‘The Witcher: Blood Origin’ Review: A Prequel Too Fast for Its Own Good
Geralt of Rivia stand in the focus The Witcher universe, in his books, video games and Netflix series. The brooding monster hunter is the witcher The mythology mixes bloodlines, magic, blood and war with devious schemes that require you to keep up with everything and hold on to your hero. Mysteries and questions are constantly shrouded in mist, and The Witcher: Blood Origin answers at least one of them: how did the first Witcher come about?
The prequel series is the second spin-off in Netflix Hit Witcher franchise consisting of four episodes streaming December 25th. The show was originally meant to run for six episodes, and in terms of character development, the shorter length doesn’t really work in its favor.
As promised, viewers will meet the heroes who laid the foundation for the monster slayers we know, along with the backstories for other plot points in the original series. There is an overarching prophecy and a motley crew of seven chosen ones who must band together towards a common goal. They are all wayward souls – stop it if you heard that – who want either revenge or redemption.
Sometimes Blood Origin feels like Game of Thrones or Rings of Power or pasture or wheel of time (You get it), but one thing this show does well is connecting the dots. I caught myself saying, “Hey, that’s ___!” a few times. If you’re new to the franchise, there’s plenty of action to get you hooked, but all the stylish swordplay in the world won’t help you understand how it all connects.
Fans of The Witcher know that whenever Geralt’s yellow eyes turn black, he goes into animal killing mode. This fast-paced, gory, and action-packed series is not only a look at the earliest of its kind, but also a glimpse into the history of Xin’trea (later Cintra) and Ithlinne’s prophecy. We won’t go into Kaer Morhen’s famous school of wolves, as the focus here is on the elves and their dominance of politics, magic, and society on the continent. Elf meat rules this show, and you’ll find a lot of them are A-holes.
The story takes place more than a thousand years before Geralt’s time and revolves around the “conjunction of the spheres”. Showrunner Declan de Barra deliberately plucked that vague moment from Andrzej Sapkowski’s books and built the entire show around it. At Netflix fan event Tudum, he said that while working on The Witcher season 2, we “had a story point that we couldn’t fix because we needed to know what happened.” So the prequel takes us into it a time when elves were colonizers with a clearly defined caste system of monarchs, wealthy nobles, merchants, warriors, and lowborn. Some want peace and others thrive on conflict. Grumpy Dwarves? Yes. Schemer wizards? Yes. People? no Brutally fighting the blood splatter on the camera lens? Yes indeed.
A familiar face greets us in the opening scene of the first episode, which serves as a big wink to let you know that this prequel ties in with the original series. Sorry, it’s not Geralt – or even Vesemir – but Jaskier (Joey Batey), everyone’s favorite obnoxious bard. It’s immediately clear that the theme of this Witcher installment is the power of the story. Whether told through song, gossip, or as campfire stories, stories are meant to inspire and change real results. As narrator and seanchaí, Minnie Driver’s character Jaskier brings this point home.
Éile (Sophia Brown) is a hard-hitting fighter of the Raven clan who was once loyal to the kingdom of Pryshia. Though a famous bard now, she has many enemies and a grudge against Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), an exiled Xin’trea warrior who lost his job for dating a princess. Together, Fjall and Éile decide to avenge those who have wronged them.
On the run, they eventually bond with Scian by Michelle Yeoh, a swordmaster and the last living member of the Ghost Tribe. Yeoh doesn’t disappoint in her performance, whether it’s a busy action scene or the calm way she gets her point across. We’re learning a bit about Scían and her people to get a sense of their agenda, but it would have been cool to see how her clan intervened in the prophecy that drives this whole series.
Four other characters join Éile and Fjall on their quest, which turns into a world-saving mission with a side of revenge. There are the heavenly twins Syndril and Zacare, who possess magical powers, and Brother Death, a skilled hunter with a wicked penchant for cleavers. Meldof, a dwarf who initially appears as a potential psychopath, wields a powerful hammer named Gwen. And she sure knows a lot about monoliths – another big wink.
Who are they up against? An unexpected coup throws things into chaos, leaving the gang to face the Empire. There’s more than one villain here. An arrogant supermage named Balor (lenny henry, who also starred in Rings of Power) decodes the magic of the monoliths and unknowingly sets the stage for a cosmic event. His palace runs with Eredin – who many know from The Wild Hunt in the video games and main TV show – make Balor feel himself. But with great power comes great sacrifice and plenty of deceit.
Brutal battle scenes grab your attention and deaths are in true Witcher style: graphical. Many of the costumes are beautiful, but if you’re expecting traditional medieval garb, remember this is an advanced elven civilization in a time before monsters and human interaction.
As the show progresses, we see the grand seven become friends – or lovers. Some traces of it. Zacare is in a romantic relationship with Brother Tod that was formed prior to this prequel. Meldof is tough but heartbroken. There should be a love story between our star heroes Fjall and Éile. However, it doesn’t feel like there’s been enough time to let their chemistry trickle down into real, epic love. They share a bond, but the romance needs to heat up a little longer to touch our hearts.
While parts of the series can feel rushed, you’ll still appreciate the action and roots for the group’s cause before it’s done. Part of the reason is the show’s insistence on spotlighting Éile’s songs. She sings in the beginning, but loses her willingness to be “the lark” when it gets dark. Part of her journey is seeing if her voice can change the world.
The Witcher: Blood Origin gives us the Witcher prototype and helps explain plot details in the first two seasons of the original series while bridging storylines for the upcoming season 3. Easter eggs and important connections are scattered everywhere, turning the script around we know bloodlines and the elves and monsters of the continent. For these reasons, you should pay special attention to the last episode of the series – which is arguably the best.
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