In the last few months, fantasy fans have flocked to the The Witcher. Based on the book series by Andrzej Sapkowski, the new Netflix show is often described as the next Game of Thrones, but science fiction author Anthony Ha warns that comparisons between the two shows might be misleading.
“A lot of times that’s the bet that marketers are making when they take something and they say it’s like this other thing that you like,” Ha says in Episode 399 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It may not be entirely true, but the hope is that you’ll like it enough—or you’ll have tuned in or bought the ticket at that point. So it’s fine if we don’t have a completely accurate comparison, but it’s close enough that people aren’t totally furious.”
The Witcher, which follows the adventures of a monster-hunter named Geralt of Rivia, is much more episodic than Game of Thrones, and features a much goofier sense of humor. TV writer Andrea Kail was disappointed by the show’s early episodes. “I prefer more serialized shows,” she says. “It felt like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys or Xena: Warrior Princess, which I feel like, personally, I have moved past.”
Another issue with the show is a convoluted plot structure that obscures the relationship between its three main characters. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley wishes the story had been easier to follow. “It seemed like these events were happening contemporaneously, and I found it extraordinarily annoying—several episodes into the show—when it turns out that they’re not,” he says.
Fortunately the show hits its stride near the end of Season 1, when the timelines converge and the tone becomes darker and more serious. Cosplay expert Gillian Conahan, a big fan of the Witcher books and games, is looking forward to Season 2, in which she hopes to see a more substantial role for Princess Cirilla.
“It pains me to say this, because Ciri is actually one of my favorite characters, but honestly most of what’s interesting about her comes much later,” she says.
Listen to the complete interview with Anthony Ha, Andrea Kail, and Gillian Conahan in Episode 399 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Andrea Kail on bad writing:
“I would stop, I would rewind, and I’d be like, ‘Did I miss what they’re talking about?’ And I’d play it again, and be like, ‘No, this is just the most obscure, vague dialogue. I have no idea what these people are talking about.’ I think the biggest problem I had with it, in that regard, is that I had no idea how any of the magic worked, and they never really explained it. There’s no definition to any of the magic. [Geralt] drinks some kind of potion that makes him stronger, but it’s not introduced in a way that feels natural. It’s not introduced at all. He just does it. So that was my biggest concern with it, was that the dialogue is all a little vague, and the magic is a little vague. Though I feel weird saying this, because at the end of the day I actually enjoyed watching it.”
David Barr Kirtley on multiple timelines:
“I have two ideas about how this should have been handled. One would be to just start off in a time period where [Geralt, Cirilla, and Yennefer] are all there, and introduce them, and then have flashbacks to Yennefer’s story and Geralt’s story. And then the other thing that I think might have worked would be to just not mix the stories all together within the episodes, but to have certain episodes that are just Geralt stories, and then interspersed with those are episodes that are just Cirilla stories or just Yennefer stories. I feel like if there was a whole episode where it’s ‘this is what happened to Cirilla after she fled the city,’ if I realized that this was not taking place in the same timeframe as the Geralt story, that would be less irritating to me if it was its own episode. It would be easier for me to separate it, and not be confused because we’re constantly switching back and forth.”
Gillian Conahan on Yennefer:
“I think it’s interesting that the two main things people have picked up on not liking about Yennefer are pretty much all we get about her in the short stories. We get maybe a paragraph total about how she was born disabled and [changed] herself with magic. And I think the story with the dragon mentions that she wants a baby. And really a lot of the other stuff that we get about Yennefer has been invented for the show. I think that her arc in the show is about undoing her early programming. … She’s being taught to use people, she’s being taught to value power above all else, and she’s being taught that any sacrifice is worth it in order to have power. So when she later says, ‘I made choices that I now regret,’ I think that she was making those choices in a state that was programmed by her education, and over the course of the show she’s unlearning what she’s been taught.”
Anthony Ha on The Witcher vs. Game of Thrones:
“I liked the fact that the show didn’t have the sort of weightiness to it that Game of Thrones had. … There’s something about starting an episode and being like, ‘I don’t know where this is going, this is just going to be kind of a dumb, fun adventure,’ that I found really refreshing at this point in time. Whereas I felt while I was watching the final season of Game of Thrones, there’s this feeling of just everything taking on this extra gravity because it’s all coming to an end. So [I liked] coming to something where it was just so free of expectations—and that’s not about the humor, but I think the humor plays a role in it, of just, ‘Hey, I just want to watch a show, and it’s fun, and I don’t need to cross-examine every element of it.’ That was a big part of why I liked the show, especially early on.”