Netflix’s [Toss A Coin To Your] Witcher

By Bob Case Posted Saturday Jan 4, 2020

Filed under: Television 139 comments

Enough time has passed, and the wild and woolly post-Game of Thrones fantasy drama has been spotted loping across the misty moors of Eastern Europe. Or at least Hungary, which is where principal photography started, according to the new Witcher show’s wikipedia page. From there it moved on to the Canary Islands, of all places, before settling down in a castle in Poland to film the finale.

Link (YouTube)

Yes, Netflix is making a play for all that tits-and-dragons money, and driving pretty strong to the basket too: in the first season of The Witcher, there were two dragons and probably around 20-30 tits (I didn’t keep an exact count). Lest you think it’s not inclusive, there’s also Henry Cavill’s Geralt: throaty, instinctively protective, periodically shirtless, and built like an entire complex of brick shithouses. I’m like 70% sure the guy lifts.

I’m not even really being critical. Servicing the audience’s horniness has always been a reliable commercial winner, and if I were a TV executive, I would certainly be tempted to use it like a safety net here. This show is, if you don’t already know, based off the written works of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski – written works that you shouldn’t even try to adapt unless you’re willing to get weird with it. At the writer’s table, I imagine at least once someone had to say a sentence like “so, are we really going to do the thing where the Princess falls in love with the porcupine guy?” or “are we really going to do the thing with the terrifying incest monster?”

I rib because I love. I’m one of the people who has decided to like The Witcher – the books, the games, the show, the card game, all of it. I’m an easy mark for this sort of thing, so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I pretty much like the show and am looking forward to future seasons.

SPOILER ALERT: at one point, Geralt fights a monster in a gloomy swamp.
SPOILER ALERT: at one point, Geralt fights a monster in a gloomy swamp.

At some point I should get down to nuts and bolts, so I’ll list some of the good things about it, following by some of the bad. First, the good:

The monster-of-the-week stuff: A typical episode is arranged roughly thusly: itinerant monster hunter for hire Geralt of Rivia rides into a new town, which is thoroughly stressed out over some kind of supernatural calamity. Geralt investigates, figures out what’s going on, and figures out how to either lure the monster out of its lair to be confronted or resolves the problem some other way.

In the meantime, some kind of B plot – a political develpment, a bit of worldbuilding, what have you – chugs along in the background. By the end of the season, these culminate in the invasion of an expansionist empire called Nilfgaard from the south. It’s a good structure, simple in layout but with the potential for interesting variety in execution, and in my opinion it’s the main thing that holds the show together.

The performances: Much has been made of Henry Cavill’s Geralt, and the result is a nice story about someone really earning a role. Cavill is apparently a fan of the source material and invested real effort over the years into getting the show made. In a way, he nails it. Geralt is a deceptively difficult character to play: not just a grump with a soft heart, but a perceptive and thoughtful grump who’s often put into ethically confounding situations.

For all that, the truth is that no one has ever played Geralt the way I see/hear him in my head. But I blame my head for this, rather than the performances of others. For instance, back when I first offered my unsolicited advice about the show, I recommended that Cavill not try to do the gravelly Doug Cockle voice. Well, he did anyway. But he did it well, so I’m cool with it.

So Cavill is good. However, my personal season one standout is Anya Chalotra’s Yennefer. She’s given a doozy of a role: Yennefer is a deformed hunchback for half the season, then learns how to do magic, and becomes simultaneously selfish, ruthless, and someone that I found myself at least occasionally rooting for. There’s a relationship between Yen and another sorcerer called Istredd that’s particularly well-done, from magical meet cute to consummation to eventual drifting apart: it all works.

Finally, there’s Jaskier (this is the character called “Dandelion” in the games and some English translations of the books). He’s the traveling bard that accompanies other, more formidable characters during their adventures and serves as comic relief. In my opinion, he’s another character that’s deceptively difficult to get right. His actor – another Englishman named Joey Batey – gets him right, I think.

The overall Witcheryness: “Witcheryness” is a slippery term to define. It’s the quality on the screen that reminds me of the quality of the written works, and sometimes throws an interesting new source of light on them. At least part of the magic is the realization that you CAN get away with spotty exposition if you get the story right. So often the Witcher decides that the characters understand how the world works, and the audience’s job is to keep up as best they can. I personally am okay with this decision.

Queen Calanthe (second from the right) is another character that makes a strong impression in relatively little screen time.
Queen Calanthe (second from the right) is another character that makes a strong impression in relatively little screen time.

That all covers much of the good stuff. But there are some things I’m obligated to complain about as well.

Complicated timelines: The scripts spend most of their time following three main characters: Geralt (the Witcher), Yennefer (the Sorceress), and Ciri (complicated, but so far she’s a princess trying to escape a war zone). The hiccup is that these storylines are sometimes separated by decades of in-universe time, which is not always made clear to the audience. Now that the first season and its attendant backstory have been covered, my hope is that they can switch to a more comprehensible timeline.

Sometimes rushed: To cite one example, the entire Brokilon sequence from the novels is barreled through in a single episode here. At other times, things get abridged in various ways. It’s one of the same fundamental problems HBO’s Game of Thrones had: there just isn’t enough screen time to do the written work justice. But then again, there never is.

Ours is a fallen world: Of course, this mostly isn’t the show’s fault. But every so often the characters will wander through a set that reminds the audience that this is TV. Some of the costumes are iffy or strange. At one point there’s a dragon, and it speaks, and its mouth doesn’t really move properly, and you can tell it’s CGI.

Of course, if this planet was properly managed, stuff like this would have an unlimited budget and we’d all spend marginally less money on fighter planes and so forth to make up for it. But ours is a fallen world, so The Witcher is just a TV show, and the visuals aren’t always up to being how we wish they were.

I had to include this shot. You see, at one point Geralt puts on a set of knuckledusters, with tiny silver wolf heads on each knuckle, and punches a monster with them. This show was made by a bunch of goddamn nerds, but in a good way.
I had to include this shot. You see, at one point Geralt puts on a set of knuckledusters, with tiny silver wolf heads on each knuckle, and punches a monster with them. This show was made by a bunch of goddamn nerds, but in a good way.

So there you have it, good and bad both. I never really feel right recommending or not recommending things to people, so the best I can do is just describe the show and readers can (hopefully) figure out whether or not it’s the sort of thing they like.

I will say, on the way to a conclusion here, that I like to see an unabashed and unselfconscious work of fantasy fiction jam its foot into the cultural doorframe and keep it there. Reviewers of a certain age – the same ones that have learned to take superhero movies in stride – still get antsy whenever there’s a swordfight or a magic spell on the screen, even though they’re really no less ridiculous than super serum, a flying missile suit, or purple glove guy.

I’ve spent much of my life resigned to the fact that the stuff I really like is never gonna get made into a big-time movie or TV show or anything like that. But over the last ten years or so, the world has been very slowly and deliberately proving me wrong. Don’t get me wrong: they still have a lot of work to do. But it’s a start. I think there are people out there whose inner lives will be marginally richer thanks to The Witcher than they would have been otherwise, which is a good thing.

And finally, because you weren’t going to get away without hearing it:

Link (YouTube)


From The Archives:

139 thoughts on “Netflix’s [Toss A Coin To Your] Witcher

  1. Grimwear says:

    So I got around to watching most of the Witcher (for some reason I didn’t play close enough attention and accidentally started with episode 8 and was about 40 minutes in before I realized it) and I think it isn’t bad. I only ever gave the books a single read years ago so I’m hoping someone can provide some clarification. Here there be spoilers.

    Sodden Hill: I don’t recall them ever having the battle of Sodden Hill in the books. They reference it a bunch and there’s the time when Geralt goes to the memorial and such but I don’t recall the battle being there. I tried googling but all I came across was that in the books the battle had 100 thousand people partake with 30 thousand dead. That battle in the show…was plain terrible.

    Witches: I’m also still not the biggest fan of the casting of Triss, I don’t mind Yen though I can’t help not seeing Indian Yen where in my heart I want to see game Yen. I also don’t remember them having the Yen goes to Witch school in the books either. Is that also an add in? If it is I liked that it was there though I assume it’s more so they can give Yen something to do before she meets up in the Geralt and Ciri plotline. Also on that note did the failed witches get turned into eels to help fuel the school in the books or was that made up too?

    Vilgefortz: So far I’ve only encountered him from episode 8 but dang…they really weren’t kind to Vilgefortz. His duel where his only magic is to make a sword appear in his scabbard a whole 10 times is so lame it’s not even funny. Maybe they’ll just have it all be a ploy for season 2 or something? Because in the books his magic is stronger than Yen and he beats Geralt in a 1 on 1 fight with a staff, bashing his skull open, and leaving him for dead. Show Vilgefortz couldn’t even win a sword fight.

    1. Felix Jones says:

      Yeah the eel thing was weird and unnecessarily dark. I don’t think the books go into Yens backstory much at all beyond Geralt noticing she was a hunchback at some point.

      The over-focus on Yen and Ciri would seem to be an attempt do the GoT multiple POV and diverse cast thing, not just a show about a dude going on adventures. Seems dumb to me since that’s what works best about the Witcher, it would actually help make it more unique than just another fantasy soap opera.

