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Medieval Fantasy to Escape the World: The Witcher Review

  • Culture
Iryna Kupchynska, MA Social Anthropology 

“All the scars, generously mentioned in the book or games are almost gone on the muscled body. This kind of video-game musculature looks so artificial.”

Netflix gave a Christmas gift to their subscribers this December by releasing the long-awaited new series, The Witcher. The story was based on a highly popular, Eastern European, fantasy saga by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. Though it may be familiar to many owing to The Witcher video games. The Witcher – named Geralt – is a white-haired mutant, fighting monsters for pay and searching for the child-princess Cyrilla to protect. The story is full of battles, magic, kingdoms, and so on.

The eight episodes of The Witcher’s first season (with the second season due for release in 2021) will be easier and more enjoyable to those already familiar with its fantasy world. Scattered parts of the plot are slowly gathered together through the episodes. So at the beginning just enjoy the rather clean and dressed up medieval times of the world called The Continent, rich with outbreaks of sword-fights, magic, and medieval folkish tunes and wait for it all to come together. 

Some may say Netflix was not generous enough with their gift and here are some reasons. First of all, you’ll never satisfy book addicts, who can always find what’s off. A few heroes were merged together in one, for example, Nilfgaard’s fanatic emperor Kahyr was not supposed to be the mysterious Black Rider with a feathered helm. Questions remain surrounding why the story of the becoming Yennefer, a powerful mage, whose road is quite often crossed with Geralt’s, received so much attention, although it was merely mentioned in the book. Yet the exciting and extreme transformation of The Witcher, colourfully described in the books, gets very little air time. Some of these details could have replaced quite a bit of the staring contest the viewers are forced to have with Geralt, played with Henry Cavill, and his chiselled cheekbones. 

Henry Cavill is a rather American variant of The Witcher. All the scars, generously mentioned in the book or games are almost gone on the muscled body. This kind of the video-game musculature looks so artificial, especially knowing that Geralt is supposed to be quick and agile in order to outspeed rare monsters! However, you’ll recognise the low whispering tones of Geralt from The Witcher game throughout the series. 

The female characters seem to be more in keeping with the book. The series manages to celebrate the honest feminism of Sapkowski, with these characters often being powerful conquerors, having their pick of sexual partners and more generally fighting to have a choice. 

On these dreary winter nights, The Witcher is a good story to escape cold, wet London. The Continent is an exciting place where mutants happen to be knights who always manage to come in time to help. Not forgetting a few romantic storylines with traumatised but strong and beautiful heroes that meet each other with a spark. Though don’t get too lost in the story, as the show itself remarks ‘we cannot mistake the stars reflecting in the pond for those in the night sky.’

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