Caught Off Guard w/ "The Witcher"
Netflix Original Series The Witcher, has developed quite the following this year since its release in late December 2019, becoming one of those Netflix series a handful of people in your social groups tell you “is so good, you have to watch it!”. Having heard this phrase countless times and with additions to “My List” increasing faster than decreasing, I decided I’d finally start the show and finish it within the week. Well, that day has officially come!
The Witcher comes through on the expectation of fantasy, adventure, action, monsters and medieval vibes you’d expect from the show. However, I was keen to see how it would differ from any of the many series I’ve watched over the years, and how much it would resemble, you guessed it, Game of Thrones.
First things first, yes, it did remind me of Game of Thrones in a few ways. The fact that the series starts with excessive nudity and a handful of sex scenes – explicit content right off the bat that hooked people to GOT for at least its first three seasons – is definitely a common denominator any post-GOT series set in the past has. So for that reason alone, I will not hold it against The Witcher too much.
The other similarity I found was of course, monarchs, factions and organizations from different regions of “The Continent” fighting to take control of Cintra. Sound familiar? Like the different regions of Westeros fighting for the Iron Throne in King’s Landing? Nonetheless, having only seen the one season on Netflix, and having not read The Witcher Saga, I’m excited to see how this fight for power and all this searching for “destiny” will play out – which sadly, will take perhaps a few years.
Similarities to GOT aside, The Witcher does have its own thing going on in at least three major ways. The first, are its monsters. With a series set in the 1200’s, I was expecting monsters that one might find in stories of old or legends and tales, where a monster is at least related to creatures you already know exist, similar to animals or human beings. However, The Witcher takes a totally sci-fi approach, throwing monsters at you that look like they’ve come out of Alien or Predator. This makes things interesting, because you get a genre-bending element to the series. One can actually feel appalled just at the sight of these monsters and, it's just flat out different! I mean, alien-looking, slimy and weird, gangly and sharp-teethed creatures wreaking havoc on medieval towns and villages? I definitely haven’t come across that yet.
Second, special effects aside, the element of “Destiny” differentiates The Witcher from other medieval power-hungry and searching series. What seems to be (at least in my opinion) some kind of relationship between two specific characters, highlights the importance that people just might be stronger together – as once said characters have found each other, their Destiny is fulfilled and their magical powers are incredibly amplified. This right here is rare, as far as most television series go, because although the idea of searching for power isn't a rare theme in series, gaining equal parts of power with someone else definitely is. That said, I am keen to see exactly how far these ‘destined couples’ can and will go, and if fulfilling your “Destiny” and invoking the “Law of Surprise” gives the characters more than just magical powers on blast.
Lastly, what really made The Witcher sink its hooks into me was its comedic side. So surprising! Considering the fact this series is set well into the past, you wouldn’t assume humour to be a contributing factor to the lines of the characters. Shows like these are usually serious, and any jokes or humorous effect are usually very light and not actually funny. Yet, The Witcher actually had me laughing aloud, despite the fact it holds closer ties to the genre of fantasy/drama versus comedy. So, exactly how does an ancient fantasy/drama series portray a comedic side? First and foremost, by pairing characters who are more opposite than similar, and ensuring that only one of the two could be considered a “serious person”.
For example, the characters are protagonist Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher, and Jaskier the bard (whom he met down the pub/tavern, of course). Henry Cavil in this role as Geralt portrays the brooding, lone wolf, monster-hunter-for-hire (a real role reversal if you’re familiar with Agent Solo of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but maybe less so if you’re more familiar with Superman or Clark Kent of Man of Steel), whereas his counterpart the ever so confident Jaskier the bard, is anything but. A singer set on improving his craft, he trails behind Geralt to experience real-life adventures he can sing about, leading to the friendship of two incompatible yet somehow compatible characters and most importantly, the main reason for my laughs. Like any good character pairing (Agent Solo and Agent Illya or “Peril”, Marlin and Dory, Tom and Jerry, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, etc.), these two are definitely up there, and I’m here for it! However, it isn't just this unlikely friendship that humours me, but also Geralt of Rivia’s script. Whether he's annoyed, irritated, upset or tired, his responses to people or actions is very 21st Century, and it’s this relatability to how people (especially me) talk, that ensured the comedic element which didn’t just get me biting the bait, but proper had me hooked and waiting for more.