First Impressions: Netflix’s The Witcher (2019)

As the titular Witcher in Netflix’s anticipated new hopeful-necessary viewing series, Henry Cavill could have very easily rested on his Superman persona.  Sure, in place of perfect Lego-type hair there’s a blonde mane and his spectacles are replaced by cat-like contact lenses, but there’s a form-fitting costume and a lot of enviable jawline work going on, essentially bringing to mind an almost medieval-type Man of Steel.

But fear not, Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia, a solitary monster hunter who’s voice is deep and gravelly (and his grunts even more so) and retorts are alarmingly pithy, is no Superman, and the actor easily melts into the role, his physicality seemingly even more impressive here.

Comparisons to the juggernaut series that was Game of Thrones seem almost predetermined, and The Witcher undoubtedly is a product born from that show’s success; yes, I know this program is based on a series of books and a subsequent video game, but the successful returns from GOT would have arguably paved the way for this product to earn confident funding.

Given the intricacies of The Witcher‘s plotting and just which character’s earn prominence over the course of the series, revealing anything specific would do viewers a disservice, so it’s easier to note that, like many narratively woven shows, this is another that dedicates its first handful of episodes to unspooling a backstory before its back-end finally reveals a plot worth continuing your binge for.

Now, I don’t like being ‘that guy’ that promises disinterested viewers to “just stick with it”, but I can attest that episode four really does start to bring everything together in a manner that suggests an upwards trajectory, a show that will ultimately be more than just suitable special effects, grotesque creatures, and alarmingly graphic violence – not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Fans of the books and the game are likely to have a field day with the swarm of character references throughout, and whilst it’s paying fan service with how casually these names are mentioned, general unversed audiences may need to pay a bit more closer attention, especially when Cavill is speaking as his low growl can often be inaudible.  It’s one of the few minor criticisms towards the show, the other being that, at times, Cavill’s character feels like a supporting player in his own production due to the gradual ramp-up of his own story.

Thankfully though, The Witcher‘s other plot arcs are centred around characters that are just as compelling, with Jodhi May’s warrior queen, Freya Allan’s outlawed princess, and Anya Chalrota’s vindictive witch all earning valuable running minutes, and subsequently seducing us individually with their plights, whilst Cavill plays catch-up.

With the demise of Game of Thrones, The Witcher feels like a natural successor with its royal family intrigue, waves of bloody violence, and sporadic sexuality – plus it has the added bonus of not taking itself overly seriously.  With a second series already granted prior to these first episodes airing there’s no need to wonder if time will tell on whether or not Netflix will back Cavill’s muscular frame, but given  what it manages to unfold in this first series so far, it seems safe to assume The Witcher has cast enough of an enchanting spell to keep the streaming execs satisfied.

The Witcher is streaming now on Netflix.

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