      1. Grimwear says:

        On the note about witches and deformities did they just fix Fringilla’s arm offscreen after it shrivelled? I don’t think I’ve seen her arms since or if I did I missed it. They kinda show this horrific consequence then just ignore it.

        1. Geebs says:

          I think we’re supposed to assume she fixed it with magic. In the books there’s a sorceress who lost her jaw and is hiding it with glamours, IIRC

      2. Biggus Rickus says:

        You need the soap opera for broad appeal, but I do wish it wasn’t necessary.

  2. AzzyGaiden says:

    Just say Calanthe’s the one in the green dress, Bob. Don’t make me do math.

    I’m about 50/50 on this show. Geralt and Jaskier have a fun Xena-and-Gabrielle energy, but none of the other performances are landing for me. They should have taken all the money they spent on subpar CGI and put it into the costume budget. They should also have held off on introducing Ciri till season two, which would have given the other plotlines more room to breathe (and probably eliminated the need for those awkward asynchronous timelines entirely).

    There also some new wrinkles to Yen’s character and backstory (one physical detail of her “transformation” in particular) that I REALLY take issue with.

    Also…look, I’m sorry, is this love for the song ironic or something? Is this a meme and my old bones didn’t notice? Because that song is NIGHTMARISHLY AWFUL and I do not understand why anyone would voluntarily listen to it.

    1. Adam says:

      > Just say Calanthe’s the one in the green dress, Bob. Don’t make me do math.

      It’s not even the right math. Directions are typically given from the viewers POV not from the subjects…

      1. DaveMc says:

        Huh, I just thought it was a typo (“He must mean second from the *left*”), but you’re right, using “stage right” would fix it. Well, except for the ongoing debate that I’m sure must exist about whether one should say “from the right” or “on the right” or “to the right” or “the one indicated by this big arrow” …

        1. Jamey says:

          The AP rule is based on position in picture (so second from the left). I assume that’s what was meant. Unless the clean-cut gentleman second from the right is the queen. Who am I to judge.

      2. Benden says:

        Identification by color is not nice to the colorblind. I’m sure this site isn’t obliged to strive for accessibility, but some writers are taught to avoid using color this way anyhow.

        But the position correction is key…

    2. BlueHorus says:

      They should also have held off on introducing Ciri till season two, which would have given the other plotlines more room to breathe

      I’ll second this. A rough quote from one of the episode reviews on the Escapist:
      ‘And Ciri? Man, did she exist in this episode. Yep, she was definitely there. I think her screentime was spent walking across one field or something.’
      They shoehorned her into the plot when they had nothing for her to do, so basically made up stuff for her to do. Not the worst filler I’ve ever seen, but on reflection, so much of it was unnecessary.
      And naturally, the eventual payoff was that – at the VERY end of the season, she finally acheives the thing that she was told to do in the first episode!

      Also, extra negative points for constant teasing of a mystery (ooh, look, she has this mysterious power! Hey, someone’s chasing her, why? Hey, that magic tree thing doesn’t know what she is!)
      So what is she? Fuck you, says the show. Come back for Season 2 and maybe we’ll tell you then.

      PS: I ‘ve played enough Witcher games to know what she is. Don’t bother explaining it; I’m just pointing out something in the show that irks me.

    3. SidheKnight says:

      That song is beautiful (if somewhat disjointed at parts)

    4. GargamelLenoir says:

      > Because that song is NIGHTMARISHLY AWFUL and I do not understand why anyone would voluntarily listen to it.

      Because other people like it? You know about tastes right? I find it quite pleasant myself.

      1. AzzyGaiden says:

        No, the song is terrible in an objective sense. There is no room for discussion. If you like it, you are wrong.

        I have spoken.

        1. danielfogli says:

          I like 99% of it. “He can’t be bleeeeeeeeat” has me shuddering every single time.

          Nice catchy chorus, though :-D

          1. Kavonde says:

            I’m 99% sure the lyrics are deliberately awful, because Jaskier, at this point, is an utter hack of a songwriter saved only by his wonderful voice.

    5. Joe Informatico says:

      Re: the memetic song–I think a lot of it is the juxtaposition of this serious-faced brooding Man With No Name type wandering around while this goofball sings an 80s power ballad about how awesome he is. Not many heroes have songs about them that exist in-universe, so that’s unusual as well.

      But the deep underlying reason might be because Jaskier is like a YouTuber. He’s a huge fan of this massively successful franchise (Geralt doesn’t die, so that makes him more successful than most witchers) and produces content about how awesome Geralt is, and tries to have interactions with him (social media) that are acknowledged with annoyance if at all, and yet maybe Jaskier’s annoying behaviour actually helps Geralt by introducing new customers (fans) to him. So I think a lot of online content creators feel seen by Jaskier and thus participate in the meme-ing.

  3. Felix Jones says:

    Yeah it’s pretty good. But I think it needed more exposition.

    I watched it with a few people who had never read the books or played the games and they were very lost. Things like Jaskier never introducing himself, no one explaining a basic framework of the kingdoms (north vs south), no mention of silver swords and their use, and no one even explaining that a Witcher is a monster hunter.

    1. Grimwear says:

      I was watching it with my dad today since he just got Netflix and I pretty much had to pause right at the start and explain to him what a Witcher is and so on because the first thing he said was “how do they know he’s a Witcher?”. I then also gave him a warning that the show segments exist in different times and they’ll be jumping around a lot. Needless to say I think he was lost for most of it.

      1. DanS says:

        My wife and I watched it together and I went in being well-versed with the books and the games and she knew nothing about either, but she and I both enjoyed it for what I think are different reasons.

        I would watch a scene and see how all of the threads would connect between characters and places and events while my wife just took things at face value. She benefited from not knowing what she didn’t know. Stuff that seemed vital to me just by virtue of me knowing it beforehand wasn’t actually required at all in her understanding what was happening right there on the screen. There was a lot of bigger context that she wasn’t seeing, but that didn’t impede the immediate story being told. In fact, she’d get annoyed when I tried to explain “book stuff.”

        I had become the Witcher version of the type of people that the GoT TV show fans came to hate: The fan that was always saying “Well, in the books…”

    2. Syal says:

      I canceled Netflix a while back so haven’t seen this, but my take on Netflix shows is they think leaving out information creates intrigue and will generate interest instead of killing it. Would like to see someone’s take on how the Witcher compares with Altered Carbon; ‘high nudity, low information’ sounds familiar.

      1. djw says:

        I haven’t seen either show. In general though, I think that the balance between too much information and too little information is extremely delicate, and probably varies from person to person.

        1. Syal says:

          Thats why I want to see a comparison. Altered Carbon made Episode 7 a flashback to information the audience should have had in Episode 1, and it drove me up a wall.

          1. Gautsu says:

            I loved both shows. I got the ordering of Altered Carbon’s reveals, and enjoyed it. Obviously, you didn’t. For that one I went in being unfamiliar with the books, not sure if that is why I enjoyed it so much

    3. Olivier FAURE says:

      I dunno about the silver part.

      In the first episode, the mutant lady says “Magic doesn’t work on me. Silver does, though”, and Geralt shouts “Silver is for monsters!”. That seemed clear enough to me, though I’m familiar with silver as a monster-repellent from other fantasy stories.

      Same thing for Jaskier. They introduce him singing and doing bard stuff, then he he starts following Geralt around, and really, that’s all the info you need.

      1. Steve C says:

        I don’t know. When I heard that all I could think was “silver works on most things.” Given the context I got it, but still. If Henry Cavill punched me with a silver knuckleduster, I would go down just as easy as if he punched me with a brass knuckleduster.

        It would have said more if *iron* did not work on her, but silver did.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Quite. It’s a sword; it’ll work on most things vulnerable to swords, right? And if you have a silver sword, do you need a steel one? Humans aren’t resistant to silver after all…

          (I noticed that Geralt didn’t carry two swords in the show. Maybe he agreed that the steel blade was unnecessary?)

          1. Benden says:

            Well, pure silver is pretty soft. You wouldn’t face off against steel weapons with a silver one. And even if it’s an alloy or plated it won’t keep an edge like steel. After a couple stabbings/slashings of fabric and flesh, you’d need to hone the silver one again. So the steel might be utilitarian, reserving the PITA silver for cases where its use is justified.

            1. Syal says:

              Silver’s also going to be expensive. “Silver is for monsters” could mean “I’m not wasting the money on you.”

          2. Nimrandir says:

            I mean, silver slashing weapons have a damage penalty, and if years of tabletop gaming have taught me anything, it’s that you never give up damage if you don’t absolutely have to do so.

          3. In the books, Geralt carries two swords (though not on his back) because one is a silvered blade and one is made from meteorite iron. Both are for different varieties of monster, but the presence of the two swords leads to the cultural myth among suspicious peasants that Witchers carry a silver sword for monsters and a steel sword for humans.

            In the games, that’s essentially true. The third game has the steel sword work best on animals like wolves, bears, and wild dogs, but mostly you use the steel sword for humans and the silver sword for monsters.

            It’s unclear which is true in the show. Geralt’s line that the silver sword is for monsters suggests the second, but it’s not confirmed.

