a starry and lore-rich prequel

How much Witcher is too Witcher? In the last decade of pop culture, there’s been a multi-award-winning game (The Witcher III: Wild Hunt), a live-action series starring Henry Cavill, and an animated show — and it’s is before counting Andrzej Sapkowski’s original book series. .

But fans are asking for more, and so the Witcher train is rolling ever further. The result is this star-studded, lore-rich mini-prequel to the original series (i.e. the Henry Cavill series).

Set approximately 1,200 years before Geralt of Rivia’s arrival on the scene, we return to a world inhabited only by elves and dwarves, before the conjunction of the spheres (a magical cataclysm) brought humans and monsters in the Witcher verse – and before the very first Witchers were created to fight them.

Sorry, but I warned you it would be dense.

In combat: Michelle Yeoh, Laurence O’Fuarain and Sophia Brown (Susie Allnutt/Netflix)

This ancient world is one of the Elven kingdoms (most of the action takes place in the declining kingdoms of Pryshia and Xintrea, plagued by infighting), tribes of various Elven warriors, and Elven peasants. This is long before the original Cavill series, in which elves are reviled and hunted,

Our heroes are Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), a disgraced warrior from the Dog Clan and former protector of the King, and Éile (Sophia Brown), a traveling bard from the Raven Clan.

They are forced together by a rather convoluted set of circumstances involving the Pryshian royal family, to whom Fjall had previously been sworn, and their subsequent collapse. Now the bad guys are in charge, the kingdoms are falling into chaos, and someone has to show the rampaging monsters a few inches of good cold steel.

Of course, the road to restoring order is not smooth. Fjall and Éile hate each other and while O’Fuarain and Brown play the enemy-friends trope with great dedication, you can’t help but feel there’s something a little thin about their characters and the world in general.

The Witcher is famous for its world-building and fantastical monsters, but none of those monsters are around yet, and when you dive into the backstory there’s not much to distinguish it from most other generic fantasies.

The pair team up with Michelle Yeoh, the last surviving tattooed Ghost Clan member, and various other miscreants, which ends up creating the first Witcher prototype.

In Trouble: Princess Merwyn (Netflix)

In Trouble: Princess Merwyn (Netflix)

There’s also Lenny Henry, playing a villainous druid with the power to shift between planes of existence and presumably the trigger for the Conjunction of the Spheres in the first place. Luckily for Henry, he looks like he’s having a good time, even if the material he’s given doesn’t go far beyond the standard plot and set-chewing.

No one can guess how he or Yeoh were convinced to take part in this, as the show isn’t nerd or features particularly compelling character arcs, but I guess it involves a substantial amount of zeros.

Given that this is the Witcher verse, there is of course both sex and gore. In the first episode alone, we see Fjall happily caught red-handed with the Princess Royal, Merwyn (hence the reason for his banishment) – and nearly getting murdered by several mysterious cabals of assailants.

The settings are gorgeous; the costumes and the world even more so, even if it’s a little heavy on the face paint that adorns most elven nobles. But watching it, I couldn’t help but think that the Witcher verse just wasn’t compelling enough without Geralt to guide us.

In Blood Origin, it feels like the writers have baked in a whole host of references and explanations for events that only diehard Witcher fans know about or even care about.

As a result, it’s hard to feel invested in the fate of the characters – who ultimately are little more than a footnote in Sapkowski’s books. How much Witcher is too much? Here is your answer.

The Witcher: Blood Origin hits Netflix on December 25

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