“The Witcher” is not a good TV show.
Netflix’s high-fantasy drama, released Dec. 20 on the streaming service and based on a book series and video game, is in fact a very, very bad TV show. It is cheesy and hacky, full of nonsensical plot twists, gratuitous female nudity, bad dialogue and rather poor acting choices, some from its marquee star, Henry Cavill.
But – and hear us out on this one – “Witcher” is actually riotously fun and rewarding, not in spite of its badness but because of it. There are so-bad-they’re-good shows, and then there is “Witcher,” an amalgamation of terribleness, hilarity, cool fight scenes and a song you’ll never get out of your head.
Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia in “The Witcher.” (Photo: Katalin Vermes/Netflix)
“Witcher” is not a “hate-watch” like HBO’s infamously angering “The Newsroom.” You do not feel bad when Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia, a superhuman monster hunter who speaks only in a monotone and doesn’t appear to have emotions, rattles off platitudes about honor, duty and the ridiculously named “Law of Surprise.” The more you watch, the better you feel, as the ridiculous characters and twists wash over you, each more absurd than the last. (A knight with a hedgehog head is also a romantic hero.) By the eighth and final episode, you might even find yourself wishing there were more.
The reason “Witcher” rides so high on its inanity is that it’s completely in on the joke. It’s instantly clear it’s not a show that takes itself seriously in the slightest. The opening scene is a display of delectable corniness, a monster fight straight out of a 1980s B-movie, with slightly better effects. By the end of the first episode you realize the show has been taking place in multiple timelines. It’s as if the writers admit that, hey, you probably don’t get what’s happening, but doesn’t it look fantastic and fun?
“Witcher” also uses Cavill to great effect. As the story unfolds, you discover it’s not really about him: Instead, he’s a Trojan horse who delivers the audience to far more interesting characters: a woman and a girl (in the past, the present, maybe also the future, who knows); Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), a hunchback witch who hates pretty much everyone but sometimes tolerates Geralt; and Ciri (Freya Allan), a teen princess endowed with mysterious powers who’s on the run after her kingdom is massacred.
And then, of course, there’s the song. Who knew the catchiest earworm of 2019 would come from a lute? Early in the season, Geralt encounters Jaskier (Joey Batey) a bard who follows him around writing songs that embellish his daring deeds. Jaskier sings “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher,” a poppy jam that has already inspired remixes and memes. Viewers will probably keep humming it long after they’ve moved on to another Netflix show.
Freya Allan as Ciri on “The Witcher.” (Photo: Katalin Vermes/Netflix)
Everybody’s trying to find a new “Game of Thrones” these days, but the best thing about “Witcher” is that it’s not remotely trying to play in the same sandbox as the HBO hit. Sure, it’s full of elaborate costumes, computer-drawn dragons, graphic violence and female nudity (too much, the series’ only not-fun flaw), but that’s where the similarities end. “Witcher” is not politically intriguing or emotionally deep. There are no bigger implications to its story. Its trio of conflicting timelines and dialogue stuffed with fantasy lingo make the world of Westeros seem as easy to understand as an “I Can Read” book.
Much like its title character, “Witcher” is big, fun and a little bit dumb. It is the perfect kind of show to watch as you recover from the holidays and a stressful year, which might explain why it made Netflix’s projected list of most popular releases of 2019, despite debuting so close to the year’s end.
So if you’ve yet to have the pleasure, toss a coin to your Netflix queues, sit back and enjoy “Witcher.” You won’t regret it.
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