Fantasy, Film Reviews, Pop Culture, Television

Is Netflix’s “The Witcher” Pop Culture’s New “Game of Thrones”?

The Witcher v Game of Throne Featured Image--I do not own the rights
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I do not own the featured image, nor any other images in this post. The images used are for commentary purposes only. All Photos Courtesy of ©Netflix.

I was eagerly following the final battle between Daenerys and Cersei. It was a monumental moment for me. Muh Queen was to finally sit graciously upon the Iron Throne. Officially crowned as Queen of the Andals and the First Men, she would exercise her power to secure lasting peace for the world. Then, entered D&D’s writing. Sigh.

The controversial ending of Game of Thrones left me unsatisfied. My picturesque conclusion to my favorite show was robbed. At least the book series is still in production.

But alas, the bestselling books cannot fully fulfill my insatiable desire for medieval fantasy television.

It took a long time for a series like Game of Thrones to pique my interest. Mindlessly scrolling through Netflix one day, I came across something new…fresh…and fantasy.

The Witcher. Finally, I discovered a new silver-haired beauty I could happily root for.

After binge-watching the elaborate series, I can earnestly say it is no Game of Thrones. Nevertheless, I feel ambivalent about Netflix’s The Witcher, despite its fascinating subject matter.

The Witcher vs Game of Thrones
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Photo Courtesy of ©Netflix. I do not own the rights.

"The Witcher": Episode One Overview

The adapted series opens with the titular character Geralt of Rivia, portrayed by Henry Cavill of DC Comics fame, fending off a giant spider monster in a black pool of shallow water. Okay, very cool right off the bat.

After brutally slaying the savage beast, Geralt heads into town. From his encounter with the townspeople, we find out in this fantasy world humans despise Witchers and all other non-human races. This social prejudice is like what we witness in the tangible world. Hmm.

He enters a local tavern and encounters Renfri-a princess on the run. Afterward, he’s escorted to the wizard Stregobor’s abode where they candidly discuss Renfi. Stregobor wants Renfi dead because of some divine prophecy about women born during a solar eclipse bringing about the apocalypse. Over time it’s revealed Renfi wants Geralt to kill Stregobor. Plot twist, right?

These various meetings lead to double-crossing and love-making before ending with an epic battle sequence (which was uber impressive). Unfortunately, the quarrel forces Geralt to kill Renfi, even though he didn’t want to.

The aftermath of the battle leaves Geralt of Rivia being rebranded as the “Butcher of Blaviken” by the local townspeople and exiled from the tainted village.

Every other Geralt scene follows scenes from the narratives of Princess Cirilla and Queen Calanthe, her grandmother.

Within that account, there’s a ball. Then, a brutal battle just outside the capital city of Cintra. Ultimately, the tragic fall of the matriarchal kingdom of Cintra inevitably occurs when the Nilfgaard invades.

The sole survivor of the successful overthrow is the young Princess Cirilla, a
petite blonde-haired girl. Fortunately, she possesses an unknown supernatural gift which she unintentionally uses to escape the bloodthirsty Nilfagaardian conquerors.

Episode One Consensus & Explanation

Instantly, the show properly introduced several key players in the story. I was puzzled after the first episode because both stories within the central plot seemed to not correspond with one another. Plus, each story is on a separate timeline. The speedy pace and unconventional chronology of the series easily produces a confused viewer.

Like any sensible person seeking answers, I naturally headed to YouTube. All my questions were promptly resolved after watching an explanation video posted by JellyJugz. He makes great content on a ton of groundbreaking television series. Be sure to check his videos out!

Final Thoughts on "The Witcher"

Unlike Game of Thrones, The Witcher is remarkably fast-paced. If your eyes aren’t glued to the screen, then it’s easy to miss a key element of the story.

As stated before, in the first episode, many characters are introduced. Some are essential to the story but die early on, while others live on to become the main protagonists.

Furthermore, the first episodes are jam-packed with intricate storytelling. A new point of view timeline is thrown into the mix every episode. The individual tales stand compelling on their own, but once intertwined, the character dynamics become much more prevalent.

The ambitious timelines will throw you off at first. I didn’t understand the differing timelines until Queen Calanthe died in episode one but was suddenly alive and well again in episode four. It was thoroughly confusing at first, but once I gathered what the writers were trying to achieve, I could easily follow the show’s pacing. (Here’s a breakdown of the timelines from Vulture).

Moreover, the fantasy elements in The Witcher are not lacking at all. There are races of elves, mages, dryads, and more. My favorite beast was 100% the Striga, a mortal woman cursed to transform into a hideous monster. Not to mention, there is a social maturity to the fantasy elements in the show. Beasts and humanoids aren’t mindless, unmotivated tropes of themselves. They have a complex approach to morality, motivation, love, and justice that humans aren’t exposed to. It was refreshing to see traditional fantasy archetypes all grown up.

Lastly, I discovered myself genuinely rooting for every character. The way each of them interacts with others, and themselves, adds immense depth to the story. The different timelines allow you to witness everyone’s internal conflict without other factors like plot armor conflating their perspectives:

    • Geralt’s consuming desire to do the right thing even though the mortal world loathes his kind. Ordinary humans think he bases his motives on how much money he can earn, rather than, his humanity.
    • Yennefer’s self-destructive path to beauty, power, and self-acceptance represents all our desires.
    • Cirilla being inadvertently exposed to the turmoil her grandmother’s actions caused amongst Cintra’s citizens and other groups.

Each character’s personal experiences made me more devoted to their goals, desires, and destinies.

The Witcher Netflix
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Photo Courtesy of ©Netflix. I do not own the rights.

Toss a Coin to Your Witcher

I love The Witcher.

Initially, it was laborious to follow because of the rapid influx of information. Add the different timelines, and the average viewer with no experience with the book or video games (me) can easily become confused.

Once invested in the compelling character arcs, the show became more exciting. The intense action scenes coupled with the elaborate character journeys and mature fantasy elements have converted me into a Witcher stan.

I sincerely appreciate The Witcher for all that it is. And all that it’s not (a Game of Thrones copycat).

What are your thoughts on Netflix’s “The Witcher”? Will you be tuning in for Season 2 or taking a hard pass? Tell me in the comments below.

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