When did I watch it? Wecently.
Shut up I get to have my fun.
I’m coming at this show from sort of a weird angle: I had not read any of the source material (but I ordered three of the novels after watching, and am about a fourth of the way through the first one right now) and I have played one of the three video games and didn’t like it very much. So it’s kind of difficult for me to explain why I jumped at watching the show, particularly since I’ve never really been a fan of Henry Cavill either.
tl;dr you should probably watch this if you’re into This Sort of Thing, but don’t pay for a Netflix account for it or anything like that.
- The show mostly dispenses with the rampant sexism and PoC erasure of the game, at least– I don’t recall a single use of the C-word, which is everywhere in the game, and the cast is reasonably diverse;
- Henry Cavill is having the time of his life playing a man whose only emotion is exasperated— Geralt of Rivia is so over all of this shit, all the time, and it’s hilarious; I never thought I’d use the word “adorable” to describe Cavill but it’s entirely accurate through most of the show;
- Anya Chalotra as Yennifer of Vengerberg also does a fantastic job in what is probably the show’s best role. Yen is a complicated, meaty role, and she digs deep into this character;
- The majority of the smaller roles are well-acted as well. I don’t know any actor in this program outside of Cavill himself and I don’t know where they found all these folks but they’re great. Definitely worth singling out are Joey Batey’s Jaskier and Jodhi May’s Queen Calanthe, who I want to get a show all on her own;
- Fun fact about Jaskier: this is the character who in the games and the English novels is called Dandelion. Turns out jaskier is the Polish word for “buttercup,” and the books and games made the decision to render the character’s name as a slightly less feminine-sounding yellow flower in English, but the show just stuck with Jaskier, which in English scans perfectly well as a fantasy name;
- Netflix went all out with budget and FX; there’s a suspect mask early in the series but in general the show looks really good, and it’s well-directed across the board, with good action scenes.
The not as good stuff:
- I’m willing to be patient with Ciri’s story while she becomes the character I know from the third game, but she basically just runs around in the woods uselessly for the entire season. She’s getting Sansa’s character arc from GoT right now without the endless, twisted speculation about when she’s going to get raped, and we’re very much in the “young and whiny and mostly pointless” phase at the moment. Hopefully this gets better quick in the next season;
- Costuming is generally pretty good, but two exceptions are Henry Cavill’s wigs and the Nilfgaardian’s utterly ridiculous, impractical, please-stab-me armor;
- The show follows three timelines separated by at least several decades, and wants you to figure that out rather than making it clear, and while I don’t mind TV that rewards the viewer paying attention it’s not at all obvious what the show gains from making all the time-jumping effectively a background detail. They also hurt Yen’s storyline quite a bit with this; she goes from a novice to someone who has spent three decades as a royal advisor between the earliest storyline and the middle one, and those three decades change her character quite a bit– it would have been nice to see some of it;
- It’s possible that Cavill’s bad wigs are a timeline hint, but even if they are– I think one of them might be blonder than the others– they’re still terrible;
- Related to the timeline issue, the show isn’t great at explaining things in general, and my wife spent most of the season asking me questions I couldn’t answer with my limited background knowledge. You’re asked to take quite a bit on faith and I think the show works much better for people with deep background knowledge, but it’s hard to say, since I don’t have it. One of the best things about GoT was the opening sequence, which effortlessly laid out the entire map and let you know where everything was without wasting show time on it. This show could have used something along those lines. At least sprinkle some maps into the background somewhere.
So, yeah: if you’re one of the ten Netflix subscribers who hasn’t checked this out yet, you should probably think about it. If you don’t have Netflix and are a big fantasy person, maybe think about it. If you’re neither, give it a pass. I’m in for Season Two and at least the first of the books, but I’m not gonna lose any sleep waiting for it either.