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Vault Reviews: The Witcher

    • 759 posts
    January 4, 2020 12:56 PM EST

    Evening.

    I recently finished The Witcher, based on Andrzej Sapkowski works, and here are my chaotic thoughts written as they come to mind. I hope to see your opinion on the show too! Feel free to disagree with me and murder me with facts and logic.

    Beware of spoilers!

    1. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I actually came close to loving it, and I did love some aspects of it, but I didn't love the entire show because of one episode. I'll get back to that at the end.
    2. Yennefer, Jaskier, Tissaia de Vries, Mousesack, Yarpen Zigrin, Cahir, Ciri, Queen Calanthe Stregobor, Eyck, Vilgefortz, Fringilla and Eist were the stand-outs for me. Terrific casting! I loved all of their portrayals, even if I felt the writing for one of them (Vilgefortz) was a bit of a let-down in the last episode.
    3. While I really enjoyed Henry Cavill, his voice was a little distracting sometimes, mostly because he's clearly forcing it to match the games, and it sounded out of place sometimes, like when he was laying in bed, falling asleep. But, nitpick aside, he can definitely play Geralt and does justice to the character.
    4. While I also enjoyed Calanthe, she was... different in the books. To borrow from ASOIAF, she was more Stannis than Bobby B., she was more Sansa than Arya, she was more Doran than Oberyn. The change was unnecessary, it's like they chose to put a stereotypical male warrior-king in the body of a female just because.
    5. The Yennefer/mages and Fall of Cintra/Calanthe/Duny storylines were the best parts of the season to me. Ciri's was a little boring, and Geralt's felt rushed and disconnected (understandable given the source material). Oh, and I hated, with all my fibers, the kiss that Geralt and Yennefer have during the fight to protect the dragons.
    6. Yarpen Zigrin was only on one episode, but I already love him. Together with Henry Cavill, I think he was one of the actors who actively pursued his role, and like Henry, it shows.
    7. Fringilla and Cahir managed to sell the threat and power that is Nilfgaard. I only worry that the show will turn Nilfgaard into "omg their evil religious zealots who are so evil", without giving them any nuance.
    8. Speaking of Nilfgaard, I hope they get another actor to portray older Duny/Emhyr. My dreamcasting would be Alexander Siddig, since they wasted him as Doran Martell in Game of Thrones, give him another powerful, man-with-a-plan type of character. He can pull it off.
    9. The soundtrack is amazing and quite unique. I'm still waiting for the official release, though!
    10. Sadly, I fell short of loving the entire show because of the last episode. I feel that they didn't do justice for the Battle of Sodden Hill, and some of that was due to budgetary limitations, but a lot of it was due to writing:
    • They should have reserved an entire episode for the Battle of Sodden Hill. Every cut to Geralt and Ciri was followed by an eye roll, because... well, next to the freaking Battle of Sodden Hill, it just wasn't interesting!
    • While the casting for Vilgefortz was absolutely brilliant, the writing for him during the last episode fell flat. He was supposed to be the hero that leads the mages to victory in Sodden Hill, which is how he manages to get control over the Council/Brothergood of Sorcerers, and yet he does absolutely nothing, except being defeated by Cahir... People claim that he was faking because Yennefer was watching, but him rolling down a hill and knocking his head on a rock didn't feel like faking.
    • Triss Merigold. I like her voice, even if I'm still not 100% on board with her casting... but then, she was also supposed to be a hero of Sodden Hill. In the books, she is the one who conjures up a fire storm against the Nilfgaardians, as she is a "fire mage". In the show, she... conjures up some mushrooms and vines. Fuck.
    • Still on Triss, she is burned beyond recognition in the books and only barely makes it: she is so disfigured that only Yennefer could recognize her, but in the books Yennefer was blinded by Fringilla during the battle! In the show it's a torch to her neck for 5 seconds, and Yennefer is the one who conjures up the fire storm.
    • Coral, one of the sorceresses who dies during the battle, dies in a terrifying way in the books: her arms and legs are cut off and she's screaming, still alive, a "trunk", as Triss says it.
    • In general, the show cheapened out on the brutality and horror of Sodden Hill. We didn't even see a clash between the Northern armies and Nilfgaard.
    • Speaking of the North, while I grew fond of the actor, Foltest was supposed to be... younger and prettier. But I can look past that, since the actor is good, but they kind of wrote him as a buffoon! Foltest is supposed to be one of the good-ish kings, I hope they do him justice in the future.
    • While I can understand that introducing even more sorceresses would cloud the understanding of viewers even more, I feel like we should at least have also seen Phillipa Eilhart, as she is extremely pro-North, anti-Nilfgaard, pro-mages and most importantly pro-scheming! She also took part in Sodden Hill in the books. I don't see how they can explain her absence at the battle, but I can understand them waiting to introduce her on Season 2 (Blood of Elves), together with the rest of the Redanian cast.