          4. Thomas says:

            Geralt does have two swords in the show, but he only wears his steel sword. You see the silver sword on his backroll thing that he carries around with him. The showrunners confirmed that one is silver and that it’s in Roaches saddlebags normally because silver is too valuable and soft to carry to do your everyday bashing with.

            I wish the show made a slightly bigger deal of him getting his silver sword out. There’s some narrative tension if it’s normally packed away – when he fights those underground grave monsters in the end, I guess he’s using his silver sword, but it would be nice if I knew that

        2. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Geralt doesn’t use the silver sword when it’s not needed so that he doesn’t risk losing it. The logic is pretty clear. It’s a weaker sword in terms of durability and would be MUCH more expensive to replace.

    4. Steve C says:

      @Felix, I think it needed less exposition and more information.
      When the show went into an exposition dump, it went into real exposition dump. They were frequent and deep. Still sadly lacking context and information.

    5. BlueHorus says:

      Also: the Law of Surprise. A lot of the other magical stuff is based on well-known mythology or fantasy tropes – silver weapons, djinns, curses based on terrible things people did – but the Law of Surprise isn’t*. And it’s explained…once? AFTER it’s been mentioned a couple of times?

      *Unless it’s part of Polish / Eastern Eurpoean folklore? I don’t know much.

      1. Thomas says:

        I’m from the UK and I’ve heard of it before – not being referred to literally, but promising someone they can have the first thing you see when you get back home, and in the stories it always happens to be the child.

        It’s in the Book of Judges in the bible and I think a few fairy tales? For some reason I thought there was a Greek version, but I couldn’t find it.

        1. Syal says:

          As a counterpoint, I just now Googled it and still don’t understand. Definitely need some exposition on what it is, what limits there are on invoking it, limits on what you get and such.

          1. Thomas says:

            I guess I was more happy to go with the flow. To me its a fairytale thing, it’s hard to see how you could ever enforce it on the real world. A real person would just lie about his wife buying a new broom or something.

            The answer in the world of fiction is, it’s always a child. Geralt should have been more genre savvy.

      2. AzzyGaiden says:

        After the show was released there were ten thousand articles asking/explaining what the Law of Surprise was supposed to be.

        This kind of opaque storytelling is attracting a lot of attention, but I can’t help but think it’s sloppy writing if you’re relying upon external sources to explain what the hell is going on.

        1. Guest says:

          They literally explain it in the episode lol. I didn’t know what the Law of Suprise was, and then they say that the law of suprise entitles them what the person who made the promise has, but does not yet know they have, whether that be a bumper crop that was larger than expected, harvested in their absence, or a child born while they were absent. Those are specifically used as examples!

          Really, is this what people are doing now? Why would a show in which people stop to explain commonly understood traditions they live by every day be an improvement? Just because you have to pay attention doesn’t mean exposition isn’t happening, it means they understood the concept of “Show, Don’t Tell”.

          We understand the Law of Suprise, because it is explained in words, it forms the basis of the plot of an episode, so that they can explain Geralt’s relation to *spoiler* with it, it’s basically the rule of threes, it’s really not hard to follow.

          1. AzzyGaiden says:

            There’s a way to disagree without putting across this smug tone. All you’re really doing is trying to stir up hostility. So, nah, not gonna engage.

      3. StrongStyleFiction says:

        Should have called it the Law of the Spanish Inquisition.

    6. Guest says:

      Personally, I think that’s a strength. Jaskier introduces himself fine: He is a bard, and he is bad at his job because he annoys people, and tends to create drama with his promiscuity, and seeing he isn’t getting anywhere playing in a tavern, as he’s a dandy who likes finery, he tries his luck riding with an already-infamous Geralt.

      The details of the world, silver swords, what kingdoms are where, I like that they don’t go to a great effort to explain it, because it makes it feel like the characters live in the world. People get things explained to them when they logically don’t know them, rather than the show feeling like it’s filling you in. And it neatly ties into the Witcher’s writing, since the Witcher books have never been overly concerned with the specificities of the metaphysics of the world, they keep the detail on a need-to-know basis.

      And if you haven’t worked out that a Witcher is a monster hunter, after the titular Witcher hunts a monster in his very first scene, before attempting to redeem a contract on it to set the first episode’s plot in motion, and all of his dialogue regarding his conflict with a human in that episode being them going “Well, I’m a monster, you kill monsters for a living” and him going “Yes, but you’re not a monster, I can tell, I kill monsters for a living”, well, that’s hardly the fault of the show.

      1. krellen says:

        I want to slam the “Like” or “+1” button several dozen times on this comment.

    7. AzzyGaiden says:

      I too was the designated Witcher Explainer in my friend group.

  4. The Witcher tv series (so far) show that you can adapt books and games and be respectful to both, and has nothing to prove (GoT had something to proove) besides being able to tell good stories set in a rich world.

    Witcher 3 (the game) is also break all records seemingly, never has there been more active players than now and the game seems to be climbing on the sales charts again.

    Speaking of witch. On GOG right now you can get the ENTIRE Witcher collection at 78% off

    Cavill himself has spoken often in interviews that Geralt in the games served as a inspiration (in addition to the books), and there certainly are some familiarity in some of the mannerisms.
    The shows producers also gave a few subtle nods to the game (Geralt in bathtub scene for example).
    There is also a scene where Geralt comes out of a cave and those who hired him tries to screw him over, that part reminded me of a side mission in Witcher 3 (no clue if it’s also in the books).

    Speaking of the producers. They have a benefit that the GoT producers did not, there are no ongoing books. They have the entire Witcher lore/world to play in and can pick and choose the pacing of how things are going.

    I’m not sure why they did the parallel and offset time jumps in the first season, but they perhaps had to to get the Ciri backstory out of the way while introducing Yennifer and “a day on the job with Geralt the witcher”. If not then we’d have over half a season without any Geralt maybe? Though they could have come up with filler stuff I guess.

    I’m gonna guess there will be a little more time jumps in second season but only near sparingly used. The three/four key players are now in the same area (Geralt, Ciri, Yennifer, Triss, can’t recall where Dandelion and the dwarf are though?)

    1. Asdasd says:

      What did GoT have to prove?

      1. Steve C says:

        GoT had to prove that 1)a fantasy show could be done well and 2)be interesting to a larger audience outside of genre nerds like us.

        1. Thomas says:

          GoT spent a long time selling people on ‘this is different from that dumb fantasy you don’t like’ (not that I think it’s dumb). The Witcher the game series did a lot of that too and Dragon Age.

          If anything, I don’t think the debate is totally settled yet and the Netflix show might have had a bit more buzz if they marketed it as a bit more ‘anti-Fantasy’. More ‘good prophecies rhyme’ stuff. I saw one reviewer who seemed to miss the sarcasm in that.

        2. Guest says:

          and 3) that you could sustain interest in such a niche property at a high enough level to be able to AFFORD to make it.

          Period shit is expensive yo. The costumes and sets and locations are all much harder to work with than something contemporary, and people living in a time of swords instead of guns makes your action scenes a lot more expensive just from choreography. Making 10 hours of it is a big ask, an expensive ask, and a harder sell than the Lord of The Rings, and LOTR was a really hard sell, originally, the producers didn’t want to do three films, they felt it was too big a risk, and kept trying to keep it cheaper than what it could feasibly be done for.

  5. Lino says:

    I finally got around to watching it, and I’m blown away at how well they’ve managed to capture the books and the characters. Aside from some weird casting choices (of secondary characters, thank God), I think they’ve done an amazing job.

    My only concern is what they’re going to do once they run out of Books 1 and 2. Or rather, once they run out of the material in the second book, since they’ve pretty much already run out of the material in the first. Because not only do the subsequent eshcew the “monster of the week” format, but more importantly, there’s not a lot that actually happens in them – before the climax, characters just meander and almost nothing of note happens.

    Initially, I was quite disappointed in the Books 3-7, because I read them long before the third game came out, and I felt kind of cheated over the fact that 70-80% of the books were about Ciri (or Tziri, as her name is actually pronounced). After all, if I buy books about the Witcher, I expect to read more stuff about… THE Witcher! It was not until the third game that I actually started caring about Ciri as a character, and I imagine that if I re-read the books now, I’ll probably like her more as a character.

    However, the issue of not much happening still stands – especially when it comes to Geralt. So they’ll either have to think of something more for Geralt to do or we’ll be seeing a lot less of Henry Cavill in future seasons…

    1. Guest says:

      Yeah, I feel like they really got through stuff at a quick pace. It’s good, and it doesn’t drag, but I think the conceit of “Yen and Geralt are effectively immortal and keep running into each other years apart” left them a lot of room to put in more monster of the week sort of stuff, like a lot of the shorts in the Last Wish.

  6. Decius says:

    You can ABSOLUTELY get away with doing little or no pure exposition and just have the characters know what’s going on most of the time.

    If you need the audience to understand how something is supposed to work, set it up to happen normally once or twice to establish the setting before it becomes important. Or you can have one character explain part of it to another who doesn’t already know, in a way that is character development, not exposition. The Mandolaran managed that pretty well, with Mando revealing things to other characters as a part of his own character development that also served to educate the audience.

