Long story short, I thoroughly ENJOYED the show! I was hoping to enjoy it, of course, but, being a fan of the books by Andrzej Sapkowski and the video game by CD Projekt Red, I was incredibly nervous about this show. These were my reasons for this nervousness:
Showrunner’s Agenda. There was some controversy on the casting for this show and the showrunner’s response to this controversy, and how it was being reported in the media. It made me feel that the showrunner, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, may be using this show to insert her own agenda rather than be respectful of the source material, as well as the fans of the books and video games who love it and made it so popular to begin with. I didn’t know if I could trust that kind of person to take good care of this property.
Having diversity is great, but there’s a lot of properties you can do that with (X-Men, for example). You can also create your own original property for it even, rather than try to hijack an already existing one. So my question is: is it necessary and fair to do that with The Witcher? The characters of The Witcher were already diverse, but there’s just not that many black people in that world, for example, so for Hissrich it wasn’t enough.
After being aware of this controversy, I was just disillusioned. I had hoped they’d pick someone who had loved the games and books for years, not someone who came into it fresh and with an agenda.
But I didn’t lose hope. Casting was just one aspect of it. There’s still a chance to be blown away by the storytelling and world-building, in terms of cinematography, musical score, action, special effects, etc. So I was nervous, but stayed hopeful.
The controversy actually helped me mitigate my expectations when I finally did watch the show. So seeing Triss, Fringilla, Vilgefortz, etc. didn’t end up to be jarring, as they probably would have been. Especially for Triss, who was a significant character in the game. And because the world in the show is already diverse to begin with, it didn’t feel off at all, though I admit, I still would have liked to see the old Triss (the one in Witcher 3. Now that I think about it, this wasn’t the first time Triss was changed). Anyway, overall, the diverse casting did not hurt my enjoyment of this show. The actors themselves did well.
Cavill as Geralt. I have seen Henry Cavill in a lot of things, including The Tudors when he wasn’t Superman or that well-known yet. Based on those, I felt he would not be the best Geralt. I was hoping for Nikolai Coster-Waldau who played Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones. It was nice to know that Cavill loved the games and the books and really sought out this role. But the question here is: can he actually play it well?
Yes. The answer is yes. When the trailer came out, all my fears about Geralt were gone. And when I finally watched the show, I absolutely loved that aside from the voice
and accent (note that Cavill is English, not American) (EDIT: on second viewing, he sounded English now, sorry about that), Cavill even captured the little quirks that Geralt had in the game, like his grunting, the way he talks to Roach (his horse), his facial expression and mannerisms. The Superman in Cavill completely disappeared, and all I saw was his Geralt.
Yennefer and Ciri. When the trailer revealed Yennefer and Ciri, I was just disappointed. Also, why was Ciri all grown up? She wasn’t even supposed to be born yet. As much as I loved Cavill as Geralt, I did not like them at all! It didn’t help that the Yennefer and Ciri in the game were already so compelling, in their nuance and charisma, and so the actors featured in the trailer paled in comparison.
Both Anya Chalotra and Freya Allan, who played Yennefer and Ciri respectively, did solid acting in their portrayal of their characters. It took me a while to get used to them because, well, I supposed the bias for the game is just so strong in me. However, by the end of the show, they’ve completely won me over, especially Anya Chalotra whose Yennefer of Vengerberg had great chemistry with Henry Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia.
Nilfgaardian Armor. In the game, Nilfgaard is a formidable empire and it showed in their armor. I feel that the show didn’t exactly capture this. They already had the game to compare to, shouldn’t they have at least enhanced from that, for the show version? I don’t know. But anyway, I got used to it, so I just tolerated it, I guess. Besides, there’s new leadership in Nilfgaard and who knows, we might get a different design in the future. (Also, this is clearly a nitpick.)
I started out criticizing Lauren Hissrich, the showrunner, but in the end, I commend her for producing such a wonderfully realized version of The Witcher. I’m in love with it and cannot wait for Season 2!
This is by no means a complete review of the show. There are so many things I loved about the show that I haven’t discussed here, and things I wished they’d done differently, knowing the source material. I am still deciding whether I should review the show as a whole or per episode. And what about the books? Should I review them as well? Can I even organize my thoughts well enough to come up with any of these reviews?
As I gather my thoughts and decide on that, let me end this post with the official trailer: