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TV Review: ‘The Witcher’ Casts a Numbing and Intriguing Spell

the witcher
Netflix

Henry Cavill’s defining role has been Superman, a symbol of nobility and hope. In the new series “The Witcher,” however, he plays someone more in line with Wolverine from the “X-Men” series. Monster hunter Geralt of Rivia is a gruff loner at odds with humankind. Although he fights off evil monsters, Geralt feels disillusionment over his deeds. In his mind, there’s no evil greater than another evil. Evil is evil no matter what species it may be.

Geralt’s view then changes once he goes on a new quest. Geralt crosses paths with Yennefer, a sorceress (Anya Chalotra), and a princess (Freya Allan) named Ciri who harbors a dangerous secret. Together, they must team up to combat evil forces within their world known simply as the Continent.

With his deep voice and world-weary attitude, Geralt is a unique man of mystery played well by Cavill. It’s a role that plays into Cavill’s action hero strengths and his unsung dry wit. If there’s one thing Cavill doesn’t often get credit for, it’s his knack for humor. It was apparent in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” that he has solid comical timing and he shows it in sly form here while orchestrating a genuine character arc.

Meanwhile, his female co-stars do commendable work with Anya Chalotra being a standout between both of them. As the kindly yet calculating Yennefer, Chalotra offers plenty of acuity. Similarly, MyAnna Buring gives this fantasy story some slight dramatic realism as Tissaia,  an instructor at a academy Yennefer is initially taken to. Buring orchestrates a subtle balance of hostility and maternal warmth.

cavill the witcher
Netflix

Both Buring and Chalotra attempt to give the story some heft as its tone switches gears. It aims to be a serious allegory for marginalized folks without using race or sexuality. However, there are moments of humor and ardor that put “The Witcher” in near camp territory. It works better when it goes camp, though, since the gravitas makes the storyline a bit too “Lord of the Rings meets X-Men.”

Other highlights include Sonia Belousova and Giona Ostinelli’s tremendous score. Its traditional sword-and-sorcery sounds become effective even when the show first begins. Besides the supporting actresses, Joey Batey stands out as Jaskier, an outspoken jester who accompanies Geralt. Batey is a strong source of levity as he successfully bounces off of Cavill’s dry wit.

“The Witcher” might not offer new enchantments within the realm of fantasy fare. But for Cavill fans and viewers who enjoy getting lost in magical worlds such as the Continent, this should be capable entertainment value. Its emphasis on camp is an added bonus and overshadows the attempted solemnity the story possesses.

“The Witcher” is now streaming on Netflix. The first five episodes were provided for review.

GRADE: (★★★)

Do you plan on being spellbound by “The Witcher?” Please share your thoughts!

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Written by Matt St.Clair

Matt St.Clair is a freelance film journalist currently residing in Connecticut. He is a member of the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association and the Online Film & Television Association.

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