    1. SkySC says:

      I think there were very few moments where the characters explained something just so that the audience would know what was happening. The writers very skillfully fit enough explanation into dialogue that doubled as character development or driving the plot, so it all worked together very naturally. I’ve never read the books or played the games, I was just a little familiar with the story from hearing about the third game, and I was never confused as to what was going on. It was always clear what was happening in the moment and what the stakes were, so I think going without exposition paid off.

      The most difficult thing to keep track of was the timeline, but there were enough moments where someone would casually mention some concurrent event that clued you into the relative order of different scenes. If you’re paying attention, you can tell that the main Geralt storyline starts several decades before the Ciri storyline from the very first episode, since Renfri mentions Calanthe taking power as something recent. There are lots of little moments like that throughout the season. However, I don’t think it would’ve hurt to put some text on screen with a date or “x years ago” or something, for the benefit of people who aren’t paying as much attention. The clues really do go by very quickly and the main characters don’t age in any noticeable way, so I imagine some people might’ve been completely baffled when Geralt meets Calanthe and Ciri hasn’t even been born yet.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        Yeah, when Yennefer casually mentioned her three decades as a mage I found myself wishing for some indicator of what year scenes were taking place.

      2. Decius says:

        Yeah, if you’re going to do flashbacks, somehow indicating that you’re breaking sequence is important.

        1. Guest says:

          Bud, they aren’t flashbacks, so we know that you didn’t watch it and that you don’t know what you’re on about.

          They’re two plots, several decades apart. Indicating you are “breaking sequence” would be wrong-they aren’t breaking sequence to go to a flashback which needs a different colour grade to show it is a memory, that needs to go back to the default grade when the flashback ends, the sequences are intact, causal things with entirely normal temporal logic, and it would be detrimental to the show as a whole to depict a third of it in sepia to show “This is the old timey part”

          A lot of the episodes happen years apart. What would be nice in some places were more indicators that time has passed, because you end up with the situation where Jaskier greets Geralt as an old friend, and they’ve known each other for a couple of episodes and you play catchup realising-oh, this is actually years and many adventures later. But placing them in a timeline is hard. It’s easier when the Queen shows up, because she ages more visibly than some, and we hear a lot more about her plot from Yennefer, and see her relationship with Geralt deteriorating, but it would have also been nice to have more characters who act as reference points like that. It gets especially confusing with one character, who is murdered and replaced by a magical doppleganger at one point, and as you don’t know exactly how the timelines fit together… yeah.

    2. Guest says:

      They do exactly that though. People are mistaking “I didn’t get it because I sat down in a room full of people to talk about it while watching it and missed it” for “This is communicating poorly”. Like, if you watched the first episode of Game of Thrones like that, it made no sense too, I know ’cause that’s exactly how I was introduced to GOT. If you need to understand a detail, it is mentioned, and typically more than once, it’s just that nobody is going to stop and exposit to an audience insert character how things people in the world already know, work. Geralt doesn’t need to tell anyone “Witchers are hated and despised” because the show shows this to us. Geralt doesn’t need to explain silver, because Renfri specifically mentions that silver is for monsters during a mental breakdown where she views herself as one. One of the cases I’ve seen mentioned numerous times, is literally explained the first time it is brought up, and forms the backbone of an entire episode, which then serves to teach the viewer about that for when it comes up again.

      It’s not something you can zone out and catch all the details of.

      I’ll agree with SkySC: The hardest thing to keep track of is the timeline, because there are actually two timelines running at the same time, one with an elder Queen Calanthe and Ciri, and one with a younger Queen Calanthe and Geralt, which is made a little more confusing by Geralt not aging, and these timelines being introduced out of order, but once you catch on, it makes sense.

  7. I nearly fell off my chair laughing when Yennefer casually mentions to another witch about “going off the grid”. (Shamus also mentioned this in his podcast.)

    It’s so bizarrely anachronistic. WHAT GRID IS SHE TALKING ABOUT? Does Stregebor live in a cellphone tower?

    1. Lino says:

      It’s actually explained in the books. The wizards and sorceresses in the Witcher world have a sort of telepathic link with each other, and whenever one of them casts a spell, the rest of them can feel it, and know exactly where the person who cast the spell is located. So “getting off the grid” means not casting any spells so that her fellow wizards don’t know where she is.

      It’s a major plot point in some of the later books, and it’s the reason Tissia went to Yennefer after she started casting spells again.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        Just because you can technically explain it doesn’t mean it isn’t anachronistic and silly sounding.

        Imagine if, while searching for Ciri, someone said “Our princess is in another castle!” It doesn’t matter if you can justify in the fiction why someone might use those exact words; it’s still a mistake to use those exact words unless you’re intentionally making a joke.

        1. Lino says:

          Well, then be prepared for a lot of anachronisms when they get to the third (or fourth?) book when the Lodge of Sorceresses have a long, in-depth chat about recessive genes and how they get passed on.

          One of the things I like about this universe is how it intertwines Medieval and modern themes, bringing fantasy and old-school sci-fi as close as possible without ever leaving the trappings of Medieval fantasy. But to each their own, I suppose.

          1. Chad Miller says:

            You’re still missing the point entirely.

            What’s being made fun of is not technology, but slang. What the slang is actually talking about barely factors into it.

            Laughing out loud probably existed back then too, but someone saying “LOL” would be entirely out of place. If the characters have detailed knowledge of modern phenomena and talk about those phenomena in the most natural way because they factor into the story, that’s actually better!

            1. stylesrj says:

              How about this: You are watching recorded footage from another world and the writing and dialogue is what the translators thought best for the audience which includes anachronistic terms because well… if you wanna translate, go ahead.

              There, that can explain a lot of things anachronistic about a show. They’re speaking their native language and the translators are a bunch of hacks.

              1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

                But this concept will ruin immersion in the first place.
                Just ignoring anachronisms is far better strategy.

    2. Syal says:

      It’s short for “griddle”. She’s getting herself off the griddle, where all the activity is taking place. At least until the heat dies down.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Little does she know that she’s going to make her situation worse when she does…she just goes out of the pan and djinn-to the fire.

        She fried to solve her fertility problem but it didn’t work.

  8. Steve C says:

    The Witcher suffers from what I think of as “Netflix Syndrome”. I’ve written about it on the (now defunct) forums here. Netflix has a habit of doing the hard and expensive stuff really really well. Yet they do the easy and cheap stuff inexplicably poorly. A Netflix show might have amazing cinematography with expensive visuals and then wreck it by deliberately shaking the camera a lot. In The Witcher’s case, it seemed really interesting. Except it was very disjointed and nothing was ever really explained well. Not from a goals and character perspective at least. It turned the expensive interesting into boring. I watched three episodes. Not sure I want to watch more.

    I was constantly wondering; why is this character doing this? Why do I care that this character is doing this? Am I supposed to care about this character? Am I supposed to dislike this character? This was both with the broad strokes and the details. For example in Eps2 I’m wondering why did Yennifer start eating the flower when she couldn’t do magic? Why does she even care about this class? What are the stakes if she can’t? She certainly seems disinterested… kinda. I’m confused. Later, in another scene she eats a different flower. Why?

    Its fine to leave things unexplained and up to interpretation. The “you’ll always have the girl in the forest” is a great example. Problem is the whole show seems to be like that for mundane things too. Is 100 ducats a lot? Is it a pittance? I have no frame of reference. It is supposed to be a poor farmer with dirt on his face. He easily and happily gives up 150. Two characters just had a mundane interaction and I can’t tell what just happened. Then there are all the proper nouns spoken with accents. I have to keep subtitles on to figure out what is said… and I still don’t have any context nor understanding.

    Note on Henry Cavil’s character; He seemed to be playing the same character, the same way, and with the same mannerisms as his character from those JJ Abrams movies. IE a brooding demigod that wants to help humanity. Yet is constantly disappointed by humanity. Saddened and inconvenienced by his attempts to fit into the world. A kind of perpetual grimaced constipation or disinterest. Or a “I’m above this but I’m going to do it anyway” resignation. I couldn’t get over how I was constantly reminded of the same character.

    Oh and I really hated the music like “Toss a Coin”.

    1. DanS says:

      I hate to be THAT guy, but here goes: I’d say that the show doesn’t truly start to hit its stride and get good until episode four. But with that being said, if the first three did nothing for you, there’s no sense in “grinding” onward with it.

      As for the song, I look at it like a pop song – not necessarily good, but infinitely catchy. I wasn’t blown away by it while watching the show, but I find myself singing it all the time now.

      1. Steve C says:

        It did something for me. I did give it 3 hours after all. I don’t hate it. It has a lot of good qualities. It fails at some really easy basic stuff though. For example 3 hours is more than enough time to like or hate a character. Yet I have no strong likes nor dislikes. Too often I a scene would end and I’m left wondering what I was supposed to think about it. How I was supposed to feel. I don’t see how character motivations match up with their actions.

