'The Witcher' Might Be a Fantasy, But It's a Good Show About History

The way The Witcher Netflix series tells its story is divisive. It traces several plot arcs simultaneously, and there are some early indications that these different threads are unraveling at very different points in time, but it takes a long while before The Witcher reveals how all these stories have been building toward a single moment that merges the timelines and creates “the present.”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/jge5wy/the-witcher-might-be-a-fantasy-but-its-a-good-show-about-history

GodDAMNIT Rob keeps selling me on things I have no interest in. My free time is short enough as it is!

I’ve been enjoying this series more and more with each episode I watch (just 1 to go now!).

I’ve read a few of the books so haven’t had issue following along. My partner has been confused at times and I’ve been filling in a few gaps as we go. But we’ve found by later episodes those gaps have been filled by the show itself. It’s quite novel that this mid budget fantasy show treats its audience as having a brain! Concepts are dropped in episode 2 or 3 that aren’t properly explained until episodes 6 or 7. And like Rob writes small throw away lines can take on great meaning after later events.

We just watched episode 7, I won’t spoil it but it basically retells an earlier event from the point of view of a different character who we didn’t previously know was involved at all. It recontextualises the whole event. So good!

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And, I think that ‘treating you like you have a brain’ approach is, unfortunately, also why The Witcher “confused” a bunch of people. Unfortunately, the trend of making HBOified TV also lacking in sophistication seems to have encouraged viewers to just switch off when watching - which led to a lot of usually intelligent reviewers and viewers missing the (not that subtle) indications about time lines, not very subtle ironies, and so on, just because ‘mid budget fantasy with sex and violence doesn’t do that’.

I think it’s a huge disappointment that the viewing and critical audience let The Witcher down and that it will, apparently, become a less interesting thing in future seasons.

Is there any indication viewers let the Witcher down? With the only source being Netflix, it’s hard to tell, but do we have any indication it wasn’t a hit?

The Witcher was a massive hit, has a great audience rating on IMDB, and was renewed almost immediately for a second season. The only place where the show faltered was with critic reviews, and the criticism was mostly from old critics who hadn’t touched a video game since Frogger. I’m not saying that the show is perfect or immune from criticism, but the talk about confusing timelines is overblown in my opinion. The worst that happens is a viewer is briefly confused, Googles and finds one of a million articles discussing the split timelines, and voila, problem solved. Season 2 will likely have less timeline stuff, but that’s more to do with where the story is headed than a retooling brought about by criticism.

Also, confusion can be a legitimate reaction to a work, and I think The Witcher wants you to be a little confused for the first few episodes. But I can’t see how someone could get to the later episodes without realizing that the show has been jumping around time a bit.

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Well, there was a previous review, literally on vice, from a reviewer who didn’t seem to realise that the battle ‘in the background’ for Geralt in the last episode was also the battle in the foreground for Yennefer, so I may be more cynical about the critics than you on this issue.

(For me, the only confusion was about Ciri’s age - her actress looks a lot older than she’s supposed to be, and that threw out my exact dating of the time line shifts a bit until her age was explicitly mentioned in the second last episode.)


In retrospect I think The Witcher would have gotten a better critic appraisal had it done the week to week thing like The Mandalorian. I suspect a lot of critics will just binge their screeners and be too tired at the end to keep up mentally with the plot. But that’s only if you care about critics, which Netflix, of House of Cards and Riverdale fame, clearly do not.

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