'The Witcher' Season 1 - TV Review

Henry Cavill leads as "The Witcher," and is finally showing some charisma and passable acting above and beyond his good looks. Mind you, it's kind of a B-Movie project ... The first season is eight episodes of one hour each.

This started as a series of fantasy short stories and books, first published in the mid-1980s by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. They first came to the attention of North American audiences via "The Witcher" video games (although it apparently made it to Polish TV five years prior).

Geralt of Rivia (Cavill) is a "witcher," a modified human who makes his living hunting monsters (Eastern European fantasy and folk-tale monsters) in a medieval land. People despise him, even as they pay him gold to eliminate monsters. Despite being spat upon by the people he protects, Geralt is - while grumpy and brusque - both honest and decent. We're also shortly introduced to the malformed Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), who has the makings of a powerful sorceress, and Cirilla (Freya Allan), princess in the kingdom of Cintra that's overrun by the Nilfgaardians. What's not immediately obvious is that Ciri's story is happening later - although the timelines converge at the end of the season.

A significant point they seem to be making is that humans are worse than monsters: monsters do what they do because it's their nature, but humans choose to torture and kill other humans, sometimes on a grand scale. It also believes very strongly in Destiny: we are to find out that Geralt and Ciri are tied together by Destiny, and that much of the havoc that proceeded their meeting was probably caused by one person's refusal to accept Destiny.

Prepare yourself for modern English: in the first episode they referenced a "ride-along," and "elf on the shelf." Both mostly worked in context, but were deliberate jabs at the viewing audience as the terms would have less resonance for the people in the fantasy world. Happily, the later episodes didn't seem to be quite as laden. The series is also home to substantial violence and a fair helping of naked women, although not out of the ordinary for most TV fare these days.

The series is epic, and Geralt is a good character to centre the series on. Yennefer was good, but her moral flip-flops made her less appealing and somewhat less believable. At one point the passing of thirty years (in which Yennefer has aged not at all - apparently magic users, including witchers, don't age) is denoted by a single sentence. Ciri has a certain waifish charm, but the young actress in the role isn't great and her storyline amounts to "run away."

If a second season wraps the whole thing up, I'm with them. If they stretch it out to more, I'll have a harder decision to make.