        The town will be under attack shortly! Ok… town walls that are left unmanned. So you’re evacuating? Nope. Doing nothing… ok… why? Giving out poison… alright is this some sort of deception? Nope. One mage holds the gate while the rest of the knights mender around the castle. Is this kingdom super incompetent or is the showrunner? What I am I supposed to feel? Was this a tragedy? Certainly didn’t feel like one. All this action was all done well. It certainly looked cool. I just have no idea why they picked the stupidest options in every case. Why did any of these things happen?

        “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher” Is that supposed to be Gratitude? Or is that supposed to be like tossing a bone to someone? Should it be read like tossing a coin to a hobo? (Because he is a hobo.) If you tossed me a nickle, I’m not going to appreciate it. I’m going to be offended. If I toss a quarter to Henry Cavill (in or out of character) is he going to be thankful? Or is he going to punch me?

        I can’t tell what the song is supposed to convey! But maybe it is supposed to be a bad song. I can’t tell. The whole show is like that to me.

        1. Guest says:

          “The town will be under attack shortly! Ok… town walls that are left unmanned. So you’re evacuating? Nope. Doing nothing… ok… why? Giving out poison… alright is this some sort of deception? Nope. One mage holds the gate while the rest of the knights mender around the castle. Is this kingdom super incompetent or is the showrunner? What I am I supposed to feel? Was this a tragedy? Certainly didn’t feel like one. All this action was all done well. It certainly looked cool. I just have no idea why they picked the stupidest options in every case. Why did any of these things happen?”

          1. The army was defeated out in the field.
          2. They retreated, and were not pursued.
          3. The knew their kingdom would know fall, the best they could hope for was siege.
          4. Nilfgaard attacking immediately after winning the prior battle caught them by suprise.
          5. The army was destroyed and the castle is compromised-the nobility are taking poison rather than risking being used as political prisoners, or more likely, being tortured to death, especially for those who have information about Ciri.

          This is all very clear. I don’t see how this is anything but your fault.

          ““Toss A Coin To Your Witcher” Is that supposed to be Gratitude? Or is that supposed to be like tossing a bone to someone? Should it be read like tossing a coin to a hobo? (Because he is a hobo.) If you tossed me a nickle, I’m not going to appreciate it. I’m going to be offended. If I toss a quarter to Henry Cavill (in or out of character) is he going to be thankful? Or is he going to punch me?”

          It’s a song about being glad to pay your Witcher, and seeing his coming as good fortune, not bad luck, and in universe, is Jaskier changing Geralt’s reputation, and doing so, because he can make himself famous by writing a great song which becomes popular, and songs about legendary and famous figures are more well known than those that aren’t.

          It’s not about tossing a coin to a hobo, you are being deliberately obtuse. It’s about paying someone for services rendered, and gladly, rather than trying to steal his saddlebags and horse, or cheat him, or set an angry mod on him. You know, that thing we see happen to Geralt in the first episode. It’s PR, it’s a song about how the White Wolf comes to solve your problems, so pay up, be glad he came, and we literally see why he has bad PR in the first episode.

          We can play this all day with these nitpicks, they all have really simple answers you missed, or are just nonsensical inventions.

          You are just not paying attention, and not one of these nitpicks seriously undermines the story. They do undermine your credibility as a reasonable critic tho.

          1. Vermander says:


            I had all of the same questions about the siege (or lack thereof). All of this information may have been conveyed onscreen, but if it was, a lot of people seemed to have missed it. The shifting timelines only made it more confusing.

          2. Steve C says:

            Ok let’s go through your points one by one:

            #1. Why did the army go out in the field in the first place?
            For a defending force being attacked and waiting for reinforcements, the standard strategy is to defend a siege and wait for those reinforcements. To not do so is weird. Cause it is a really solid strategy. The Siege of Alesia is famous today 2070 years later because it was the first time anyone came up with a counter strategy that worked.

            #2. They retreated and were not pursued.
            Ok. I understood that. That is one of the reasons why it doesn’t make sense. If they were pursued and routed all the way back without ability to send word then then it would make more sense why they couldn’t defend the town. Still stretches credibility but w/e. But that didn’t happen. They retreated and were not pursued. Giving time for a defense of the city and castle. Or time for a warning and a hasty evacuation of refugees. Again we know a defense was possible because of the knights killed later in the castle who were milling about in the hallways.

            #3. The best they could hope for was siege.
            Yes. Precisely. So why wasn’t there a siege? Again, they have reinforcements coming delayed by weather. Yet they left the town gates open. And the town population was not warned. When the attacking army was beating on the castle gates, nobody opposed them. They were in bow range. There were knights inside the castle. Nothing happened.

            #4. Nilfgaard did NOT attack immediately after winning the prior battle.
            We agree in #2 that they retreated and were not pursued. And even if they did, it still makes no sense because #1 and #3.

            #5. nobility are taking poison
            Yes. I understood that. Only because there wasn’t another more logical answer. Why didn’t the nobles leave before that point? The standing army has been defeated. There’s an attacking army coming. There’s apparently no defense? Or at least no confidence in a defense? Why not leave before the slaughter arrives? It’s fine if they were all betrayed or lied to. That would explain things far better than what actually happened. The queen is supposed to care about her subjects but doesn’t do anything that shows she cares. The queen is supposed to be competent but doesn’t do anything shows she is competent.

            And finally @Guest– drop the ad hominem attacks please.

            1. Gautsu says:

              They expected the reinforcements from Skellige, and find out they sank in a storm, in the field. So they were arrogant to assume, which appears to be Calanthe’s character flaw in the first place. It’s only later that we find out Fringilla sank them.

              They didn’t nees to show a scene announcing to the town people they lost, that would be assumed when they rode out with an army and back with an injured queen and no army.

              A siege needs a defending army not just a token force as well as laid up supplies.

              A small group of people traveling quickly will always move faster than an army. For all of its faults Eddings The Belgariad had a great explanation of this in Magician’s Endgame. So Nilfgaard attacked as soon as they were able to get there.

              The biggest point is that they all rely on Calanthe to make decisions and she is stuck in disbelief and regret and as we later learn paying for reneging to destiny.

              All of which, as evidenced by your questions, could be missed at first glance. But my wife picked up on it without it needed to be spelled out for her. Different people have different amounts of explanantion needed and genre saviness to assist, and I think they made an interesting show that encourages a second watch, if you missed something (and I guarantee most of us did) on the first view.

    2. krellen says:

      For example in Eps2 I’m wondering why did Yennifer start eating the flower when she couldn’t do magic? Why does she even care about this class? What are the stakes if she can’t? She certainly seems disinterested… kinda. I’m confused.

      Your confusion is quite obvious, but I’m not sure it’s the show’s fault. At that point, it had already been well-established that Yennifer could do magic (she instinctively had created a portal to get her out of her bullying), and that she has a world of things to prove (Tissia saved her life after she slit her wrists, showing Tissia to be the only person who ever seemed to show even a modicum of care whether Yen lived or died; her background of abuse and neglect had been well-established by the bullying couple and her stepfather selling her for less than a pig (which is why Tissia calls her “piglet”)) so the stuff you don’t understand is just her trying anything to prove herself worthy. The second flower was duplicating Idrenn’s “off-the-grid” portal magic he had just showed her in the scene immediately preceding.

      But the show is never going to answer your other questions, because it isn’t a details first setting. It doesn’t matter how much money 150 ducats is. All that matters is that it’s enough for Geralt to do the task.

      1. Syal says:

        It doesn’t matter how much money 150 ducats is. All that matters is that it’s enough for Geralt to do the task.

        I think it does matter how much value people put into what a Witcher does. And it takes two words to convey it; if it’s a lot, Geralt replies “That much?” If it’s a pittance, Geralt replies “That’s it?”

        1. Decius says:

          All that would convey is that the amount is different from the normal amount for that task.

          The lack of comment establishes that it’s a typical amount.

          1. Syal says:

            Techically, but combine it with Geralt’s feelings on the importance of rewards and it’ll give you enough of a feel to say whether 100 ducats is a lot of money.

            1. Steve C says:

              Yet he gives it all away. Which neuters that personal importance. So still muddled and unclear.

            2. The Puzzler says:

              Wikipedia says a Hungarian ducat was 3.5g of high-purity gold, which is as likely a basis as any. At modern gold prices, that’s $175 per ducat, so 150 ducats would be $26K. On this basis, witchering is well-paid work. Is that the impression we’re supposed to get?

              1. Guest says:

                The impression you’re meant to get is that Geralt thinks his life is worth more than the people who hire him do. The impression you’re meant to get is from what’s on screen, not from googling a different ducat from a real country.

                And yes, Witchering is well paid work, because they’re nomadic, use silver weapons, and spend up to weeks at a time on one job, before travelling in search of more work, obviously, he’s doing better than a peasant.

                Just using some basic intuition would serve you better than playing Cinemasins.

                1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

                  Actually in books Geralt is underpaid, and that’s a part of the theme of the progress. Witchers and monsters are dying out in the timeline of books, so it might be a bit important.

                  By the way, Krellen reminded below, that pig worth ten ducats in the first episode. That means Geralt gets paid 10-15 pigs of worth for the job. That’s around 3-5 cows. So with one contract per month he’ll get roughly the same payment as a good craftsmen. But he’ll spend around 2 cows worth for lodging, horse treatment, food, prostitutes etc. And he’ll occasionally need a replacement for Roach (around 1 cow worth), new clothes, etc. So it’s enough, but he’s not living in luxury, so show somewhat nailed it.

