The first season of Netflix’s ‘wannabe-the-next-Game-of-Thrones’ hopeful, The Witcher has been released. I’m not saying some people won’t enjoy it. This show does have its moments. But the constant use of topless and naked women and lots of straight people was unfortunate considering Henry Cavill as Geralt emanated big queer energy!
This review contains spoilers for The Witcher season 1. You have been warned!
Netflix’s The Witcher being compared to HBO’s Game of Thrones is inevitable. There’s fantasy, sex, kingdoms, backstabbing, and politics in both shows. However, I would advise against entering the eight-episode first season of The Witcher thinking it’s the new Game of Thrones because it’s not. I’m not even sure if it will become as huge as GoT but that’s an entirely different topic.
The current show focuses on three main characters. We have Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, the very impressive Anya Chalotra as Yennefer of Vengerberg, and Freya Allan as Princess Cirilla (or Ciri). These three fictional characters are bound by destiny and the eight episodes show us what they went through to meet each other.
As someone who is a bit familiar with The Witcher games and books, one of my primary concerns was that the TV show would be all about Cavill’s Geralt. I’m glad to share that wasn’t the case. The Witcher franchise is very woman-centric, and so is this series.
In a sense, Geralt isn’t really part of the bigger stuff that’s going on in the Kingdoms. He is an important character, but it’s basically Ciri’s story (in the long run).
If you’re interested in a TV show that features a narrative that allows the lead women and man shine, then you might enjoy this offering. In this regard, I found it to be much better than how Game of Thrones decided to handle its fictional women.
There’s also a lot of diversity in the cast. Points to The Witcher for allowing a range of talent to get such an opportunity.
Where The Witcher lacks is when it comes to overall pacing and certain “artistic” choices. I think the writers thought the reveal that Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri’s stories were taking place at different points in time was going to be a pleasant surprise. But, in my opinion, it wasn’t executed well.
I can’t blame the writers too much because the actual story of The Witcher is jumbled and not necessarily easy to follow chronologically (unlike the GoT books). At least the writers tried to offer something that felt more coherent when adapting the story to live-action TV.
Another reason I feel the show might not appeal to a broader audience is because a lot of information is given without warning. Epics like GoT grew with each season and eased the audience into exploring the lore.
With The Witcher, you’re on your own trying to figure out who wants to do what and why. Also, remembering the names of the characters and places isn’t easy.
As for the “artistic” choices, as mentioned in the title of this review, there are a lot of bare boobs in this show, as well as completely naked women. While I’m not a fan of watching nudity onscreen, if a show wants to go there, I prefer balancing it out. If there are naked women, there should be naked men, too.
Yes, GoT had problems with nudity, but, they kind of tried to balance it out. The same goes for the Outlander series. However, in The Witcher, that’s not the case.
Yennefer seems to like getting fully naked whenever she gets the chance. Also, during sex scenes, women are always more naked compared to men. There’s literally a sex scene between Geralt and Yennefer where Geralt is fully clothed.
It’s a mess.
I’m not sure if Cavill had a clause about nudity in his contract or the creative team wanted to make everything about the male gaze. Perhaps it was both? Cavill has previously done nude scenes in Tudors. I don’t know what was going on with him in The Witcher.
Even if Cavill didn’t want to take his kit off, the show could have balanced nudity through other fictional men.
There are, if I remember correctly, two moments of male nudity in the show. One is used to expose a dangerous magical being while the other is for comedy. Such scenes are a stark contrast when compared to how nude women in this show are used for titillation meant for the male gaze.
Another issue was that The Witcher only featured heterosexual characters. Such a choice was very unfortunate considering Cavill as Geralt radiated queer energy the moment he appeared onscreen. The fact the show gave him a ‘work wife’ didn’t help the situation.
Joey Batey plays Jaskier (or Dandelion in the video game series), a bard who decides to follow Geralt around on his adventures. I would have been okay with Geralt having an annoying companion. But the creative team allowed Batey to be so over-the-top with Jasker’s portrayal that he came across as a stereotypically queer-coded character.
The writers also added interactions between him and Geralt that are borderline queer-baity. One scene has Jaskier giving Geralt a bath and talking about how he rubbed chamomile on Geralt’s butt.
The two banter like people in a relationship. Geralt is visibly upset when he lashes out at Jaskier and yells at him to leave him alone because Jaskier doesn’t belong in his world.
Even though such scenes are in this series, the writers don’t follow through with the potential for actual queer representation. They’re sure to make it clear that Jaskier is a womanizer. As if to say that Geralt and Jaskier might have a ‘thing’ going on, but it’s all “No homo!” because they like women.
I can accept Jaskier from the video game being straight and striking up a friendship with Geralt. But the Jaskier from The Witcher season 1 is definitely not straight as far as the writing tropes are concerned. And it was disappointing to see the writers not going all the way and using him to offer some (while stereotypical) queer representation in this show.
Jaskier is a prime candidate for giving bisexual representation on the small screen. Bisexual representation (involving bisexual men) continues to lack. The Witcher could have helped move the needle forward.
Excuse me! But in what world does a “Straight” guy allow another “Straight” guy to bathe and talk to him like that? Oooohhhh!! But it’s “No Homo” cos they’re talking about loving women. The Witcher on Netflix knows it’s queer. It just won’t say it. Lol. pic.twitter.com/eUk7CIp09V
— A.J Raven (@tempest071990) December 22, 2019
Don’t mind me! Just a clip of a “Straight” dude breaking up with his “Straight” friend (in such an over-the-top emotional manner) and not feeling sad at all. No Homo! Cos they both love women. The Witcher on Netflix is a mess! Lol. pic.twitter.com/pGQ3Zt6MYW
— A.J Raven (@tempest071990) December 22, 2019
Even during an orgy happening under Yennefer’s spell, the scene showed naked women on top of each other as well as with other men. But there weren’t any two men being intimate with each other (as far as I could tell). Again, a whole lot of naked women were used for the male gaze.
One man, in the orgy, did reach out to touch Geralt’s shoulder (as Geralt walked past him), but that was ‘meh,’ in my opinion.
Talking about queer representation, Ciri is supposed to be a bisexual character. However, that part of her was (understandably) not explored in the first season of the streaming series considering everything she had to deal with.
So, hopefully, we’ll get something down the line. The show has already been renewed for a second season.
Other than these particular gripes, the CGI isn’t the best.
The soundtrack goes well with the series, though. The sword battles and action sequences are fun to watch.
The acting, I would say, is okay. Cavill doesn’t have much to do except offer some dialogue in a fake gruff voice as Geralt and look good.
Anya Chalotra got a lot of material to bite into as Yennefer and she more than delivered.
If you’re on the fence about watching The Witcher, (the pilot isn’t the best episode), I would still recommend you give it a watch. It does have its enjoyable moments. So, go for it, even if you have to fast-forward through certain content.
Feel free to share your thoughts about The Witcher season 1 with us.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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