The first season of Netflix’s new series The Witcher is phenomenal. Netflix gave screeners of the first five episodes to Heavy for review. Those episodes made me laugh, had me on the edge of my seat, and left me wanting to binge them as quickly as possible. It filled a bit of the void left in my heart now that Game of Thrones is over. This article has only minor spoilers for the first five episodes.
The first episode starts off fast. You won’t find a slow introduction here. The Witcher is fighting a giant spider monster and we’re immediately thrust into a compelling, layered and nuanced fantasy world. (Just remember: this series is not for children. There’s quite a bit of nudity.)
This fantasy world is complicated at times. Names of warring factions and kingdoms are thrown out like we should already know who they are, and the complexities of political rivalries unfold as the episodes progress. Missing are lengthy expositions at the beginning explaining who sides with who and why certain groups hate each other. People who have already read the books or played the games might not feel quite so lost. For other it might all be a bit confusing at first, but enjoyably so. It reminded me of how people felt when they first started watching season 1 of Game of Thrones if they hadn’t read the books yet. It can be tough to keep up with some of the rival groups’ names, and it may take a while to understand how this world works. But that’s part of the fun. Learning as you go and discovering the rules for this magical realm are enjoyable parts of the show.
The cinematography for the series is beautiful. One castle in particular felt strong and powerful. When things are supposed to be creepy or scary, they legitimately are. The music and the soundtrack are perfect companions. There’s one song (“toss a coin to the Witcher”) that got stuck in my head and I find myself singing randomly around the house. When you hear it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
There’s also a song at the end of Episode 5 that was made especially for the show. Listen closely, because the lyrics have meaning. It reminded me of some of the special after-credits songs that I enjoyed for Game of Thrones.
If you’re wondering whether you can enjoy the series even if you haven’t read the books or played the games, the answer is yes. You most certainly can. If you like fantasy and action combined, then you’ll really like this series. You may feel a little lost at times, not understanding some characters’ backgrounds, but everything will unfold over the course of the episodes. Just know that it’s OK to be a little confused and things will make sense as the series continues.
This show is deep. It brings political intrigue, all the fantasy elements you could want, and a lot of laughter too. It’s really even more than I expected from the series, and I’m glad there’s more to come after Season 1 is over. Netflix has already renewed the series for a second season. That’s an unusual move for the streaming giant, but after watching the first five episodes I can understand why Netflix made the choice.