        2. krellen says:

          For the record, it’s established in the second episode that a pig is worth ten ducats, and a hunchbacked stepdaughter you hate is worth four.

        3. Guest says:

          That’s already communicated.

          The guy offers 100.

          Geralt answers that that is too small, and he will take 150 or leave. Which is exactly how it works in the books, in the games. Geralt negotiates upfront and usually wants more than the contract is worth-in fact, part of showing this is communicating why he offers to do a job for free later.

          EXACTLY what you wanted to be communicated was, and it’s again, a pointless detail.

          I swear, some of you would be happier if Geralt had stopped and said “A ducat is .2 ounces of gold, which today, is enough to purchase 5 bushels of barley, or a small goat”. Which again, is pointless, because at the end of the episode, we’re potentially jumping off years into the future, and the specifics of Geralt’s bank balance are COMPLETELY irrelevant.

      2. Steve C says:

        Yes. I understand that Yennifer could do magic. And *no* it is the shows fault that it didn’t establish why *this particular class* was important. Why *this* particular trick was important. Yennifer can do magic- she’s proven it. So does it matter that she cannot do a common magic when she can do a rare and powerful one? Does she really need to prove herself worthy? If she wants to go free maybe she should be proving herself unworthy? Both seem reasonable.

        And Tissa is her owner. Yennifer is a purchased slave. “Caring” doesn’t necessarily enter into it. Someone wouldn’t want their slave’s wrist’s slashed as much as I wouldn’t want my car’s tire’s slashed. They have not demonstrated that Tissia actually cares. And calling someone a piglet isn’t exactly endearing nor caring. But it is extremely muddled! I can’t tell!

        The stuff I don’t understand in this show is characters have an interaction and I cannot judge the interaction. You say that was caring and proving herself. I can see a case for both. Shouldn’t it be clear? That’s what I mean by failing at the easy stuff. If two characters have an interaction, storytelling 101 is that interaction should be clear.

        Another example is the song. I think it is a terrible song. Is it deliberately bad? That is a valid narrative device. (Remember Brave Brave Sir Robin?) But I can’t tell the purpose of the song. Geralt opinion is that it is “inaccurate.” How about “It’s fine, but wrong.” Or “I hate it.” If Geralt had said something like that I could at least figure out if I’m *supposed to* hate it. That’s what I’m constantly doing in this show; trying to figure out the purpose of each scene. Am I supposed to like Yennifer? I don’t. Am I supposed to like Tissia? I don’t. Liking or disliking them is valid either way. Importantly that I can’t figure out what the show expects me to feel about them. That’s a failing of the show.

        And no, it is not ‘details first’ to give basic context. Knowing if something being exchanged is valuable or not is basic information.

        1. krellen says:

          The song’s purpose is stated explicitly by Jaskier: it is supposed to make Geralt famous, and salve his reputation sullied by the “Butcher of Blaviken” moniker. It is also established that a) Geralt dislikes it and b) audiences enjoy it, evidenced by Geralt’s grumbling and the fact that Geralt begins to be called “the White Wolf” instead of “the Butcher of Blaviken”.

          The answers are there.

          And yes, Yennifer really needs to prove herself worthy. Every single time. Every action Yennifer ever takes (at least up to her transformation) is an attempt to prove herself worthy. I’m not sure why this wasn’t patently obvious to you, but it was to me.

          1. krellen says:

            I suspect the reason these details slipped by you is because you were probably disinvested earlier than you thought you were, and watched more out of inertia than a desire to see more, perhaps?

            1. Steve C says:

              I think you are misunderstanding me. The whole discussion with the song feels like a fundamental misunderstanding of my point: The information communicated between characters and information communicated to the audience is not the same thing.

              Two characters give a knowing look to each other.

              Those characters know what it means by very definition. It could be respect. It could be hate. It could be despair. Importantly that has to be communicated to the audience too. If it isn’t explained or multiple conflicting meanings are implied then it just ends up muddled. It just becomes a scene where they looked at each other. If I can’t tell the purpose of the scene then why is that scene even in the show? If one scene says one thing about a character and/or plot and a later scene demonstrates contradictory information… the characters can be happy and in the know while the story the audience watches becomes muddled and confusing.

              The song means something to the characters. It means something else to me the audience and to the story as a whole. Two characters exchange money. I don’t care about the weight of gold or the # amount or even if it is made of chocolate. I’m sure both characters understood what happened. Was Geralt given a lot of money? Did Geralt give *away* a lot of money later? Geralt *seems to* have strong feelings about money. From what we know about Geralt, it was a lot of money. From what we know of the dirt covered peasant paying, and with the ease he paid, it was *not* a lot of money. As the audience I feel it is important to know which to understand Geralt as a character. Does he not really care about money? Does he really only use it as an excuse? Maybe? It is not clear. It could be clear- easily. It’s just not.

              The details are there sure. But they are muddled. It’s not that these details slipped by me. It is because something else happened that contradicts an implied event or implied characterization.

              We’re *told* the queen is a good queen. We’re *shown* the queen is a bad queen. Yennifer is *implied* to want the approval of others. Yennifer’s *actions* demonstrate she does not actually want approval. Her actions involve repeated disobedience, a lightning attack and gleefully discarding her eel friend. Yennifer *appears* to want the approval of her boyfriend then immediately discards him for what she apparently really wanted all the time… not approval– but power! But maybe it is approval like you said. It makes sense! The scenes certainly alluded to that reason… but muddled. If only her actions were consistent and didn’t contradict previous characterization it would be clear. Thing is… that muddled nature could be valid narratively too! She is a scared lost girl after all. But the work isn’t done to make that clear. Instead other actions and events contradict that characterization.

              It’s not that the details aren’t there, it is that I also have to ignore other details for it to be internally consistent.

          2. Guest says:

            Imagine how awful it must be to deal with a consistent character with a character motivation.

            “Oh, I didn’t understand why the characters do what they do”

            Really, because Yen literally starts the series feeling extremely unwanted and unloved, and her every decision buys into that. She is shown to have great power, but it is repressed due in part to abuse, which we’ve also seen. She seeks greater power to prove that she is worthwhile, and prove her parents (Who sold her for less than a pig), that she is not only worthy, she is most worthy. That’s also why she goes to such great lengths to try for fertility-it would be an achievement beyond any other mage, and would make her the most worthy, and it would give her the opportunity for the loving family she never had.

            “Oh, but I don’t know why characters do things”

          3. Steve C says:

            Either the song is accidentally bad or it is purposely bad. Both are possibilities. Both have different consequences to the narrative. Therefore I don’t know what the song’s purpose is as a narrative element in a fictional story that I am watching. I can’t tell what the song is supposed to convey to me, the audience watching a TV show.

            Yes, the song’s purpose is explicitly stated. But it is so bad. It does not accomplish its explicitly stated purpose. It is an awful song. It is described in universe as an inaccurate song. If the song accomplishes its stated purpose it is only by writer fiat. But it’s not clear if it does or will or even if it is supposed to really.

            An actor that is bad at acting could be portraying a character that is bad at acting or they could be just be bad at acting. It is kind of important to the audience to recognize which one it is. The song is like that. Is it deliberately bad? Or is it simply bad? It would be nice to know.

            1. krellen says:

              I will simply note that your opinion “it is a bad song” is quite clearly the minority opinion and leave it at that.

            2. Paul Spooner says:

              Whenever the “Toss a coin to your witcher” song tries to play in my head, I put on my mental vinyl of “Come down from your crystal fortress”.
              “Please go toss a coin to your Witcher, oh Strong Bad. The unicorn awaits at the rainbow bridge…”

    3. Guest says:

      “Its fine to leave things unexplained and up to interpretation. The “you’ll always have the girl in the forest” is a great example. Problem is the whole show seems to be like that for mundane things too. Is 100 ducats a lot? Is it a pittance? I have no frame of reference. It is supposed to be a poor farmer with dirt on his face. He easily and happily gives up 150. Two characters just had a mundane interaction and I can’t tell what just happened. Then there are all the proper nouns spoken with accents. I have to keep subtitles on to figure out what is said… and I still don’t have any context nor understanding.”

      hahaha. Wait, really?

      Come on. You are asking for them to explain how a currency you aren’t meant to be bothering with the details of anyway, because how full Geralt’s wallet is, isn’t relevant beyond “I need more work”! That isn’t a detail that’s needed, that’s just sillyness.

      100 ducats is in the neighbourhood of what a dead monster is worth. 150 is clearly bartering, both are what can be afforded by the one paying, and neither is an important detail. The point is, Witchers negotiate their contracts, and prize their lives highly, and know they can always wrinkle out more-the scene isn’t MEANT to have anything to do with what a ducat is, it’s to demonstrate that the characters are shrewd and distrustful. This is just inventing problems.

      1. Steve C says:

        I find your tone derisive and needlessly hostile.

