When it comes to adapting a piece of literature to the screen, perhaps the greatest difficulty is keeping faithful to the original source material whilst ensuring that the end result still stands on its own.
Many works have went through the process with varying results, whereas Netflix’s new series, The Witcher, succeeds very well in both areas.
Being an adaptation of the fantasy works of writer Andrzej Sapkowski, the show was always going to attract fans of the books and the games later inspired by the series alongside viewers wanting their next fix of magic and monsters. To both sets, the show delivers.
The show follows the stories of three particular characters. The titular Witcher Geralt of Rivia is a mutated monster slayer who takes on jobs for coin. Elsewhere is Yennefer, a young woman training in sorcery and looking to enhance her abilities.
Lastly there is the young princess Ciri, a runaway searching for the Witcher in the cruel and dangerous setting of the Continent. Throughout the series, the three face monsters and villains of various form and intent across the war-ravaged world.
What is immediately noticeable is the excellent acting on display from the cast. Henry Cavill’s performance as the cold, no- nonsense Geralt is utterly fantastic to say the least. Every scene in which Cavill is present shows just how much character can be put into an individual who has been mutated to become an emotionless monster slayer. Along with this, Anya Chalotra excellently displays development through her role as Yennefer in her greatest and darkest moments.
Other roles such as Freya Allan’s young Princess Ciri and Joey Batey’s comic relief through the bard Jaskier similarly shine throughout the series, particularly with the latter’s many songs regarding Geralt’s adventures.
What further brings the show to excellence is the sheer brutality and harshness of the world. This world is far from being a whimsical fairytale kingdom. The horror of the monsters and violence within the conquering kingdom of Nilfgaard ensure that in this setting, there is always danger and tension.
Having a setting so harsh, it certainly allows for some excellent and exhilarating action that will have audiences gripping their seats. Along this is a society of cruel and sexually lusting individuals that greatly relays the squalor of the land.
Perhaps one of the only issues of the show however, and admittedly quite a big one, is how confusing the use of timelines can be. The show splits itself across different periods of time and is not quite chronologically told, so when characters appear in episodes set in the past without much explanation, audiences may find themselves raising an eyebrow.
Thankfully, Netflix has released a timeline in regards to this issue, so it is nowhere near as problematic as it once was. Besides this issue one can still enjoy the episodes as they are, especially seeing as they were originally short stories in Sapkowski’s books, though there may be slight teething issues in understanding what is happening and when.
Regardless of the strange displacing of time in the series, The Witcher is still an excellent watch that, through an intense story and fantastic acting, will unsurprisingly become a household series as it continues on.
Illustration: Erin Cole