TL;DR – This is a great introduction to the show by setting up the lore and giving us a taste of everything to come
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Today we look at a show that is really interesting for me. The Witcher has been this series, first books, then video games, that has permeated pop-culture for quite a while after coming out of its native Poland. However, for me, I have tried a number of times to get into it but I keep bouncing out of it. Well given that at the very least Netflix does not shy away from production and Henry Cavill has been ecstatic about being cast, I thought now was the best time to give it one last shot.
So to set the scene, in the swamps near the town of Blaviken a witcher called Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) is hunting monsters. As a witcher, he makes money by killing monsters that towns have put bounties on. However, when he arrives in Blaviken he discovers that there may be more going on behind the scenes that he first thought. Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Cintra, all is well, Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May) is even throwing a ball much to the annoyance of her granddaughter Ciri (Freya Allan). However, all of that comes to a halt when word reaches them that the evil Nilfgaard has set their sights on the city. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.
There is a lot that you have to do in a pilot episode of a show, even more so in a fantasy setting when you have more lore to deal with. You need to set the tone, give us a hint of the stakes involved, and give us an understanding of what drives our main characters. In here we get all of those facets and more as we dive into the world of monsters. It also helps to show off the production of the show that is really good for a TV show. The battles had some heft to them, the costumes were all on point, and I really enjoyed the musical score.
Firstly, there is the tone and like much of The Witcher I have seen so far, the tone is almost completely bleak. We start in a muddy swamp, where a deer is having a very bad day and end up in the dreary Blaviken a rendition of a medieval European town. It is a world full of mud and dirt where the only splash of colour is blood. It is a world of not black and white but grey and we see that in the set design, in the locations, and in the story. Do you kill the former princess Renfri (Emma Appleton) that might be secretly mutated or the wizard Stregobor (Lars Mikkelsen) who may have caused the death of hundreds of young girls for no reason? It is these ethically ambiguous moments that The Witcher is known for but at least this time I am not the one who has to pick. However, you can see the influence of shows like Game of Thrones with the casual unneeded nudity at times.
Where the show was the most interesting for me was not the exploration of Geralt but in the side plot looking at a kingdom that is about to come under siege. It is here that we get to see one of the most badass characters in Queen Calanthe a leader that put her life on the line for her people and lost … hard. Now I don’t know enough of the lore to know what the motivations of the Nilfgaard are bar being the generic bad guys but the hints around Ciri and really interesting to see more of.
Finally, there are the character motivations and here we get hints of what drives them. There is a reluctant pain to Geralt a man that is happy spending hours talking to his horse because he is feared where ever he goes just for being what he is. It is clear that Henry Cavill has a real joy in playing Geralt and his physicality really helps sell the role as well. I was also really interested in Freya Allan’s Ciri who is trying to find her place in the world even before her world is turned on its head.
In the end, do we recommend The Witcher: The End’s Beginning? I think we would. There was enough there to make me want to see more and it has intrigued me with some of the hints it has laid down so far. It’s not without its faults and I hope we don’t have to wait too long to see some of the plot come to light, but my second swing at The Witcher was more successful than my first, so here’s hoping.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Witcher
Directed by – Alik Sakharov
Written by – Lauren Schmidt Hissrich
Created by – Lauren Schmidt Hissrich
Based on – The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski
Production/Distribution Companies – Hivemind, Platige Films, Netflix
Starring – Henry Cavill, Freya Allan & Eamon Farren with Lars Mikkelsen, Emma Appleton, Jodhi May, Adam Levy, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Mia McKenna-Bruce, Maciej Musiał Tobi Bamtefa & Packy Lee