     

     


    This post was edited by Mr. Edd at January 4, 2020 1:03 PM EST
    • 1463 posts
    January 5, 2020 6:14 AM EST

    You've caught me in a trap and I have to jump in and share my thoughts too, mostly just going to respond point by point because I haven't technically finished yet (I think I'm on Episode 7 and just haven't had the time to finish it lately) but yeah. Basically I really enjoyed it as well, and a lot of my praises are going to mirror yours, there are a few characters that I think really didn't work (or at least haven't so far) 

    Actually, just for anyone interested in the discussion I am going to spoil some of the later books. If you aren't at least up to Tower of Swallows your probably going to get something spoiled for you. So yeah...

    1. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I actually came close to loving it, and I did love some aspects of it, but I didn't love the entire show because of one episode. I'll get back to that at the end.

    Without having seen the final episode I will say that my reaction is slightly different, well actually the reaction is the same, I'm really close to loving it but instead some of the choices they made throughout the series (conceptually rather than individual episodes being flawed) is what ruins it for me. Personally I really think that the style of the show has made it worse, the idea of following Ciri, Yen and Geralt all during the first season makes a lot of sense considering the nature of television but they really buggered it up by making each episode jump between the characters. Anytime something legitimately interesting is going on in one arc (mostly Geralt's and Yen's, going to rip into the way they've handled Ciri later) 

    2. Yennefer, Jaskier, Tissaia de Vries, Mousesack, Yarpen Zigrin, Cahir, Ciri, Queen Calanthe Stregobor, Eyck, Vilgefortz, Fringilla and Eist were the stand-outs for me. Terrific casting! I loved all of their portrayals, even if I felt the writing for one of them (Vilgefortz) was a bit of a let-down in the last episode.

    I haven't decided on Ciri yet but I'm going to blame the writing for that rather than the actress, she seems to be doing a solid job but some stuff I'll get into later brings her down a lot for me. Same with Cahir and I think Stregobor for me, a lot of changes were made to them that I disagree with (even though I am 100% fine with them changing stuff from the books, just has to be handled well)

    3. While I really enjoyed Henry Cavill, his voice was a little distracting sometimes, mostly because he's clearly forcing it to match the games, and it sounded out of place sometimes, like when he was laying in bed, falling asleep. But, nitpick aside, he can definitely play Geralt and does justice to the character.

    Yep, yep, yep. I actually really enjoyed his performance. I think it can only get better as we see more interesting arcs and character moments (and for me at least him interacting with Ciri...dunno if they meet up in the last few episodes but I assume they will). 

    4. While I also enjoyed Calanthe, she was... different in the books. To borrow from ASOIAF, she was more Stannis than Bobby B., she was more Sansa than Arya, she was more Doran than Oberyn. The change was unnecessary, it's like they chose to put a stereotypical male warrior-king in the body of a female just because.

    Yeah I haven't been a...well okay I don't hate her but she's not my favorite character. It really doesn't help that her dialogue can be really clunky at times (a lot of it can be to be fair) and when she's talking to...her daughter's name which has escaped me right now, anyway whenever they interact it really brings her character down IMO. Her scenes with Ciri were excellent and Mouseack probably helped because he was great (Eist on the other hand is pretty awesome 100% of the time).

    5. The Yennefer/mages and Fall of Cintra/Calanthe/Duny storylines were the best parts of the season to me. Ciri's was a little boring, and Geralt's felt rushed and disconnected (understandable given the source material). Oh, and I hated, with all my fibers, the kiss that Geralt and Yennefer have during the fight to protect the dragons.|

    So, in regards to Ciri, what are your thoughts about her arc this season in comparison to what it was in the books? It's something I really need to think about more in the grand scheme of things but I feel like the decicions they've made seem to really crush a lot of what made her character interesting even as a small child. The fact that she's grown up without any real knowledge of Geralt or even meeting him just feels wrong to me. But here's the big thing for me, I feel like there's no possible way they can continue Cahir's arc from the book in any reasonable way. He's seemingly been turned into the villain of this story rather than, what was essentially a symbol of Niflgaard's horrors in Ciri's mind (and a vague figure she needs to be protected from for Geralt/Yen). I really feel like the fact that he didn't technically rescue her and then let her go (and instead she...cracks the earth in a clear and powerful display of magic which is a problem in of itself.) really just breaks his character. I can't really feel like he's anything but an actual villain which is a shame because I've really grown to like him in the books.

