Inquirer Super

The Super starter’s guide to Netflix’s ‘The Witcher’

By Ruel S. De Vera
01/20/20 5:12 PM

Netflix’s “The Witcher” was, at one point, the most streamed show in the world, out-streaming Disney+’s “The Mandalorian.” Considering how good and popular “The Mandalorian” is, that’s saying something. So why is “The Witcher” so successful.

Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia

Here is our Super non-spoilery guide to “The Witcher”:

What is it, exactly?

“The Witcher” is Netflix’s ten-episode original show based on a best-selling series of books and games. The books were published in Polish and written by Andrzej Sapkowski and have sold over 30 million copies in translation. The games, published by CD Projekt (the latest being 2015’s “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”) are similarly popular. The series is based mostly on the first two books, “The Last Wish” and “Sword of Destiny.”

What is it about?

“The Witcher” is about Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill). In this high fantasy setting, Witchers are raised from childhood to develop powers (called mutations) and travel from town to town earning a living killing monsters. Along the way, Geralt mist deal with the forces of destiny, a princess named Ciri (Freya Allan) and an ambitious sorceress named Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra).

Freya Allan as Ciri
Anya Chalotra as Yennefer of Vengerberg
Joey Batey as Jaskier with Geralt

He also travels with a persistent minstrel named Jaskier (Joey Batey). It is Jaskier who composes the song “Toss a Coin to your Witcher,” which illustrates the way a Witcher (Geralt in particular) makes a living. Listen to it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMqVrKoLQt4

Do you need to read the books or play the game to appreciate the show?

No. The Netflix show deviates quite a bit from the source material and has a continuity of its own. Knowing the original stuff would, of course, enrich the viewing experience, but is by no means required.

What the heck is the Law of Surprise?

It’s a surprise! No seriously, it’s too important a plot element for us to reveal here. Watch it!

Why should we watch it?

Primarily because the world building is so good. The Netflix production team has done a great job of creating a lived-in fantasy world that makes sense in this context. Sorry “Man of Steel” fans, but this is clearly the role Henry Cavill was meant to play. You simply will not think of anyone else as Geralt after seeing the first episode. In fact, Cavill was such a fan of the property in the past that he constantly bugged his agents if he had gotten the part (of course he would, duh). By the way, Romilda Vane of “Harry Potter” fame is in it. Well, the actress who played her (remember the girl who tried to get Harry to drink a love potion but drugged Ron instead) in three movies, Anna Shaffer, plays the role of the sorceress Triss Marigold.

The show rated 66 percent from critics and 93 percent from audience members on Rotten Tomatoes. It scored an 8.4/10 on Amazon.

Are there things to remember when we binge it?

Yes, watch the show in the correct order. Don’t skip episodes or skip to the end. There’s a reason for this. Also, pay attention to the sigils that appear above the title logo of “The Witcher” at the start of each episode. It pays off. Here is the Witcher sigil on the show:

Once we binge it, will be get more?

Yes! “The Witcher” season 2 was greenlit last November, but all that’s been announced is that it will bow in 2021.

Is it better than “Game of Thrones?”

Ah, the question that will annoy devoted “The Witcher” fans because they will say there is no comparison. Outside of the high fantasy settings, that is true. It has to be said “The Witcher” was made in a post-“GOT” world, so comparisons are inevitable. That being said, “The Witcher” is a relatively more lighthearted show that skew much closer to the original text but through innovative storytelling without relying on the brutal twists of “GOT.” The books, for example, already have a much more episodic, monster of the week approach to begin with. Plus Sapkowski promised fans that Ed Sheeran would not be appearing in it (he really did). The big plan is for “The Witcher” to run on Nertflix for seven seasons, so the comparisons will probably become greater the longer the show goes on.  

“The Witcher” is streaming on Netflix.