1 January 2020 | shreet-shreet
Terrible writing, bad pacing, confusing timeline, no character development, lack of identity, but with a decent protagonist
I have played Witcher 3 and read some of the books, I'd say I love W3, they did an excellent job with the characters, the world and the overall writing, and the books are brilliant as well. Now coming to the show, starting with what I liked - Cavill's Geralt is absolutely spot on, he nails it. The production value is also decent and some of the side characters like Tissaia and Jaskier are done well. Fight scenes are top notch, Cavill brings the physicality to them that was required.
Now to the bad. Everything is rushed, the pacing is terrible and it's full of awkward timeline jumps that are done so badly that it will confuse even the avid fans of the series. Dialogue at some instances are horrific and the majority of the jokes did not land. The storytelling suffers because of the terrible pacing and the timeline jumps. There is no room for character development, if you do not already know these characters, the show doesn't make any efforts to make you relate to them or care for them(except for Geralt). Infact some of the character and their arcs are changed for the worse in the show. For example, in the books and in W3, Yennefer is sometimes arrogant but she's also genuinely intelligent and cares for people she loves. In the show she does nothing smart, we are just forced to believe that she's intelligent and she throws everyone around her in a dustbin. Yennefer's character segments are all either her whining about what she didn't get from life or acting smart(instead of doing anything smart). She's a complete fool in the show. Other characters like Calanthe, Vilgefortz and Eyck of Denesle are also portrayed horribly.
The casting is bad as well. Except for a few actors, none of them seemed like they belong in a Slavic/East European medieval fantasy setting. Beauty is subjective but some people look better than other in general, Triss looks nowhere near as good as she's supposed to, and infact the minor female character(Renfri) that we meet in the first episode looks better than almost the entirety of the rest of the major female cast whom we know are supposed to look beautiful.
And talking about Slavic roots, well, there doesn't seem to be any here. There is no hint of the Slavic folklore and culture present in the show. W3 did the adaptation of the folklore so brilliantly with all the different East European(and Scandinavian) dresses and costumes, the various folk monster/beast designs, the stories and superstitions of the land, the little intricate details within the accents and the language, and the rituals and customs of the local people. These are the things that differentiated the witcher series from other medieval fantasy stories. There none of that here. But I'll tell you what's here that CDPR didn't put in their games and neither did Andrzej Sapkowski put in his books - The politics of 2019. There is forced diversity, there is the b***sack Nilfgaardian armor which is intentionally made to look like a d***, to show Nilfgaard as a generic evil patriarchal empire of d***heads, there are characters ruined by the feminist writers' take on them like Yennefer who acts like a snowflake instead how she's supposed to from the books. We have all this and more that no one asked for. It feels like a generic 2019 diversified medieval show with high fantasy elements. This ain't witcher.
To sum this up, it's not a straight up bad show, but a painfully mediocre one. Though if not for Cavill's brilliant portrayal of Geralt and the very obvious high production value of the show, maybe I would give this a 3. What they needed to do was to take it slow and do what they did in the first episode(which was the best of the season imo) i.e. start with Geralt's adventures and stories and build up the main narrative(a shorter, more focused one than what this show had) towards a longer season of 13 or 24 episodes. That gives us more time with the characters, and gives the writers more room for exposition and world building, which would have eventually resulted in a more coherent experience. For season 2, I'm hoping they would honor the Slavic foundations and the identity of the witcher series, improve writing and pacing, and deliver quality over quantity without a rush for completing the saga. They might need to change up the writing staff and rethink their decisions for this to happen; but looking at the fan reception of this season, I highly doubt that will happen.