The Witcher has just returned for its third season on Netflix, bringing more monsters, magical intrigue, gruff grunts, and ichor-spraying swordplay than ever.
Based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski and the popular series of video games, The Witcher follows the adventures of monster-hunter Geralt of Rivia, the powerful and beautiful witch Yennefer, and their surrogate daughter (sort-of) Ciri, the Princess of Cintra. Fans of the books and games — including yours truly — will find a lot to love in the Netflix adaptation, although those new to the world of The Witcher may find it confusing, even frustrating, until they can lean back and let it wash over them.
The show, as is the case with the books and video games, is at its best when it gets weird. Season three drags when it drifts into the interminable internal politics of the elves. But when Geralt (Henry Cavill) picks up a sword to do battle with a monster made of the fleshy bits of a dozen people, it rips right along. There’s also a lot to love when Geralt, Ciri (Freya Allan), and Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) are together; they fight, argue, and reconcile as they navigate what it means to take care of each other in a world bent on destroying them.
Another group of characters — the bard Jaskier (Joey Batey), spymaster Sigismund Dijkstra (Graham McTavish), erstwhile Prince Radovid (Hugh Skinner), and edgy witch Philippa Eilhart (Cassie Clare) — act as a second narrative engine. They’re oftentimes more fun as they bicker, seduce, and double-cross one another.
There are lot of characters in this show, with more joining every season. It’s not the viewers’ fault it’s difficult to keep all these competing interests straight. In fact, it’s a feature. The show follows in the books’ steps: The fog of war and the web of betrayals leave our friends grasping after threads to a plot they are caught up in but don’t fully understand.
If there is one blemish on the show, it’s the storyline following the elves. It’s honestly a bit dull. The elves — despite their importance to the story long-term — feel wooden, their ambitions are inchoate and detached from the other characters. The show makes up for this with beautiful scenery, costumes, production design, and cinematography. ButThe Witcher’s best episodes are when it embraces the dark and deadly, the ugly and the underground; monsters, deranged assassins, crazed kings. Here, the show comes alive.
While not perfect, The Witcher’s potent mix of magic, gore, and monsters still works. It has something for everyone, from monsters-of-the-week to potent love stories.
So, draw your sword, press play, and let the weird, wild world of The Witcher invade your living room. The deeper and darker you go, the more fun it gets.