This review of The Witcher is spoiler-free and based on all eight episodes available now on Netflix.
Once upon a time, Netflix and Amazon Prime did battle for the one intellectual property to rule them all. Amazon spent $250 million on The Lord of The Rings license, and Netflix went home disappointed. Smartly, The Witcher license was snapped up, and this reviewer thinks Netflix has come out on top.
It is impossible not to compare The Witcher to Game of Thrones, The Hobbit, and The Lord of The Rings. This is a reflection on the fantasy genre more than the show, yet we do get treated to some glaring similarities. From a burning city to a military force on the move, The Witcher ticks many fantasy big event boxes.
The first time you saw The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring, it was an unbelievable spectacle. Game of Thrones then took that spectacle and evolved what a TV show could be, taking its scale, effects, and budgets to maturer audiences. The Witcher somehow improves on both, delivering better pacing and action.
With all that said, what matters is whether The Witcher has a story and acting worthy of The Lord of The Rings and Game of Thrones.
Netflix’s Game of Thrones
First the negatives: There are two episodes where the plot jumps about switching between the past and present without warning. Both times, it’s jarring — and now for the positives (yes, those are the only negatives).
There are eight episodes, each roughly an hour-long, and none have pacing problems or pointless exposition. We’re treated to characters that are interesting, defined through decisions, actions, and events. Amazingly, the action sequences flow perfectly with the story and character development. It’s almost as if the story was taken from top-selling books… (it is).
For any fantasy fan, The Witcher will be more than an itch scratched. It’s likely to be the best new fantasy show on the market until Prime’s $1 billion The Lord of The Rings prequel, or HBO delivers a Game of Thrones spin-off. Putting all cards on the table, this reviewer thinks it could be one of the best shows of 2019.
In all honesty, the characters in The Witcher aren’t as good as Game of Thrones. This isn’t a quality issue, but a quantity and variety issue. There are simply more interesting characters in G. R. R. Martin’s on-screen story. The question is, which characters will The Witcher introduce during future seasons? In my opinion, it is unlikely The Witcher has characters that can top Tyrion, Jon Snow, Arya Stark, et al.
From the characters we do get to spend time with, the two leads, Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia and Anya Chalotra as Yennefer, are exceptional. Both deliver believable characters that have rich backstory and motivations. In terms of acting quality, it matches the best of what we see in Game of Thrones. At no point in eight hours will you see weak acting, and that’s a big surprise considering the amazing pace and action on the show.
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Action, blood, and sex
The Witcher is definitely not suitable for younger audiences, and includes a lot of nudity throughout. There is also a lot of bloody action, which is where the show exceeds The Lord of The Rings and Game of Thrones.
Some will say Game of Thrones is more realistic in its fighting, yet, this reviewer says The Witcher is simply made better. The choreography, the movement, the effects, and the variety leaves other on-screen fantasy tales in its dust.
Another element that makes The Witcher stand out is the variety of adventures and enemies across the eight episodes. This allows the show to deliver unique action sequences that come together to make memorable, visceral moments a regular occurrence. When combined with brilliant pacing and deep character development, The Witcher easily becomes a top contender for the best show of 2019.
The Witcher verdict: Binge
- Streaming on Netflix
- Created by Lauren Schmidt and Andrzej Sapkowski
- Starring Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, and Fraya Allan
Before The Witcher, this reviewer had Chernobyl ranked No. 1 as the show of the year. It beat Season 3 of Stranger Things and The Boys to the top spot.
What makes The Witcher stand out is that the pace, action, plot, and acting come together to make something brilliant to watch. It doesn’t try to tease, or twist, like Apple TV+’s shows, nor does it play out like a Saturday morning cartoon, like The Mandalorian.
The Witcher is Netflix at its disruptive best — and now the ball is in HBO’s and Amazon’s court to see what they can deliver for fantasy fans.