×

‘The Witcher’ on Netflix: TV Review

With:
Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, Freya Allan
Release Date:
Dec 20, 2019

60 MIN.

Into the absence left by “Game of Thrones” strides “The Witcher,” perhaps the most credible of several recent attempts to capture its predecessor’s robust claim on audience affections. Like “Thrones,” “The Witcher” is based on an existing series of novels (by Andrzej Sapkowski, whose work has also been adapted into a video-game universe); “The Witcher” also boasts richly expensive visuals and an expansive-seeming world, at least in its first five hours.

What it lacks, though, is tonal consistency. This is a show with moments of drama and of gruesome violence cut through with a glancing humor that too often feels tossed-off and out-of-place in the world the show has created. The show’s dramatic sensibility is intense and indulgent, crafting action sequences whose length bulks out episodes past hourlong running times. Its comic sensibility is puerile and a bit sarcastic. Indeed, Henry Cavill’s “Witcher,” a hunter of supernatural beings, and his frequent scene partner, Joey Batey’s jester and bard Jaskier, can feel like a TV pairing less serendipitously unlikely than discordant — a regular Jon Snow and Butt-Head.

Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia is among a dying breed of witchers, and he faces down his situation with a sort of mournful, cynical gravity cut through with bitter wit. The actor, known for his work as Superman in DC Comics films, is perhaps not built to be a Deadpool-style one-liner machine, and the pitched-down, gravelly affect he adds to his voice makes witticisms drag. I don’t believe someone this self-serious would claim to have had his “ass kicked by a ragged band of elves.” (By contrast, he somehow manages to sell Geralt’s moroseness of being truly alone in his wisdom.) Jaskier’s nattering insertions, asking Gerald in one fraught instance if he’s “perhaps short of a marble,” have the shape of jokes but need either punch-up or to be minimized to allow an overstuffed story room to breathe.

For it’s not just Geralt and Jaskier demanding our attention. This universe feels crowded, often in good ways — we’ll meet some new doctor or local potentate who could, perhaps, anchor a whole episode, and see tantalizingly just enough of them. But the main cast also includes Anya Chalotra as the sorceress Yennefer and Freya Allan as a princess coming into her power; those two occupy not just subplots but entire wings’ worth of story. That leaves “Witcher” episodes both overlong and centerless. There’s not quite enough fully developed characters to make this feel like a big ensemble show like “Thrones,” and so we crave a single center of gravity. The decentralized aspect of “The Witcher,” instead, emphasizes certain faults, like how Cavill doesn’t quite embody the Han Solo aspect of his roguish-hero role enough to hold the screen fully.

It also raises the fundamental question of who the show is for. As a “Witcher” watcher but not a reader, I felt the universe at times both overly broad (in its resistance of the single hero) and a bit narrow. Unlike “Thrones,” it resists allegorical or metaphorical readings, at least at first, and is firmly about what it’s about — magic and myth. That itself is less a flaw than simply design, but it does suggest that the appeal of this series may be limited to those already under its spell.

'The Witcher' on Netflix: TV Review

Netflix. Eight episodes (five screened for review).

Production: Executive producers: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, Sean Daniel, Jason Brown, Tomasz Bagiński, Jaros?aw Sawko.

Cast:

Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, Freya Allan
, Jodhi May, Bj?rn Hlynur Haraldsson, Adam Levy , MyAnna Buring, Mimi Ndiweni, Therica Wilson-Read, Emma Appleton, Eamon Farren, Joey Batey, Lars Mikkelsen, Royce Pierreson, Maciej Musia?, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, Anna Shaffer.

More TV

  • 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' Reveals New Opening

    'Jimmy Kimmel Live' Reveals New Opening for Its 18th Anniversary (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Jimmy Kimmel Live” is getting a brand refresh — including a new opening credits sequence — in time for its 18th season. The newly designed show open will be unveiled at the start of Monday night’s show; scroll down below to get an exclusive first look. The new open comes as ABC has also unveiled [...]

  • 'One Day at a Time' Season

    'One Day at a Time' Season 4, 'Flack' Season 2 Get March Premiere Dates at Pop TV

    “One Day at a Time” Season 4 will premiere Mar. 24, while “Flack” Season 2 will premiere Mar. 13, Pop TV announced Monday. The new season of “One Day at a Time” will be the first to air on the ViacomCBS network after it picked the show up post-Netflix cancellation. “The enthusiastic response from fans [...]

  • JEOPARDY! THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME

    'Jeopardy!' Blames Bethlehem Clue Uproar on Post-Production Error

    Responding to the uproar over a clue on Friday’s episode of “Jeopardy!” about the location of a church in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the show’s producers issued a statement Monday that said the clue had been voided during taping and the uncorrected version of the game was mistakenly broadcast due to “human error [...]

  • NBCU Lifestyle Group Ups Jennifer Geisser

    NBCU Lifestyle Group Ups Jennifer Geisser to EVP of Communications

    NBCUniversal’s Lifestyle Group has promoted Jennifer Geisser to the position of executive vice president of communications and talent relations. In her new role, Geisser (pictured left) will be responsible for internal and external communications, developing and executing publicity campaigns, talent management and corporate communications for multiple brands including E!’s international networks. The announcement was made [...]

  • Rachel Bloom, Betsy Sodaro Set 'Mother

    Rachel Bloom, Betsy Sodaro Set 'Mother Mary' at Pop TV

    Pop TV has ordered “Mother Mary,” a new comedy pilot that puts a modern twist on one of the most famous, biblical stories ever told. Asking the question, “What would happen in today’s world if the most irresponsible and lazy human on Earth was impregnated by immaculate conception?” “Mother Mary” will star Betsy Sodaro, who [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content

久久影院-官网