There’s one crucial factor lacking from The Witcher: Blood Origin: Geralt of Rivia. After all, it is smart that the enduring character isn’t within the new four-episode prequel sequence, on condition that it takes place greater than 1,000 years earlier than he was born, at a time when witchers (and the monsters they like to hunt) don’t even exist. However that doesn’t make his absence felt any much less. As a result of with out the lovably gruff Geralt, or at the very least an equal character to maintain the story grounded, there isn’t all that a lot to distinguish The Witcher from the entire different epic fantasy sequence on the market, of which there is no shortage this year in particular. Blood Origin does clarify some pivotal moments within the franchise’s historical past, outlining the important thing moments that formed the Continent, because it’s identified. The issue is that it’s simply not that a lot enjoyable to look at.
The present takes place 1,200 years earlier than the occasions of the original Witcher series, at a time when elves are the dominant drive on the planet. They don’t have a lot competitors. Whereas dwarves share the land, neither people nor monsters do, and so elves — who’re scarce in Geralt’s time — are unfold throughout a number of kingdoms and clans, every with their very own customs and beliefs and lots of of whom warfare amongst one another. That’s till just a few bold elves set a plan in place to unite everybody (by drive) underneath a supreme chief. This units off a sequence response that results in every kind of pivotal occasions in Witcher lore, together with the creation of the monster hunters and an occasion referred to as the “conjunction of the spheres,” through which the worlds of elves, people, and monsters are pressured collectively, creating the Continent as we all know it.
The story is instructed primarily by way of a free group of adventurers who, for varied particular person causes, band collectively to kill the chief of this new oppressive drive for elf-kind. The primary two episodes are a bit just like the sequence in a role-playing recreation the place you select your get together members. There’s Eile (Sophia Brown), a warrior-turned-bard making an attempt to atone for her violent previous; Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), a disgraced royal guard now dwelling in exile; Scian (Michelle Yeoh), an elven swordmaster and the final of her clan; Meldof (Francesca Mills) a dwarf with a giant hammer and a quest for revenge; a mysterious warrior named Brother Loss of life (Huw Novelli); and the mages Syndril (Zach Wyatt) and Zacare (Lizzie Annis).
It’s an attention-grabbing group — at the very least, I suppose they’re attention-grabbing, however Blood Origin by no means actually gave me sufficient time to get to know them. With such a giant forged, a brief four-episode-long run time feels far too little. And that’s not even counting the characters outdoors of the adventuring get together who assist form the story, just like the highly effective druid Balor (Lenny Henry, who additionally seems in Rings of Energy, as if these reveals didn’t mix collectively sufficient as is), an elusive elf storyteller performed by Minnie Driver, and other guest appearances.
Just a few nonetheless handle to face out. It’s onerous to not be drawn to a legendary swordmaster performed by Yeoh, and Mills is hilarious as a heartbroken warrior with a delightfully foul mouth. However the remainder typically muddle collectively. Making issues worse, there’s a complete lot of politicking occurring right here — one thing that’s often background fodder for the sequence — that obscures the extra human (or, moderately, elven) drama. The result’s a present that feels extra like a historical past lesson than an entertaining miniseries. It’s cool to be taught these historic particulars about the place witchers and monsters got here from, however I may additionally get that from a wiki entry. In some way the present even makes the now-requisite tub scene boring.
There isn’t any scarcity of fantasy reveals about politics and prophecies and world-changing occasions. These are a key a part of The Witcher, naturally, however what helps give the sequence its personal distinct voice is the witchers themselves, who hold the concentrate on the bottom degree. At its greatest, The Witcher is sort of a supernatural detective sequence, with Geralt and his ilk touring from city to city, fixing common peoples’ issues by slaying beasts. The kings and queens and spheres aren’t their most urgent considerations when a basilisk is operating free within the backyard.
It’s not not possible to make an attention-grabbing Witcher story with out Geralt; we’ve already seen it occur with Nightmare of the Wolf. However that animated prequel was nonetheless centered totally on witchers and had a personality in Vesemir who had a lot of the identical enchantment as Geralt. Blood Origin, however, feels too far faraway from the stuff that really makes the franchise attention-grabbing and too crowded for anyone character to hold it.
Franchise is the important thing phrase right here. Given the sturdy begin The Witcher had, Netflix appears decided to show it right into a sprawling franchise, so there’ll seemingly be extra prequels and sequels on the way in which. Hell, they already have a replacement lined up for when Henry Cavill leaves in season 4. However Blood Origin reveals the hazards of that strategy: the additional away you get from the supply, the simpler it’s to lose what makes it particular.
The Witcher: Blood Origin begins streaming on Netflix on December twenty fifth.