  9. RandomInternetGuy says:

    I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed by the show, though ultimately I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next season.
    Relieved, because the performances of Geralt and Yen were better than expected – I didn’t think these casting choices were great, but they really made up for it with their acting.
    But disappointed, because is is clear that this is not going to be the next Game of Thrones, as I had hoped. This show doesn’t nearly have the same budget, and it shows. I had hoped Netflix would go all-in to fill the void and create the next big fantasy epic on TV, but it’s just one of many series with average budget. The soundtrack is fine, but not great. The costumes are fine, but not great… same for the special effects, the setting, the intro…

    Also, I don’t like the role of Dandelion at all, and his different comic style is sometimes jarring compared to the rest of what is going on. He feels like the Jar Jar Binks of the Witcher universe – childish and misplaced. But perhaps this is an accurate representation of how he is in the books. I have only played the Witcher games.

    I also haven’t warmed up to Triss at all. I don’t want to kick-off yet another Internet race-war, but I do think that political correctness can get in the way of accuracy and good story telling. It’s obvious that the Witcher producers wanted to be “inclusive” by casting actors from different backgrounds instead of an all white European cast that would be more in line with the source material. But to me, Triss is a redhead, and people of different skin colors generally come from different places with different climates, unless there is some in-world explanation for the mingling, like migration.

    I’ve yet to be convinced by Ciri. At the moment I’m not a big fan.
    The time jumping was a bit of an annoyance until I finally realized what was going on. At least I had the background from playing the games, so I could put 2 and 2 together. It must be confusing as fuck to Witcher virgins who jump right into the universe watching the show.

    But Geralt is great, the fight scenes are well done, overall it’s a pretty good series.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Also, I don’t like the role of Dandelion at all, and his different comic style is sometimes jarring compared to the rest of what is going on. He feels like the Jar Jar Binks of the Witcher universe

      Jar Jar can be bard! Mesa will sing you a song now!

      1. RandomInternetGuy says:

        Qui-Gon Jinn makes a good Vesemir. He’s even rockin’ that classic Witcher hairstyle.

    2. Burt says:

      “Triss is a redhead”
      “different skin colors generally come from different places”
      There are people of color with naturally auburn hair though.

      “there’s no concrete data and a distinct lack of research on the ethnicity behind those with red hair. A quirk of nature it might seem, but the heritage of those with the distinctive trait doesn’t point to just one isolated corner of the earth – parentage ranges from Brazil to Jamaica to Ghana.”

      I guess if the show runners knew that they would have made Triss a brown skinned redhead a kept everybody happy.

    3. BlueHorus says:

      I don’t want to kick-off yet another Internet race-war, but I do think that political correctness can get in the way of accuracy and good story telling. It’s obvious that the Witcher producers wanted to be “inclusive” by casting actors from different backgrounds instead of an all white European cast that would be more in line with the source material.

      I agree – but the problem is, not doing that will cause another, related internet war because the casting was all white. Which would trigger complaints, which would rile up the other side, and so one. There’s an already-existing culture war here that the Witcher was going to get dragged into, regardless.

      A lot like Geralt, the show can’t get away with not picking a side – and whatever their intent, people are going to see what they want to see.

      I’d call this casting choice the Lesser Of Two Annoyances.

      1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

        TV series called adaptation for a reasons. They could rewrite completely some characters to make them from Ofir, Zangvebar or Zerrikania. Or even add new characters, they already changed Fringilla enough so, she can be called any other name. I never saw anyone who had an issue with Istredd, he has no description in the books and he’s a mage, everything is ok. Add some Zangvebar emissaries to Pavetta’s wedding, Ofir thug to Renfry band, some mages extras of different origin. Maybe add some sorceress of “exotic” origin as Yennefer’s friend, why not? And it will be perfect.

    4. Thomas says:

      It bothers me that people care that Triss is black (who is a very minor character) but no-one cared that Dandelion has brown hair, even though he’s named after his blonde hair colour in the books!

    5. krellen says:

      Europe was far more mutli-cultured than folks seem to assume it was. There has basically always been Mediterranean trade, and those dark-skinned North Africans plied their wares as far as roads would carry them. While not every village and town had an ethnic enclave, very few Europeans would have been started to see dark-skinned people among them, at least as travellers or figures at a noble’s court.

      For those who don’t know, during the Medieval period, the richest kingdom known to Europe was the Western African Kingdom of Mali, and a great many European courts sought to emulate the wealth of the King of Mali.

      1. Falling says:

        There’s a difference between that- and then making the Scottish James I, black (true story, there are some, even in the academy that try to argue that.) Or just randomly distribute ethnicity like the cast of Sesame Street. I prefer if there’s at least some semblance of geography to the ethnicity. Most people were not very mobile and lived and died within a very small geographical range, whereas at the height of empires you do get wider travel. Like you could have characters- these are Malian merchants in Nottingham, rather than… and now half of Robin Hood’s Anglo-Saxon merry men are a random distribution of ethnicities. Also there is a kungfu master from China, which is the sort of decisions we get from Hollywood these days. In that, case, just commit to the bit and retell the Robin Hood story in the kingdom of Mali.

      2. TUKCDT says:

        I have a couple of issues with this sort of ‘Europe was far more mutli-cultured than folks seem to assume it was’ claim.

        Firstly, where did they go? By the time we get to the 19th Century and have photography, nobody questions that Europe was reasonably racially homogenous (there was of course some immigration, especially from the colonies, but ‘Victorian England was overwhelmingly white’ is pretty self evident). So when did this medieval multi culturalism stop?

        Secondly, I’m less convinced that African merchants would be plying their trade everywhere. Goods yes, merchants themselves, no. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to trade with local merchants instead of schlupping out to the sticks themselves (the same way that the old Silk Road was actually waves of merchants passing goods to each other, rather than one group going from China to Turkey by themselves)? So a Moroccan merchant might have made it as far as London or Southampton (but more likely Lisbon, Venice or Genoa), but the locals in Shropshire, Tyrol or Braganca weren’t likely to see African merchants passing through, African goods/resources would be handled by locals. ‘Noble’s Court’ was also a pretty rarefied environment compared to the existence of most common people, hardly representative of the population as a whole. Were there some? Sure, but there were some Africans and Europeans present in Feudal Japan too, but that doesn’t make Feudal Japan ‘multicultural’ or infer that most Japanese people regularly saw different ethnicities in their day to day lives.

        Lastly, how dark is ‘dark skinned’? North Africans are actually surprisingly pale. There’s not all that much difference in colouration between groups like the Berbers and tanned Caucasians. So I’d actually expect a Medieval North African merchant to have paler skin than a European farm labourer, especially in southern Europe.

        Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to peddle some odious political screed, but the narrative that ‘Europe used to be so multicultural and tolerant’ really seems to be an overreaction to modern racism, rather than an accurate assessment of historical demographics.

        1. Chad Miller says:

          I’m less convinced that African merchants would be plying their trade everywhere.

          So, I realize you’re probably speaking generally rather than criticizing The Witcher specifically, but the mages’ organization in this show is exactly the sort of entity I could expect to be more multicultural/racially diverse than the average for its world. Mages can teleport, they aggressively recruit for (rare) magical talent, and they aggressively position themselves to maximize international influence. If any organization could justify the presence of various racial minorities that aren’t as plentiful in the general populace of the story, I’d think it would be them.

          how dark is ‘dark skinned’?

          In the case of Triss’ actress, not very.

          1. Tomas says:

            That’s the explanation I used too when watching the show. But then I read Fringilla’s wiki-page, and it fell apart.

            I wish they’d just made up new characters instead of breaking old ones.

        2. krellen says:

          I never said tolerant. For the record.

          As for what happened: colonialism and the African slave trade.

          1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

            Medieval Europe actually was tolerant. In a different way. People haven’t identify themselves by their race our country of origin before the raise of national states. Identification was more based on social status, a bit on religion (before crusades it was irrelevant for secular people) and for common people mostly on their hometown/village, family and profession.

    6. Matt says:

      I’m not sure if The Witcher will ever have the same budget or production value as Game of Thrones, but GoT was something of a gamble at the start, too. In the first season, we see very little of the dragons or the white walkers. We see no big battles (in contrast to the books) and, if I recall, the dire wolves aren’t full grown and we only see regular-sized wolves. Success brought a bigger budget, and so it may go with The Witcher.

      1. RandomInternetGuy says:

        I hope so. But still, if you compare the intro’s, the music, the costumes, the scenery… GoT Season 1 is still on a whole different level than the Netflix Witcher.

      2. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

        I was trying to find what exactly are numbers of the budgets of The Witcher s1, GoT s1 and Mandalorian s1.
        So I’ve found next. For the Witcher it’s $10M per episode, Mandalorian got $15M per episode and GoT has only $60M for the whole first season.
        Should I say that sci-fi VFX is much more expensive? And Mandalorian looks stunning, while the Witcher has a lot of very cheap and ugly looking costumes and rough CGI. And GoT was amazing with relatively smaller budget.
        Was budget really such a big issue with the Witcher?

  10. Christopher says:

    Hahah, I’m happy to see you’re so pleased with the adaptation.

