Let’s be honest, this song is mad catchy.
If you haven’t read last week’s post, where I tear into the first three episodes of The Witcher, then…well, actually, you know the context for this week’s post. I did not enjoy the first three episodes of The Witcher. At all. Which, from what I’m seeing in IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, Social Media, and every time I stick my head out of my house, puts me in the minority. I could take a rocket ship to Tau Ceti, and when I arrived be informed by the alien civilization there that humans have an honored place in their society because we created The Witcher. Then I get executed for not liking it.
Don’t think about that metaphor too hard, I certainly didn’t.
Laura and I decided that we’d watch the rest of the show. She had given the books a try and was enjoying them far more than she expected, and I wanted to see what everyone else saw in the show. There had to be something I was missing – if the vast majority of people like something, and I didn’t, the problem had to be me, right?
After watching the rest of The Witcher and getting the rest of the story, seeing the adventures of Geralt of Running Gags, I can safely say that Geralt sums up my opinion perfectly with his most quotable line in the entire show:
Now that I’ve removed all ambiguity, let’s go into more detail. Not that you need it, of course. How can anyone misinterpret a gruff “Hmm?” Making that a constant response couldn’t possibly get annoying, isn’t that right The Witcher? Doing it an average of once every ten minutes – and I’m only barely exaggerating there – is definitely never going to get old, right? Right?
I did finish the show. I’m not going into as much detail for the remaining 5 episodes, just a brief overview of each. I’m also going to talk about themes, and I’m going to attempt to talk about them without referring back to Game of Thrones. I have beaten that particular horse to death, glued it back together, beaten it back to death, raised it back with foul magics that are an affront to both God and Man, and then beaten it into a state of deamination. The horse is paste. I need to give it a long rest.
Like, at least a week, because I’m talking about The Expanse soon and will need to make comparisons.
Episode 4: The Best Episode
Yennefer has a portal fight with an assassin that commands a bug monster. Every frame of this conflict is pure gold, and I’m so glad I watched it. I could do without her being focused on having a child of her own, because women have interests beyond what goes into or comes out of their genitals damnit. I’m so sick of having to point this out. Fortunately, she isn’t rendered one dimensional in this pursuit, and honestly I probably wouldn’t have been bothered by it if I wasn’t sick to death of this trope, so…props for doing the stupid thing well, I guess?
I did love her fight sequence.
Also, Geralt of Riviera Maya got some depth this episode. Like, real depth. He’s relatable, he’s human, he’s still a growly broody misery guts but he’s now a relatable growly broody misery guts and therefore I love him. In this episode. His storyline also has some further plot development of the narrative involving Ciri, and by further plot development I meant we actually find out how they connect. This episode deals with the Law of Surprise, a…not actual law, because it goes across Kingdoms, but a custom and religious practice that is really interesting in concept. As long as you don’t think about it too hard.
Basically, in the society of The Witcher, when asking for payment, you can accept payment in a surprise. That which the person does not yet know they have. So it could result in them going home and finding an unusually bountiful crop and hey, that’s your payment. They could go home and find out their cow has had calves and those calves are now yours. Or…they could go home and find out they have a pregnant wife / are pregnant themselves, and thus you get that child.
First of all, this opens the possibility of surprise kittens, which instantly makes it the greatest religious custom ever. Second and, I suppose more importantly, it opens some doors for really interesting drama. After all, is owning a child because you said “Law of Surprise” a good or ethical thing?
Well, it doesn’t matter, because all that possible intrigue is thrown aside. Why? Because the Law of Surprise is enforced by…Destiny. The metaphysical concept of Destiny is a very real thing in this world that can enforce its will.
At some point I’m going to do a full post on why this is problematic, because Destiny as a provable force is my biggest gripe with fantasy as a genre the entire Fantasy genre back, the proverbial albatross around its neck. However, that’s not a flaw in the show, that’s a personal preference, so I’m gonna let that slide.
Also, the recaps are going to start getting really short going forward, because I am not letting this become another super long blog post and I really want to do an ‘overall thoughts’ at the end. Let’s see if I make it.
Let’s go to…
I liked Geralt enough last episode he doesn’t get silly names anymore. Also, I was running out of places that start with “R” I thought would be vaguely amusing, so it’s good I can ditch that.
