While a rough start during the production of The Witcher, the series provided an overall strong performance despite small shortcomings.
In the series, we start before the Battle of Sodden, and before Geralt earns the name; Butcher of Blaviken. The series then covers the cinematic moment before you start the first game, where he cures Princess Adda. By the end of the series, we get the Battle of Sodden, where Triss earns her name; Fourteenth of the Hill.
As an adaptation for a popular book series and video game franchise, it’s hard to appeal to a large fanbase of people who are already devoted, but the series does a good job of keeping to the source material. We get Geralt’s nicknames along with how the Djinn brought him and Yennefer together. These important plot elements that take place in both the third and first games, allows for the audience of devoted fans to pick up various moments in the series. We also get the moment where Geralt gets Ciri and see Emhyr as he rises to power.
Where the series does lose viewers and fans alike is in the story structure. At first, It looked like Ciri fleeing the castle and Geralt in Blaviken were supposed to be in the same time frame, but instead, the series focuses more on bouncing around from character to character, and it bounces from time to time that it makes a muddled mess of what is currently happening and what is a flashback. In one episode, we see Yennefer before her transformation, while Geralt looks to be helping Triss with Adda. This sequence becomes confusing because you don’t know where everyone is at in their timeline from the books and games. In the first game, Geralt is saved by Triss and taken to Kaer Mohren, but it doesn’t show her involvement in saving Adda. We also know that Triss is younger than Yennefer, but it looked like Yennefer was younger than Triss when the events were placed side-to-side. Yennefer was still a hunchback when Adda is saved, and Yennefer was a hunchback when she was recruited to become a witch. This sequence of events makes it unclear as to where we are, because we have no timestamp, and it makes characters ages look different because we have no noticeable way to gauge where in the timeline we are.
Another confusing story element lied in the fact that Triss doesn’t use any fire magic throughout the series. As a mage, fire is what Triss excels with, but instead, one of the few instances with her using magic, she makes poisonous mushrooms sprout. Whereas we get a moment where Yennefer unleashes her full power in a torrent of flame during the Battle of Sodden.
Also during the battle, we don’t see Phillippa Eilhart anywhere. As a main antagonist and important story element to the franchise, she was suppsed to be involved with the battle, and yet the showrunners forgot to include her character at all. While we have Sabrina Glevissig, Triss Merigold and Yennefer; we still missed out on one of the most important witches in the series.
While the Battle of Sodden didn’t have every important mage included in the show, the series did give us cameo moments from important characters that Geralt will meet later on in his adventures. Yarpin Zigrin, a dwarf he meets on a quest to slay a dragon, becomes important later when Geralt sides with the elves and Yarpin is a member of the village of non-humans that Phillipa Eilhart is the chief mage of. We also got to meet King Foltest, who Geralt will later help to serve, and we got Sabrina Glessavig, whose magic will become important during a storyline that’s presented in the second game.
When it comes to storytelling, especially for a series that already has a devoted fanbase, it’s always important to stay true to the source material. When casting their characters, The Witcher failed to do that for one of their characters. In the series, Frangilla Vigo was cast with an actress, who portrays the character well, but looks nothing like the source material.
Initially, some fans were upset when Triss Merigold was cast differently too, and while Triss was a redhead in the games; her actress looks similar to the book version of Triss. So while fans were upset with the Triss change, the only character that the showrunner changed in the series was Frangilla.
As someone who played through all the games, it’s unfortunate when they don’t stay true to the source material, as most fans who become critical are those who grew up on a series. Shows like, The Witcher or series like Star Wars, are going to have their diehard fans who want everything to be like they remember and have nothing changed on purpose. Instead though, we can have casting changes happen for reasons that don’t impact a story at all and are only done to make a show look better.
Other than changing a character from the source material, the showrunners did a great job with the rest of the casting. Henry Cavill did an amazing job as Geralt and I thoroughly enjoyed the way he presented his character. The fight choreography and romance moments felt similar to the games and I could see the detail and care put into different parts of his character.
Another strong actor in the show was Anya Chalotra as Yennefer. In her representation, we see her grow and become more confident in some aspects of her character, an element seen throughout the source material. We get banter from her with Geralt, and we can see them have feelings for each other at times, before the Djinn. The writing for her character however, doesn’t deliver as strongly on the exuding confidence, no-nonsense and more serious tone that she takes a lot of the time. Instead she gets combative at times and independent, but the air she carries herself with feels toned down. She does a great acting job and looks the part, but they need to make her more confident and strong compared to the moments they gave her in the first season.
When weighing he show based on acting, writing and adapting the source material; The Witcher is around an 8/10. The storytelling stays true to source material and we have a lot of great casting choices for the characters. Where the show falters though, is changing a character, a muddied timeline, and poor writing or some of the characters.
In the future, I hope that we get a Yennefer that comes off more confident and her banter with Geralt improves. I also want to see more Triss and Geralt and their friendship that develops when Geralt loses his memory. We also need time markers or a way to tell when the show decides to do a flashback or the current timeline. If the show can fix these glaring issues, it’ll stand-out as one of the best book and game adaptations. Otherwise, if it strays too much from the source material for casting or writing, it could adversely affect the show and bring it down.