In the first episode of The Witcher, you get a large-scale battle, the death of key characters and the fall of an entire kingdom. Not to mention a cheesy love scene in a forest. All of that would've taken up a whole early season of Game of Thrones, yet here you get it all within one jam-packed hour.
We checked out the season opener of The Witcher, which has just launched on Netflix, and it's worth watching if you're a fan of Game of Thrones and need another show to fill that void of big-budget dark fantasy. But it's definitely not the same kind of show, despite also being an adaptation of a popular fantasy series of books, this time the work of author Andrzej Sapkowski.
It's hard to tell if more viewers will be familiar with protagonist Geralt of Rivia from this series of novels or CD Projekt Red's mega-selling games. If it's the latter, you're in for a treat. Despite technically adapting the books, you'll find loads to appreciate here in simply meeting characters you know from the RPGs, or hearing names of places you've explored in passing.
A clash of swords
Henry Cavill plays Geralt, a mutated monster hunter who's treated like an outcast – a status that's addressed extremely well between its first and last moments. Cavill brings a similar cold masculinity to Geralt that he did to the Man of Steel, but here it's a much better fit. He does look like he could best someone in a sword fight, and while fans might've hoped for an actor rocking a good beard (let's put the Superman CGI mustache jokes to one side for a moment), Cavill has undeniable star power here.
In this first episode, we go through the motions of Geralt's life: how he's treated poorly as a stranger in a town, and how his work as a hired monster killer gets him tangled in the lives of those he encounters. Meanwhile, Ciri (Freya Allan) is a princess of Cintra, a land that's about to fall victim to the rival kingdom of Nilfgaard. Those characters' fates are linked: but they don't meet in this opener. Ciri is only warned that Geralt is her destiny, and makes her escape from Cintra as it burns.
Events are on fast-forward in this opener, but that's refreshing. Hour-long dramas that drag along feel like they've been a staple of the streaming era, and this sets out The Witcher as a show that isn't going to do that. The creators have eight translated books for inspiration – so there's a lot of story to burn through.
With a second season already on the way, The Witcher is going to be the ideal non-festive holiday show. You've got eight episodes to get through, here, which should last you through to the New Year. It's well worth giving it a try.
All eight episodes of The Witcher are on Netflix now.
- Netflix vs Disney Plus: which should you get?
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Samuel is a PR Manager at game developer Frontier. Formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor, he's an expert in Marvel, Star Wars, Netflix shows and general streaming stuff. Before his stint at TechRadar, he spent six years at PC Gamer. Samuel is also the co-host of the popular Back Page podcast, in which he details the trials and tribulations of being a games magazine editor – and attempts to justify his impulsive eBay games buying binges.