Toss a coin to your Witcher. Within days of The Witcher‘s release on Netflix, all I saw on my Facebook and Twitter feeds were various iterations of “toss a coin to your Witcher” memes. And I had no idea what it was about. Because I hadn't seen The Witcher, nor had I played any of the video games.
I traveled to WordCamp Phoenix for work a couple weeks ago, and I got stuck in the airport multiple times because of weather delays. The during the return delays and flights, I decided to binge The Witcher. And hoooooo boy, am I glad that I did.
Can I say everything? No? Well, daggome it. Because everything kind of works. If I am narrowing it down to specifics, I gotta start with Henry Cavill.
He is magnificent as Geralt of Rivia. I had already liked Cavill personally as Superman (I like Man of Steel, despite the other DC movies he's in being dook-fests), and I haven't seen The Tudors or much else with him. But I'm going to now.
While Geralt is described in the show as emotionless and cruel and mean and tough and grumpy (which he is), he is still totally empathetic and Cavill gives him a real human side. Despite his not being totally human.
Additionally, the overall casting of the show is perfect. Jaskier and Yennifer of Vengerberg are both stunningly well-cast. Going into the show with absolutely zero knowledge of the universe other than “Witchers kill monsters, I think,” it didn't take long for me to be fully invested in this show. Not because of the narrative (which was interesting, and I'll get to that), but because of how the characters very quickly became people I cared about in one way or another.
The narrative, though…whew. That's a whirlwind. I realized something was up in the first episode with the way the show handled storytelling. It wasn't jarring, necessarily, but the actual structure of the narrative was definitely…different. By the end of the first episode, I had a grasp of what it was, and it got a little more intense by the end of the show (being vague here to avoid some spoilery stuff, but once you see it, you'll know).
The thing about it, though, is that it works. The whole structure and storytelling method comes together in the final episode of the season, and it makes us (read: me) want more immediately. And there is no more. Not yet, anyway.
So, I did what any good television binger would do. I went out and bought The Witcher 3 on the Nintendo Switch and started playing it. But more on that later…
And then there's the song. “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher.” It's great. It's catchy. I thought it was going to be the theme song for the show when I started out, but it wasn't. It was integrated into the narrative, and it's used just enough to always be fun when you hear it. Good stuff.
Okay, so remember when I said everything about the show should be under The Good above? Well, that's not entirely accurate. I mean, after all, it's not the perfect TV show. Because that doesn't exist. (Though I would argue that Parks and Recreation comes pretty darn close.)
You could argue the narrative structure feels disjointed and hard to follow. That would be valid criticism. I am trained to watch TV critically because of my education being in pop culture studies, so maybe that's why it stuck out to me as engaging. If you prefer more straightforward narrative structures (like those in Game of Thrones), you might be a little irked at The Witcher.
And possibly, if you're a fan of the games, you might be thrown off as well. This show is based on the books, and the games take a lot of liberties with the story from what I am told. You might be thrown off by that. I personally like adaptation making a piece its own thing that varies by medium, but other's don't and get very upset at it. In this case, YMMV.
The ugliest part of The Witcher is definitely Yennifer before her transformation. While this is a minor plot spoiler for people, you've probably seen it in the trailers and could figure it out for yourself. That said, I wanted to make sure that I pointed her out because playing pre-beautiful Yennifer gave her a real-life back injury. Talk about method acting, right?
The ugliest part about The Witcher came from watching it in public. I was in airports, sitting at the gates, holding my phone (iPhone XS Max so it was fine), with my earbuds in.
Then BAM! Nudity. Boobs everywhere. Okay, no big. Them BAM! Some really freaky, painful, almost torturey nude scenes (going back to Yennifer's transformation). Still, no big…except that I'm surrounded by strangers and children. (I literally was surrounded by children at this point on the airplane — behind me and to the side.) So I had to huddle myself down over my phone to keep the kiddos from seeing some pretty graphic stuff.
I include this in The Ugly because it's not bad at all that the show includes this. It's part of the world of Geralt and Yennifer and Jaskier. And it works for the show and moves the story along. But if you're going to watch around anyone who might not be within the show's target, Mature audience, you should know.
And then there's The Witcher video games. While the Netflix series is based on the original book series, the video games are by far the more popular property. And I include The Witcher 3 in this section because it spoiled me hard on various plot threads that were left dangling in Season One, to be tied up in Season Two when it comes out.
I should have known this was the case, and it doesn't really bother me that it happened. But there were a few things that happened within the first hour of the game where I was like…”yep, they were totally heading in that direction in the show.” And given the narrative structure of the show (which I can only assume the video games emulate), I'll get more information on the events soon.
But still, if you're like me and haven't seen the show, read the books, or played the video games, moving from Season One on TV to the third entry in a video game series…expect spoilers for stuff. From what I've played of the game so far, though, it's definitely worth having gotten spoiled for.
Toss a Coin to Your Witcher. He Deserves It.
There aren't a lot of shows that make me binge them in a single day. This one did. If you have the time or the inclination, I suggest you check it out, too. I was late coming to the party, but now that I did, I am here until last call. There are 8 books in the series, and I figure I will read the first one and see if the rest are for me. (I love Game of Thrones and its story, but loathe GRRM's writing style, and I worry this might be the same.) And I'm already a bit into the third game on Switch, and its story is just as engaging as the TV show.