universe — in all its incarnations as books, and multiple Netflix series — tends to revolve around its broody monster hunter, . He is the Witcher. The mythology blends bloodlines, timelines, magic, gore and war with insidious plots, requiring you to keep up with it all and stick with its hero. There are always mysteries and questions dangling in the fog, and The Witcher: Blood Origin prequel answers at least one of them: How did the first Witcher come to be?
The prequel series is the second spinoff inhit Witcher franchise, consisting of four episodes that stream on Dec. 25. The show was originally supposed to be six episodes, and in terms of character development, the shorter length may have worked against it a tad.
As promised, viewers will meet the heroes who laid the foundation for the monster killers we know along with the backstories for other key elements in the original series. There’s an overarching prophecy and a motley crew of seven chosen ones who must band together with a common goal. Of course, they’re all wayward souls in some way who either want vengeance or redemption. At times, Blood Origin feels like Games of Thrones oror and Wheel of Time (you get it), but one thing this show does well is connect the dots, and it’s kind of clever how it’s done. I found myself saying, “Hey, that’s ___!” a few times. If you’re brand-new to the franchise, there is plenty of action to reel you in, but all the stylish sword fights in the world won’t help you understand how everything ties together.
Fans of The Witcher know that every time Geralt’s yellow eyes turn black, he’s going into beast-slaying mode. Fast-paced, bloody and action-packed, this series is not only a peek at the earliest version of his kind, but a history dive into Xin’trea (now Cintra) and Ithlinne’s prophecy. We don’t explore Kaer Morhen’s famous School of the Wolf, as the focus here is on the elves and their domination in politics, magic and society on the Continent. You’ll find that many of them are a-holes.
Set over a thousand years before Geralt’s time, the story centers on the “Conjunction of the Spheres.” Showrunner Declan de Barra purposely plucked this vague moment from Andrzej Sapkowski’s books and created the entire show around it. At Netflix’s fan event Tudum, he said that while working on season 2 of The Witcher, “we had a story point we couldn’t fix because we needed to know what happened.” So the prequel takes us to a time when elves were colonizers with a well-defined caste system of monarchs, rich nobles, merchants, warriors and lowborns. Some want peace and others thrive on conflict. Resentful dwarves? Yes. Scheming wizards? Yes. Humans? No. Brutal fights that splatter blood on the camera lens? Yes indeedy.
A familiar face greets us in the opening scene of the first episode, which serves as a big wink to let you know this prequel ties in with the original series. Sorry, it isn’t Geralt — or even Vesemir — but everyone’s favorite obnoxious bard, Jaskier (Joey Batey). Right away, it’s clear that the theme of this Witcher installment is the power of story. Whether told through song, gossip or as campfire tales, stories are meant to inspire and change real-world outcomes. As narrator and a Seanchaí, Minnie Driver’s character drives that point home for Jaskier and us viewers.
Éile (Sophia Brown) is a badass Raven Clan fighter who was once loyal to the kingdom of Pryshia. Though she’s now a celebrity bard, she has plenty of enemies and a grudge toward Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), an exiled Xin’trea warrior who lost his job for hooking up with a princess. Together, Fjall and Éile decide to avenge those who wronged them and uncover a deeper plot.
On the run, they eventually link up with, a sword master and the last living member of the Ghost Clan. Though she’s not a main hero, Scían will keep you guessing about her true intentions. Yeoh does not disappoint in her performance, whether it’s a busy action scene or the calm way she gets her point across. We learn just enough about Scían’s people to get a snapshot of her agenda, but it would have been cool to see how her clan figured into the prophecy that drives this whole series.
Four other characters join Éile and Fjall on their quest, which morphs into a world-saving mission with a side of vengeance. There are the 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 at first comes off as a potential psychopath, wields a mighty hammer named Gwen. Take that, Mjölnir! And she sure knows a lot about monoliths — another big wink.
Who are they going up against? An unexpected coup throws things into chaos, leaving the gang to take on The Empire. More than one baddie exists here. An arrogant super mage named Balor (, who was also in Rings of Power) decodes monolith magic and unknowingly sets the stage for a cosmic event. His palace runnings with Captain Eredin — whom many will recognize from The Wild Hunt in the video games and main TV show — have Balor feeling himself. But with great power comes great sacrifice and lots of backstabbing.
Through a combination of bright and ethereal lighting, the show traverses through the Continent’s beautiful mountainscapes and into darker realms where either despair or chaos hovers. Brutal fight scenes command your attention, and deaths are in true Witcher style: graphic. Many of the costumes are beautiful, but if you’re expecting traditional medieval garb, remember this is an advanced elf civilization in a period before monsters and human interaction.
Over the course of the show, we see the magnificent seven become friends — or lovers. Some of it fits. The celestial twins are magical siblings, and one was already in a romantic relationship with Brother Death. Meldof is tough yet heartbroken. There is supposed to be a love story between our star heroes, Fjall and Éile. However, it doesn’t feel like there’s been enough time to let their chemistry percolate into a genuine, epic love. They undoubtedly share a bond, but the romance needs to heat up a little longer to hit us in the heartstrings.
Though parts of the series feel rushed, you’ll still appreciate the action, root for the group’s cause and squeeze in a few chuckles before it’s done. One reason for that is the show’s insistence on spotlighting Éile’s songs. She sings at the beginning but loses her willingness to be “the Lark” when things get dark. Part of her journey is seeing whether her voice can change the world.
The Witcher: Blood Origin delivers on giving us the Witcher prototype, and helps explain plot details in the first two seasons of the original show while bridging storylines for the upcoming season 3. Easter eggs and important connections are sprinkled throughout, flipping the script on what we know about magic and the Continent’s elves and monsters. For these reasons, you’ll want to pay special attention to the series’ final episode — which is arguably its best.
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