Geralt tries to find a Djinn because he can’t sleep and wants to wish for sleep. That seems excessive, especially when the world has magic, but as someone with chronic insomnia I can appreciate the desperate measures sleep deprivation drives us to, so props for relatable motivation. This goes poorly, the Bard gets injured, and Geralt needs a mage to fix his musical companion. That leads him to…Yennefer! Yay!
Yennefer, who is currently sitting in the middle of a one hundred person orgy. Um. Yay? And then we find out these people are being mind controlled into having this orgy. No, not yay? Okay, seriously, what the hell ass balls is going on here? Is Yennefer trying to set the world record for sexual assaults in a single day?
We get a bit more context, and a slight implication that Yennefer might not have been mind controlling them into the orgy because she’s gone crazy, but rather because the producers wanted nudity in the scene – I mean because she’s helping the town be more liberated and enjoy themselves and wanted her to do this. I’m…going to assume the show did not intend that scene to be creepy or to make Yennefer into a monster, so I’m going to cling to that assumptions.
Anyway, Yennefer tries to control the Djinn. The ritual to do this requires her to bare her breasts because of course it does. It goes badly, Geralt saves her, because he knows more about this than the person who went to magic school. Probably because of the Y chromosome.
Okay, that last pot shot was out of line. The show does not imply Yennefer is incompetent, just desperate and arrogant, which is in line with her characterization so far, and we only have Geralt’s word After it’s done, Geralt and Yennefer They scream at each other then immediately start banging. I…didn’t feel that was earned, but there was some sexual tension early in the episode and the producers really want to show us more boobs, so sure, at least there’s a reason for the nudity.
I’m beginning to think this show has the Star Trek movie problem. Only the even numbered ones are good. Let’s see if that holds with…
Episode 6: Somehow Made Dragons Boring
This episode has a dragon. That should have been an instant sell for me. Yet…no. I find it increasingly hard to care. Laura informs me this episode was stripped to the bone from the story, and my desire to read these books is rising. We also find out Yennefer and Geralt had a relationship between episodes, and I’m barely surprised because this show has less respect for time’s flow than Doctor Who. The Bard is in this episode and, finally, manages to start grating on my nerves.
This episode is making it really easy to cut down on the length of these reviews, which is good but also not. Even though I did not like Episode 3 and Episode 5, they at least stuck with me and gave me things to chew on. This episode just…has some stuff that happens. It feels very bland. Also, so far the show has had awesome special effects for monsters, so it’s a damn shame the dragons are some of the worst CGI I’ve seen in ages from a modern show.
Oh, and dragons apparently have the gift of prophecy, and we get the laziest prophecy ever. I mean, it’s basically said like a spoiler overheard at the office by someone who is angry you didn’t file paperwork in time so is punishing you in the laziest way possible.
Also, Yennefer and Geralt hook up again this episode, and the camera doesn’t linger on Yennefer’s breasts. It doesn’t even show them. And yes, in case you were wondering, this was one of two episodes directed by a woman. Shocking. She also directed…episode 5, with the gratuitous orgy scene and probably more exposed Yennefer breasts than any other episode.
Damnit, Charlotte Brändström, I was trying to make a snarky point in the laziest way possible, just like the prophecy.
Speaking of being lazy, let’s move on to…
Episode 7: 50 Minutes of My Life I’ll Never Get Back
This show is really trying to make me hate Yennefer. I really want to keep liking her, but the fact that her contribution this episode is to scare a bunch of young women at the magic school, get them high, and then sit in a mage council meeting she doesn’t actually contribute to, it’s getting hard. We do learn about magic. There are three forbidden magical schools. Demonology, Necromancy, and…Fire magic. So…throwing fireball is on the same level of evil as communing with unholy spirits and raising the dead? I mean…it’s an interesting take, but feels like it should be explained a wee bit more than a throwaway line.
We also find out some things we didn’t care about, like where Geralt was during the battle in the first episode, (he was stuck between gates, which we already knew because we had a throwaway line in the first episode and a basic knowledge of foreshadowing). This episode was the first one where I cared about what was happening to Ciri. You’ll notice I didn’t mention her in the other episode recaps. She was still there, but they were getting too long and life is too short to waste on Princess Special-Pants.
