The Witcher





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

In a world filled with monsters, sometimes the scariest are … us.

It’s not just fans of The Walking Dead and anyone who’s spent a lot of time in the DMV who’ve learned this. Geralt, the intrepid monster hunter from Rivia, understand this as well as anyone. Oh, sure, he can kill gigantic spiders and werewolves and golems, and do it well. That’s what witchers are literally made to do, after all. They’re a bit Frankensteinian themselves, modified by magic to be stronger and faster and more magical than most mere mortals—tailor-made to deal with any dragons or demons that come nigh.

But fighting monsters has taken its toll on the ranks of the witchers, and those who are left aren’t the most popular folks in town, as a rule. People can be jerks sometimes, even to those who’ve just saved the city from a lurking striga.

But Geralt finds that he’s got to deal with more than just cranky smallfolk. Seems this unassuming monster hunter has gotten involved with political intrigue and a cataclysmic war that could wreck the whole continent.

Something Witcher This Way Comes

In the first episode, Geralt is told that his destiny is bound to that of Princess Cirilla (Ciri for short), a young and magical refugee from Cintra, a country attacked by the nefarious kingdom of Nilfgaard. Except that, in this time-jumping show, that Nilfgaardian invasion hasn’t actually happened yet, so it takes a while for them to meet. Are you with me so far? A powerful sorceress named Yennefer seems destined to play a part in the tale, too.

Also, monsters. Oh, so many monsters. In fact, while the show boasts political mechanizations aplenty, the lion’s share is devoted to Geralt doing what he does best: Investigating and killing foul beasties, which makes The Witcher feel part Game of Thrones, part a weird sort of X-Files. He’s like the fantasy world’s best pest exterminator, where the roaches might be 20 feet long.

Rated M for Messy

Netflix’s TV-MA-rated The Witcher has its roots in a series of fantasy novels written by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, though most would-be viewers may be drawn to the show because of the popular videogame series (also based on Sapkowski’s work).

It embodies, from what I gather, the spirit of the game: Geralt is fearsome, sly, sarcastic, somewhat principled and ever-so-ready to smooch passing maidens and strip down to his birthday suit with little provocation.

Indeed, lots of folks on this Netflix show are happy to strip down and dive into bed with a lad or lass should the opportunity present itself. And Netflix seems to be happy to show us everything it possibly and legally can.

And then, of course, there’s the blood. And the severed body parts. And the heaping piles of entrails. The M-rated Witcher games are, according to our reviewer Bob Hoose, some of the bloodiest around, and the show hasn’t throttled back any. If anything, it’s worse—because the flesh and blood thrown about here is, y’know, real flesh and blood. (Well, simulated real flesh and blood, but you get the drift.)

Viewers must navigate the show’s magical underpinnings, as well—some of which lean quite dark. And if discerning viewers simply shut their eyes during the entirety of each hour-long episode to guard themselves … well, they’ve still got to hear all the profanities.

The Witcher stars Henry Cavill as the titular protagonist—an actor best known for playing Superman in Zac Snyder’s DC superhero movies. But his character here is leagues away from the squeaky-clean Man of Steel. And this show is anything but super.

Episode Reviews

Dec. 20, 2019: “The End’s Beginning”

Geralt rides into the grimy town of Blaviken and talks with a local wizard about a “monster” he wants Geralt to kill. Only thing is, this monster is a woman named Renfri, who showed Geralt some kindness when he first arrived and doesn’t seem monstrous at all. Meanwhile (in a different timeline), the land of Cintra is attacked by Nilfgaard’s endless waves of black-clad soldiers. Eventually Cintra’s queen, understanding the cause is lost, forces her granddaughter, Cirilla, to flee for her life.

The carnage between Cintra and Nilfgaard is indeed horrific. Axes cleave skulls. Soldiers are stabbed, sliced and beheaded. One man falls after getting shot in the eye with an arrow. The queen tells Cirilla about the horrors perpetrated by Nilfgaardian soldiers (who notoriously don’t take prisoners): They’ll set people’s legs alight and feed victims’ tongues to the dogs. Right now, the queen says, their citizens are having their “insides pulled out of their outsides.” A town burns. People commit suicide by poisoning, falling to their deaths or, most grotesquely, stabbing their own necks.

Geralt performs his share of carnage, too—stabbing several people in their chests, stomachs, sides and necks, and he pins one such victim to a door with a sword through the man’s middle. The camera lingers on one victim, obviously dead, with a grievous wound to the neck and blood pooling around the body. He also kills a massive spider-like thing called a “kikimora” by stabbing it in the head. (He also kills, off-camera, an injured fawn.) A girl Geralt meets in town hints that she killed her own dog. The wizard (Stregobor) discusses how he captured many young females—reportedly mutated girls who would be destined to serve a demon later—and autopsied them to confirm their deformities. (It’s suggested that he killed them, too.) He tells Geralt that Renfri kills for pleasure, and does so quite often: For her part, Renfri insists that she only kills people who’ve harmed her. She stabbed one of Stregobor’s soldiers in the eye, for instance, only after he raped her. We hear the story of how Geralt saved another girl from rape.

The sorcerer whom Geralt meets lives in an Eden-like castle—a similarity that extends to all the naked women wandering around. We see them fully in the buff, including breasts and bottoms. (It’s insinuated that all these nude folks are illusions brought forth by the wizard himself.) It’s suggested that Geralt has sex with a woman. The consort of Cintra’s queen makes some suggestive remarks in her direction. We hear a reference to a succubus, a demonic entity that specializes in seduction. Geralt is considered by some to be the “offspring of foul sorcery.” A girl longs to become a witch, and she thinks it’s unfair that she can’t because of her gender. There’s talk of curses and goddesses and demons.

We see that Ciri has some undeveloped magical powers. Cintra’s court magician safeguards the castle for a time with his own protective spell. Stregobor carries a staff with him. Geralt uses a touch of magic, too. He and a woman at a bar drink beer. Others at a party seem to drink wine. We hear the f-word twice, the s-word twice and are exposed to a handful of other profanities, including “b–ch,” “b–tard,” “d–n” and the British profanity “bloody.”

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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