchmen, meaning I have it higher than Umbrella Academy, The Mandalorian, and many others. This is going to be one hell of a ride and the crew and cast who made it should be patting themselves on the back. This is the show we need right now and it will definitely scratch that itch you’ve been feeling since Game of Thrones ended.

I normally would not grade a show until I have watched the full Season, but unless the final three episodes are just Geralt talking to his horse, whilst Jaskier sings songs to him……wait. Actually, the score and the music (yes I separate these here) has been so good and so catchy that I might actually enjoy three episodes of Geralt and Jaskier singing down the road together.

Grade: A +

The Witcher is out NOW on Netflix, so stop reading this and go watch it and then come back for a chat below.

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Campbell Clark

Cam is Senior Editor at LRM Online, and has a passion for all things geeky, including sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book movies.

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