It seems that fantasy worlds never go out of style. Even though they tend to incorporate the same characteristics; magic, wild creatures, heroes, and chosen ones, we continue to gravitate to them with the same enthusiasm and curiosity. However, this new year marks the beginning of a fresh decade, so why not kick it off with a taste of the latest fantasy world to hit the interwebs? Drawing roots from Dungeons and Dragons as well as a bit of Polish folklore is The Witcher.
The Witcher began as a Polish book series following Geralt of Rivia, a mutant who makes a living killing dangerous monsters. There are eight novels in the series detailing a magical world stuck in the middle ages, where an assortment of fantasy races attempt to control ‘The Continent’ and everything that dwells within it. The world of The Witcher is simply referred to as The Continent and is split up into a handful of kingdoms that rule over different regions. Geralt of Rivia takes on the role of a mysterious outsider, attempting to be uninvolved in the political quarrels of the realm. Naturally, he finds himself in the center of it all and attempts to right the wrongs of evil. This series has gained popularity over the years, resulting in three video games, a graphic novel series and now two television series’, with the latest hitting Netflix last month. In recent years The Witcher’s popularity has skyrocketed, and for a good reason. The Witcher universe boasts gruesome monsters, mysterious characters, and what appears to be a near-limitless world where anything you can imagine is most likely real.
The television series works through several storylines of some main characters from the books, following Geralt of Rivia, Yennefer of Vengerberg, and Cirilla of Cintra. The show gives a great introduction to the characters, where we get a sense of their strengths and weaknesses early on. The first few episodes provide depth and dimension to Geralt, Yennefer and Cirilla, offering viewers the opportunity to understand and possibly relate to them as they progress in their journeys. Without spoiling too much, I will say that these characters’ destinies are all intertwined in some way or another, however, it isn’t until half-way through that the viewer realizes the storylines are in fact years apart from one another. This threw me for a loop, as when I initially began the show I was under the impression that all the events were happening simultaneously. Although these three characters are intertwined, their individual journeys are in separate timelines. The show really never eludes to this until out of nowhere a side character, who is in his fifties in one scene is all a sudden a young child in another.
I will say that, even though the jumbled timeline hit me like a brick, it didn’t take away from the experience. It allowed me to appreciate later events as I was aware of the differing timelines. It also creates some pretty interesting metaphors as well, especially within Yennefer’s character arc. The filming method used, especially for scenes crucial to the character’s backstory, offered an artistic perspective that echoed the main theme of the show. The characters are often reminded of balance in all things, where in order to create one thing, another must be sacrificed. While watching the show, I noticed that this message was artistically present in the order of story events, the way certain scenes were filmed and could be found within the jumbled timeline.
Visually, the show is fantastic. Each environment is detailed and expansive, alluding to the complexity and diversity of the world. Monsters are grotesque and freaky, magical creatures and characters are mysterious and odd, while there remains an element of whimsy and beauty in all of it. The look of the show reminds me of everything I loved about other great fantasy movies and television series, where we are left with a desire to explore the worlds and characters ourselves. As found in the video games, Geralt of Rivia battles an array of creatures and as the show continues, I look forward to what kind of beasts and landscapes this series has in store.