December 29, 2019

The highly anticipated new Netflix series The Witcher made its debut just before Christmas and all things considered, I can report that it is actually pretty good.

Many fans of the original Witcher novels written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski and the hugely popular video game trilogy of the same name by CD Projekt were dreading the TV adaptation, for good reason.

During the production of The Witcher leaked information about casting and writing decisions and the teaser trailers were painting a picture of yet another “Woke” pile of garbage.

There was a rumour that a negress had been cast as one of the most important female characters, which would have destroyed the whole back story of one of the royal houses and made a mockery of the entire tale.

As it is there are some incongruous actors of colour in the cast but, surprisingly for Netflix, they do not ruin the show; though there is no real explanation of why they are different and they create some odd moments for those of us who are reasonably familiar with Sapkowski’s original vision.

The Witcher is set in a dark and savage medieval fantasy realm where a magical cataclysm has allowed horrific beasts and supernatural entities to enter the world, where they, as you would expect, create havoc.

The series follows the exploits of Geralt Of Rivia, played by Henry Cavell, the star of Zack Snyder’s excellent Superman reboot Man Of Steel.

Geralt is a Witcher, a monster-hunting mercenary who is one of the last of a dying order of such men, mutated by their training and possessed of some magical powers his caste are shunned and feared by normal folk for the work they do and the fact that they are no longer fully human.

The hulking, muscle-bound, Cavell does a great job in bringing Geralt to life, a character whose appearance and mannerisms are pretty much set in stone; many were worried how he would fit in but credit where credit is due, this Witcher is very convincing.

This series wouldn’t be modern high fantasy without a spread of royal houses all vying for supremacy, some sexy sorceresses, scary monsters and horrifying villains, in this regard The Witcher delivers in spades.

Truth be told the original novels and the video games were pretty “woke” to begin with, there is a deep thread of racism toward non-humans in the human cast toward the Elves, Dwarves and so forth, as well as a sort of battle of the sexes in play; but it was all contained as allegory within the fantasy universe and it made perfect sense.

I am glad to say that this structure remains mostly intact and someone on the production team, or at Netflix, has stared down any “progressive” activists in the writing department and said, No, this series has to make money”.

This is a good example of the power of fandom and the fan dollar, if the PC crazies at Netflix had butchered The Witcher, as HBO has done with their Watchmen series then it would have flopped hard and never made back it’s budget, the die-hard gamers and fantasy geeks who are the potential audience would never have stood for it and would have torn it apart online.

For newcomers to the world of The Witcher, the show could be quite hard going, which isn’t helped by its non-linear narrative structure; the way the series is devised is very clever and totally works out in the end but those not au-fait with the canon may be left scratching their heads.

Even if the prospective viewer is not into gaming I would recommend picking up the final Witcher game, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and playing it through; apart from being one of the most highly rated games of recent years it explains a lot of the lore and fleshes out the character relationships and political factions of the world.

Just as the Witcher video games are totally engrossing so the series had me transfixed through to the end, I highly recommend it as worthwhile summer viewing and I hope that other viewers are inspired to delve into the excellent novels and video games bearing The Witcher name.

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