  11. Ramsus says:

    Personally I disagree with Shamus about the show showing us things in the same episode that are not happening at the same time and not cluing us into this until later. This is clearly an intentional choice and one I think was done with good reason. The action for what is happening with each character does not happen in the same length of time. If it was all done sequentially we wouldn’t even know Ciri existed until the last two episodes and her story-line would feel completely rushed and out of nowhere. Not cluing us into these things happening at different times is also perfectly fine as it becomes a neat little “ah!” moment when you realize that’s what’s been happening (though I’m not surprised Shamus wouldn’t experience this as he’s familiar enough with the work that he already knows the actual sequential events of the work and I suppose this would do nothing for those people).

    As for the amount of sex appeal. I actually found it more tastefully done than most TV shows or movies. The nudity of characters that aren’t the focus aren’t the center of attention, just set dressing for a scene. The camera doesn’t just focus on the sexy stuff while someone else talks. And the sex scenes are blessedly brief and/or plot relevant rather than feeling meaningless and obligatory. A lot of shows or movies (especially movies) force us to watch several minutes of the most pointless and boring porn you could ever imagine and give us nothing else we can even look at while we’re trapped there waiting for this excruciatingly boring and pointless scene to end. The Witcher spends a lot less time on this kind of thing and if my memory serves correctly there’s also interesting scenery to look at in the background that isn’t blurred out of focus like normally happens.

    1. Christopher says:

      It’s Bob.

      1. Ramsus says:

        Whoops! That’s what happens when you read an article in bits in pieces while doing other things I suppose.

    2. Geebs says:

      I think the showrunners could have made life a lot easier for both themselves, and the audience, by having “a question of price” and “the last wish” as the first two episodes, and then flashed back/forward from there. It would establish the law or surprise, shown that there’s something special about Ciri, and established the relationship between Geralt and Yennefer. That’s basically everything somebody new to the Witcher needs to put the rest of the plot in context.

      1. krellen says:

        The first episode establishes Geralt’s dark reputation, which is important, and the gravity of Ciri’s situation. It also establishes the difference in timelines (Ciri complains that Calanthe fought her first battle at fourteen, and then Stregebor’s errand-girl mentions that Queen Calanthe has just won that same battle.) I’m not sure you could mix up the episodes like that effectively.

        1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

          I think it’s not in the same episode. Also Renfri mentioned Calanthe’s victory as a current event (maybe, I’m not sure). Also Calanthe called by her name only in fourth episode, I think.
          And about Geralt’s reputation, showrunners just could’ve made first episode about Geralt doing witcher things: while resting in some hamlet on his way to Cintra’s capital, village elder approaches him, despite disgust and fear, asks him to kill monster-of-the-week for some unsatisfying price and we’ll see all the preparation like potion making, reading some lore, sharpening sword etc. Also throw some sidekick in, either a local, who’s unaware of witcher things, or Dandelion, who’s too busy with local girls to keep track of what Geralt doing and need a constant reminders. And put “a question of price” and “the last wish” as the second and the third episodes.

      2. Guest says:

        You really don’t need to know about the Law of Suprise until A Question of Price tho, and the episode explains it fine. It’s literally explained that the price is “What you have that you do not know you have” and they even list examples.

        The Last Wish would be a terrible opener. You need to establish the characters first, before you throw a massive game changer like that in there, and if you went with it first and then showed the characters changing to get back to there, you would rob the episode of it’s importance.

    3. Shamus says:

      Context: This post was written by Bob Case, not me.

      I’m still working out how to make this more obvious. I have the name at the top of the post. Then the author is shown in the byline at the bottom. Also, different authors have different background colors.

      The problem is that people naturally skip reading the header and byline, and the background color shift is too subtle to be noticed if you’re reading on a small screen or in a bright room. Anything I do to draw more attention to the author will hurt layout / readability / aesthetics.

      I’m still working on it.

      1. Asdasd says:


      2. Syal says:

        Back when Rutskarn and… Josh? were posting more here, you added the character portraits under the header, and that was what finally got me noticing who wrote what. Just now noticed they aren’t there anymore.

        Then and now, I still think it’s a non-issue. People will notice the author if they care to, and if the author really wants credit they can lead the post with “Hi Billy Mays Author here”.

      3. Nimrandir says:

        If you find something that works, I bet professors the world over will jump at a way to get students to process stuff put in syllabi for ready reference.

      4. Lino says:

        Most readers are probably used to all the posts having “Shamus” in the header, so they don’t bother reading it. I think you just need to change the background colour. Bob’s light blue is very hard to distinguish from your gray – even when I’m reading it on a big screen in a not very well-lit room, it takes me about a paragraph or so to realise it’s not you.

        Contrast this to Paul’s posts which are light yellow – no one’s ever mistaken him for you (however, in his case the stylistic differences also help).

      5. GargamelLenoir says:

        I’d recommend a single line in italics before the text itself to inform everyone that it is a guest writer.

      6. Guest says:

        It’s almost like people not paying attention is exactly the problem lol

    4. Guest says:

      The thing with the time period thing is, it is a bit of a startling reveal. I wasn’t paying the most attention (And it still made sense, because it communicates fine), and remember realising exactly what was happening when young Calanthe showed up, and I went, oh, obviously, how did I miss that, this is obviously in the past of the sack shown in the opening episode.

      I think a lot of people might have had reactions like that, and I don’t necessarily think it’s bad, but that it’s a missed opportunity.

  12. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I watched the first episode and… just was not impressed. I like Cavil. I thought he did an amazing job in Man of Steel, regardless of all the problems that the movie had, and he’s apparently passionate and somewhat down-to-Earth regarding the fandom. But there was just no humanity to his performance as Geralt- not that the material he had there was any good to work with in the first place.

    The casting is bad in general. From the clips I’ve seen, I don’t like either Yenn or Triss. Nobody really stood out to me. The production values were all over the place. The episode had a really, really good fight scene, but half of the time I couldn’t understand what any of the characters were saying because they were whispering everything. And it was just all so dour.

    I like dark, gritty fantasy, but there needs to be something in it to cling on to. That’s one reason I love the First Law books so much- it’s a grim, crappy world, but the characters really stand out, and even the bastards are likable enough in their own way to keep you engaged in it.

    I really wish we’d get another fantasy show in the more adventurous vein, like Hercules or Xena. Something that isn’t embarrassed to be a little goofy and tropey, or gets lost in an overly complicated plot with too many characters.

    1. Thomas says:

      You don’t need to worry about the clips of Triss. She’s just a minor background character, gets a couple of lines in the whole show.

      I think people are only talking about her because they’re used to Triss being a major character in the games.

      1. T-Rex says:

        Triss being a major character in games doesn’t mean she wasn’t quite big in the books. It’s dissapointing that they didn’t show her more. Sure, she wasn’t really in the first two books, but she was quite important to the story overall. I think she was miscasted from what I remember from the books. Triss was described as looking like a teenager and being tomboyish, at least from what I remember. There was nothing of sort in the show. As for her acting, I can’t really judge, I didn’t watch the show with english dub.

        1. Thomas says:

          I mean, this was based on the first book, and so she didn’t have a big role in this. She had about the same screen time as a certain knight who will be a major player in the future.

          It’s just an odd thing to focus on. If there wasn’t books and a game, I doubt anyone would even remember Triss’ name in the show.

          1. krellen says:

            My brother, to whom this series was his first exposure, certainly didn’t.

          2. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

            She wasn’t in the first book at all. Yet showrunners decided to add her. Because she’s in the games. To cater to certain audience. Yet they don’t cast her to match her looks in the games or her description in the books. That’s mind-boggling. And there’s no diversity shenanigans.
            It looks like they want to cater to game fans, but simultaneously they don’t. It’s insanity.

  13. Thomas says:

    I know people who hated it, but I loved the asynchronous timelines. That’s when I began to get gripped by the show because you could begin trying to figure out how it fits together

  14. Agammamon says:

    Queen Calanthe (second from the right) is another character that makes a strong impression in relatively little screen time.

    That’s a *man*!, baby.

    Second from the left.

  15. StrongStyleFiction says:

    I liked it all the way until the last two episodes when I found out that everything about Geralt in the show was basically filler. Typically you’d want your title character somewhat involved in the main narrative thread.

    1. T-Rex says:

      The books had some of that. But the short stories, on which first season is based, are more focused on adventuring and character development than some overarching plot. Althrough, the main narrative thread is also in those books, it isn’t really as big as it was in the show, and Geralt has a bit more involvement in it. Honestly, I wouldn’t fault the show for that, it’s kind of the fault how the short stories are written.

  16. T-Rex says:

    I liked the show, but I really disliked some things.
    I hated Brokilon, not because of driads but because they handwaved how Waters of Brokilon work and that there were crossbows
    I also disliked the ending. To me it didn’t have the same emotional impact. Like, in the books Geralt and Ciri knew each other before they met after Cintra’s fall. It was really important thing, and the show decided to write it out.
    There’s also that episode with Dragon and them writing out a polish fairy tale, the one of the few polish fairy tales in the books, mind you, and that, as a polish person, makes me quite annoyed.
    But, apart from those issues, I enjoyed it, and think it’s a good show.
    I also think that those wolf knuckle dusters are amazing. Like, when they shown it in the middle of the screen for like 3 or 4 seconds I had to stop the show, laugh histerically and then proceed to watching it. Soo cheesy, soo awesome.

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