‘The Witcher: Blood Origin’ review: A prequel too fast for its own good
Geralt of Rivia is at the center of the witcher the universe, in his books, video games and Netflix series. The brooding monster hunter is the Witcher. Mythology mixes bloodlines, magic, gore and war with devious plots, forcing you to follow everything and stay true to its hero. Mysteries and questions constantly float in the fog, and The Witcher: Blood Origin answers at least one of them: How was the first Witcher born?
The prequel series is the second spin-off from by Netflix hit the Witcher franchise, consisting of four episodes airing on December 25. The show was originally supposed to be 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 groundwork for the monster slayers we know, as well as the stories of other plot points from the original series. There is an overarching prophecy and a motley crew of seven chosen ones who must come together with a common goal. They’re all wayward souls – stop me if you’ve heard this one – who want either revenge or redemption.
Sometimes Blood Origin feels like Game of Thrones or rings of power or willow or wheel of time (you get it), but one thing this show does well is connect the dots. I found myself saying, “Hey, that’s ___!” sometimes. If you’re new to the franchise, there’s plenty of action to get your teeth into, but not all the stylish sword fighting in the world will help you understand how it all ties together.
Fans of The Witcher know that whenever Geralt’s yellow eyes turn black, he goes into beast-slaying mode. Fast-paced, bloody and action-packed, this series is not just a preview of the first release of its kind, but a dive into the history of Xin’trea (later Cintra) and the prophecy of Ithlinne. We are not exploring the famous wolf school of Kaer Morhen, as the focus here is on the elves and their dominance in politics, magic, and society on the continent. Elf beef rules this show, and you’ll find that a lot of them are holes.
Set over a thousand years before the time of Geralt, the story centers around the “Conjunction of the Spheres”. Showrunner Declan de Barra deliberately took this vague moment from Andrzej Sapkowski’s books and created the whole show around it. Speaking at Netflix’s fan event Tudum, he said that while working on The Witcher season 2, “we had a story point that we couldn’t solve because we needed to know what’s going on. had passed”. Thus, the prequel takes us to a time when elves were colonizers with a well-defined caste system of monarchs, wealthy nobles, merchants, warriors, and lowborn. Some want peace and others live from conflict. Resentful dwarves? Yes. Intriguing wizards? Yes. Humans? No. Brutal fights that splatter blood on the camera lens? Yes indeed.
A familiar face greets us in the opening scene of the first episode, which serves as a big nod to let you know that this prequel ties into the original series. Sorry, it’s not Geralt – or even Vesemir – but everyone’s favorite obnoxious bard, Dandelion (Joey Batey). Right away, it’s clear that the theme of this Witcher episode is the power of story. Whether told through song, gossip or campfire tales, stories are meant to inspire and change real-world results. As narrator and Seanchaí, the character of Minnie Driver drives that point home for Dandelion.
Éile (Sophia Brown) is a badass Raven Clan fighter who was once loyal to the Kingdom of Pryshia. Although now a famous bard, she has many enemies and a grudge against Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), an exiled Xin’trea warrior who lost his job for meeting a princess. Together, Fjall and Éile decide to avenge those who have wronged them.
On the run, they end up associating with Scian by Michelle Yeoh, a swordsman 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 learn a bit more about Scían and his people to get some insight into his agenda, but it would have been cool to see how his clan figured into the prophecy that drives this entire series.
Four other characters join Éile and Fjall on their quest, which turns into a world-saving mission with a vengeance. There are celestial twins Syndril and Zacare who have magical powers, and Brother Death, a skilled hunter with a wicked penchant for cleavers. Meldof, a dwarf who first comes across as a potential psychopath, wields a mighty hammer named Gwen. And she knows a lot about monoliths – another big wink.
Who are they up against? An unexpected coup throws things into chaos, leaving the gang to take on the Empire. More than one villain exists here. An arrogant super mage named Balor (Lenny Henry, which was also in Rings of Power) decodes monolithic magic and unknowingly sets the stage for a cosmic event. His palace runs with Eredin – who many will recognize from The Wild Hunt in the video games and the main TV show – make Balor feel like himself. But with great power comes great sacrifice and plenty of backstabbing.
The brutal fight scenes hold your attention and the deaths are in true Witcher style: graphics. Most of the costumes are gorgeous, but if you’re expecting traditional medieval attire, remember this is an advanced elven civilization in a time before monsters and human interaction.
Over the course of the show, we see the gorgeous seven become friends – or lovers. Some of them follow. Zacare is in a romantic relationship with Brother Death, a relationship that was established before this prequel. Meldof is tough but heartbroken. There is supposed to be a romance between our star heroes, Fjall and Éile. However, it feels like there hasn’t been enough time to let their chemistry blossom into true epic love. They share a bond, but the romance needs to warm up a bit longer to touch our hearts.
Although parts of the series feel very rushed, you’ll still enjoy the action and the root of the band’s cause before it’s over. One reason for this is the show’s insistence on spotlighting Éile’s songs. She sings at first but loses her will to be “the lark” when things get dark. Part of her journey is to see if her voice can change the world.
The Witcher: Blood Origin delivers by giving us the Witcher prototype and helps explain plot details in the first two seasons of the original show while also tying in storylines for the upcoming Season 3. Important connections are dotted around, flipping the script on what we know about bloodlines and the continent’s elves and monsters. For these reasons, you’ll want to pay special attention to the series’ latest installment – which is arguably its finest.
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