This episode, however, she is the only one moving the plot forward. We’re actually getting some information, and minimal recycled footage for her – and there is a lot of recycled footage this episode. They must be saving up for some big, special effects blowout. That’s fine, it’s a thing you have to do sometimes, but you should probably try to make sure it’s still interesting when you make us wait for the grand finale.
Episode 8: The Big, Special Effects Blowout
Oh sweet merciful Jesus, we’re drawing near the end of both this season and this blog post.
You know what is nice? Rules for a magic system. You don’t need to go to Sanderson level of super strict, but it’s good for your audience to know what the rules are. So far, for The Witcher, we have three rules: Magic comes at a price in life, (cool), Demonology, Necromancy, and Fire Magic are evil (confusing, but makes sense) and if you can’t master your emotions, magic will…not work properly? Destroy you? Turn you into Pennywise? It’s not really clear. We don’t actually know what the mages can and can’t do, which is a problem, but at least there are rules we can cling to for understanding. That’s nice.
Good news! Episode 8 violates every single one of these rules.
First of all, I have problems with fire magic being evil. Without explanation, I’m forced to assume that fire magic is bad because burning someone is awful. Which I didn’t have a problem with, right up until one mage creates poison mushrooms that causes people walking across them to slowly choke to death on their own spittle. This mage is, incidentally, one of the good guys. That…feels like setting someone on fire is no worse than that. Might even be a bit better. Oh, and the good guys use magic to create fireworks that explode into what looks like white phosphorus, which is way worse than normal flame, so…so I don’t know what that evil was about.
Oh, and also, Yennefer is able to cast non-evil fire magic without paying a price and it’s all because she stops controlling her emotions. So…cool. That’s cool. That’s…a good way to make sure you audience knows your rules mean nothing.
Looks badass though, I’ll grant that.
Buy the way, parasitic, mind controlling worms exist. They’re basically yeerks. So The Witcher has yeerks and that would have been good to have foreshadowed. Especially because they easily could have had Geralt fight some of these things controlling a town earlier on in the show, thus making the audience go “Oh no!” when we see them as opposed to “Oh…so…that’s a thing.”
I’ve mostly be mocking on the show, but I will say there were some damn good action beats in this episode, and it’s thematically consistent. Geralt loses his fight against Destiny and meets Ciri, thus getting a chance to be a symbolic parental figure and try and be better than his own failed parental figure, Ciri develops agency and in doing so runs into the woods where Geralt finds her (although it wasn’t needed because he was about to meet her anyway, it was nice that the show tried to imply Ciri making a choice was a good thing,).
Yennefer gets a great closing to her character arc. See, a central theme of the Witcher is “Don’t chose the lesser evil.” Yennefer has been choosing the lesser evil so much, she’s on the verge of becoming a greater evil. However, in this episode, she instead stands and risks her life for something that does not personally benefit her or increase her power, and in the process gains a massive increase to her power – rewarding her with what she wants because she embraced selflessness. It’s actually satisfying.
The Witcher isn’t a bad show. It’s just not for me. There were some great dialogue lines and some awesome fight scenes, and since there isn’t exactly a glut of life action Epic Fantasy shows I’m going to watch the second season when it comes out. I’m glad so many people are enjoying the show. Slightly puzzled, but happy for everyone who likes it.
I’m hoping I enjoy next season as much as all of you.
Oh, and since I posted that song at the beginning…
Incase you didn’t listen and don’t want to scroll up
When a minor blog
Sat to watch, like most
Mr. Geralt of Rivera
Along came this post
Of what I admit I thought
A kinda okay show
With weakly written plot
And first episode’s guano
Yennefer was nice
At least she was at first
Then they got weird
And she joined the worst
Still I watched some more
Both liking and bored
But judged the Witcher
Cool with a sword
Toss some views to your blogger
O’ Viewers of Plenty
O’ Viewers of Plenty
Toss a share to your blogger
O’ Viewers of Plenty
The monsters did excite
And magic did ignite
Although that is evil
But I did like the fight
Geralt was a guy
The show wasn’t shy
About showing you nudity
Whenever it could
I gave the show my best
It’s a bit above the rest
But there’s still mediocrity
And it’s not the best
That’s my mangled song
There’s liberties I took
For the sake of some laughs
O’ Bloggers of Plenty
O’ Bloggers of Plenty
And avoid mediocrity!