    Other then that I agree with your actual points here. 

    6. Yarpen Zigrin was only on one episode, but I already love him. Together with Henry Cavill, I think he was one of the actors who actively pursued his role, and like Henry, it shows.

    I was going to say something here but just...yeah. 

    7. Fringilla and Cahir managed to sell the threat and power that is Nilfgaard. I only worry that the show will turn Nilfgaard into "omg their evil religious zealots who are so evil", without giving them any nuance.

    I will say that, to be fair a lot of the times the books seem to do that as well, by that I mean even Ciri's arc in Nilfgaardian territory seems to boil down to "They're super evil all the time and are disgusting" but it might help that the Northern Realms are generally depicted as maybe being just as horrible and also incompetent. But yeah I definitely agree with this and do worry about it. 

    8. Speaking of Nilfgaard, I hope they get another actor to portray older Duny/Emhyr. My dreamcasting would be Alexander Siddig, since they wasted him as Doran Martell in Game of Thrones, give him another powerful, man-with-a-plan type of character. He can pull it off.

    No firm opinions on this but yeah they're really going to need to sell his character later on, which does worry me a little bit because the character is probably one of the most complex. 

    9. The soundtrack is amazing and quite unique. I'm still waiting for the official release, though!

    It's really interesting isn't it, like I imagine that it might have a lot of Polish influences (which is not something I'm knowledgeable about at all) but it is interesting to hear a track and sort of connect it to something I've heard from The Witcher 3. There are a lot of similarities in the style which is great, and I still think they've done an excellent job of not getting too close or having the entire thing make you think "Oh this is just...The Witcher 3 but slightly different). Very awesome, very unique. 

    I will admit that I'm not as fond of Jaskier's singing as most people seem to be (Toss a Coin To Your Witcher might be a tad too popular right now). Like the songs are good but they just really don't feel like they fit within the world you know. 

     

     

    Also since I saw you mention it later on, yeah Tris...I know it's really petty, incredibly actually but it does bother me that she isn't a redhead. Feels wrong even if she's doing an excellent job with the character. 


    This post was edited by Dragonborn2121 at January 5, 2020 6:18 AM EST
    • 759 posts
    January 5, 2020 1:08 PM EST

    So, in regards to Ciri, what are your thoughts about her arc this season in comparison to what it was in the books? It's something I really need to think about more in the grand scheme of things but I feel like the decicions they've made seem to really crush a lot of what made her character interesting even as a small child. The fact that she's grown up without any real knowledge of Geralt or even meeting him just feels wrong to me. But here's the big thing for me, I feel like there's no possible way they can continue Cahir's arc from the book in any reasonable way. He's seemingly been turned into the villain of this story rather than, what was essentially a symbol of Niflgaard's horrors in Ciri's mind (and a vague figure she needs to be protected from for Geralt/Yen). I really feel like the fact that he didn't technically rescue her and then let her go (and instead she...cracks the earth in a clear and powerful display of magic which is a problem in of itself.) really just breaks his character. I can't really feel like he's anything but an actual villain which is a shame because I've really grown to like him in the books.

     

     Yeah, they turned Cahir into an evil war criminal for some reason. I think it would have been best to not have casted him at all this season, and present him like in the books, a "winged horseman" chasing her, out of focus so that the viewers also saw him as almost a spectre. I like the actor a lot, but if they had left him out of the first season perhaps they would have more time to flesh out other things that were lacking, or maybe focus more on developing Vilgefortz or find space to at least introduce Philippa Eilhart in time for the last episode.

    Ciri's plotline was by far the weakest this season, after she left Cintra, and I saw the showrunner saying that if they had made her meet Geralt earlier, in Brokilon or else, it would have to be "too early" in the season, in episode 4 or 5. I honestly think that's a pretty poor excuse, they could've easily have left her destiny ambiguous in the second or third episode, leaving the audience in suspense, and then show what happened to her in the last episode, if they wanted to save their real meeting for the end.

     

    I liked that they changed Stregobor to expand his role, mostly because I liked the actor, and I think it makes sense to have a familiar face on the council of mages to make it "easier" for the casual viewer.

     

    As for Jaskier, yeah, "Toss a Coin to your Witcher" seems a little out of place. I prefer his other two songs that fit the medieval theme a lot more, especially "The Fishmonger's Daughter", but "Her Sweet Kiss" is good too. I really hope we get a lot more songs like Fishmonger's Daughter than Toss a Coin to your Witcher in the future.


