I was attracted to The Witcher books after I played the first game.
I found myself a bit curious about Eastern European mythology. I am more than familiar with English, Norse, Celtic and French myths, (King Arthur is a completely French myth by the way. Once you know what to look for it’s pretty obvious).
Eastern Europe has an unfair reputation in the West for being a bit backward. This isn’t true at all but there was a time that it was and memories linger a bit longer in that part of the world. It’s fair to say that it provided America with some ready made prejudices and bigotries. When I was a kid, Polack Jokes were still universal but falling into serious disrepute fast.
The truth is that Eastern Europe was behind the power curve for a long time because they missed out on the long term benefits of the Black Death. Mostly because they never went through it. The Great Mortality wasn’t so great east of the Fulda Gap. There were some villages that were completely unaffected by the Bubonic Plague. No one is quite sure why. The two most popular theories are a strongly resistant population due to genetic predisposition. Or simply a different breed of rat predominating in that area during that period, (after all no Black Rat, no Black Death).
Regardless, they were held back for a while and in consequence, they were closer to their mythological heritage for a greater length of time than Westerners.
The Witcher books are huge in Poland. Rightfully so, they are pretty good. And they make a nice break from the endless rehashes of the Lord of the Rings. The story structure is a bit different from the three act structure that we are used to and this was translated to the screen.
The episodes are divided into three non-linear timelines. Each one following one of the three main character’s stories. Geralt’s, Yennifer’s and Princess Cirilla’s. Each story taking place in a different period of time. Cirilla’s tale is in the present. Yennifer’s takes place the farthest back of the three, (since she is a witch, she is more or less immune to aging). Geralt’s timeline lands somewhere in the middle. All three are bound together by destiny.
The Witcher follows the journey of these main protagonists as they are drawn together over the course of the first season. The story-structure has a very Eastern quality to it. The narrative is not about a central conflict, (or at least it isn’t yet). The focus of the story is exploring each of the three characters’ motivations. Why does Geralt do what he does?
Is he in it for the money? No. Geralt insists on being paid for the monster hunting but it feels like an exercise in aesthetics. He is obviously a poor man. So money isn’t the answer.
Is it for status? No. Clearly, a Witcher is the lowest of the low. Nearly an Untouchable, in point of fact, he seems completely unmotivated by status.
So, why does he do the whole monster hunting thing? We still don’t know but I do want to find out.
The production values are excellent. No disastrously bad special effects that I remember. A lot of this was shot in Eastern European villages. Most of the set dressing consisted of throwing dirt on top of a paved road.
Performances were A game all around. Henry Clavell did a great job here. That man can do brooding intensity like no one’s business. His two best lines per episode were usually, “hrrrmmm” and “f$#k”. The best use of the F-bomb was in the 4th episode.
Yennifer’s journey is also quite intriguing. She agreed to pay a price because at the time the cost was nothing to her. She came to regret it over the years and spent a good chunk of the first season trying to undo it.
Good stuff all around however, the series contains a great deal of gore, nudity, and profanity. If these are your show stoppers than avoid it.
Cataline Recommends with Confidence.