    This post was edited by Mr. Edd at January 5, 2020 1:18 PM EST
    • 7 posts
    January 7, 2020 10:56 PM EST

    To be upfront, I'm a pedantic book reader and have a near worship of CDPR's games and I find Netflix's adaption to be the mediocre side of things because it missed/adapted out the nuances that makes The Witcher, The Witcher. I'll need more time to process my thoughts on this.

     

    EDIT:

    This is a pretty good review that expands my opinions on the show.

     

    Nitpick:

    - Book!Triss is more brunette/chestnut haired than a redhead.

    - Also great on the show with only 1 sword on Geralt's back - Roach carries the silver.

     


    This post was edited by Delta at January 7, 2020 10:57 PM EST
    • 1439 posts
    February 1, 2020 8:52 AM EST
    https://youtu.be/IyiU_LdfpTI Dominic Noble did a great job covering the differences and similarities to the books
    • 555 posts
    May 15, 2020 2:19 PM EDT

    I don't really like watching series, but I really liked The Witcher. It was flawed, certainly, but it has a lot of potential.

    One thing I don't think anybody here has mentioned is the colorblind casting. In a world where having slightly different shaped ears is grounds for racial slurs, it is pretty bizarre that nobody mentions the fact that everyone has different color skin. Netflix is trying to be progressive by adding diversity, but it was implemented horribly into a world where racism is actually a big part of the story. Having everyone be colorblind waters the show down.

    The multiple timeline plot was pretty ridiculous in execution. They should have made it more simple. Why do regular humans not change at all in 20 years? If they wanted to go that route, then they should have prefaced certain scenes with "20 years earlier" or something. Apparently the new series is going to have a regular chronoligical timeline, so that is good news.

    Really liked the acting and the characters in this show. You guys basically nailed everything. The interactions between Geralt and Jaskier were great. The stuff with King Foltest in the show reminded me of the Bloody Baron questline in the Witcher 3. Is there any connection between them?

    The music, as well, was very good. I get that Toss a Coin was anachronistic, but I still liked the song.

    I am not a huge Witcher franchise fan. I have never read the books, and I have never finished a Witcher game. This show is the best thing that The Witcher franchise has to offer IMO. Hopefully, Netflix does not screw up season 2.

    • 759 posts
    May 17, 2020 2:12 AM EDT

    One thing I don't think anybody here has mentioned is the colorblind casting. In a world where having slightly different shaped ears is grounds for racial slurs, it is pretty bizarre that nobody mentions the fact that everyone has different color skin. Netflix is trying to be progressive by adding diversity, but it was implemented horribly into a world where racism is actually a big part of the story. Having everyone be colorblind waters the show down.

     I was originally annoyed by this - thought it would have been better to, if the idea was to make the show more appealing to casual, modern audiences, to make all the elves black, for example. But I saw someone make a point that really made sense to me, and I've embraced it now: this is a fantasy world. Skin color isn't an issue here, the issue is pointy ears, height and mutations. It still says a lot about racism, as the original work and games do, but in a new way that honestly makes sense and can definitely work if properly written.

    The multiple timeline plot was pretty ridiculous in execution. They should have made it more simple. Why do regular humans not change at all in 20 years? If they wanted to go that route, then they should have prefaced certain scenes with "20 years earlier" or something. Apparently the new series is going to have a regular chronoligical timeline, so that is good news.

     I believe this issue comes from trying to adapt the first two Witcher books, which season 1 (and some of season 2) do. The first two witcher books are a bunch of short stories, sometimes separated by months or years, and they're all about Geralt. In the books, we only get glimpses of Yennefer's backstory, so most of what we saw in the show about her was created by them. I think, while messy, they handled it well enough, giving exposition to an important character and the training/politics of sorceresses.

     My problem with this particular point you've raised is again Cahir - in the books, he's much like a winged, black-armoured monster that chases Ciri and she's terrified of, and I felt that introducing a face to him in season 1 was unnecessary and removed some of the mystery about him.

    Really liked the acting and the characters in this show. You guys basically nailed everything. The interactions between Geralt and Jaskier were great. The stuff with King Foltest in the show reminded me of the Bloody Baron questline in the Witcher 3. Is there any connection between them?

     There is no connection between the Baron and Foltest, the Baron was created by CD Projekt RED. At least, there is no direct connection between them - it is possible, however unlikely, that the show writers inspired their Foltest on the Baron, because in the books - and games - Foltest is actually more... athletic, and one of the few "good kings" in the Witcher world, though show Foltest still has a chance to show he's a better king.