The Witcher: Blood Origin TV Review

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_7RJmzh0yk

Plot: Set in an elven world 1200 years before the world of The Witcher, Blood Origin will tell a story lost to time – the creation of the first prototype Witcher, and the events that lead to the pivotal conjunction of the spheres, when the planets of monsters, men, and elves merged to become one. 

Review: The appeal of The Witcher has been, at least for me, the performance of Henry Cavill. Having read the novels that inspired the video game and television series, seeing Geralt of Rivia embodied by an actor with as much presence as Cavill elevated the series from a pulpy distraction to destination viewing. Before Cavill’s third and final season as Geralt premieres in mid-2023, the first live-action spin-off series arrives on Christmas to tell the tale of how the Witchers came to be. Blood Origin, a four-episode prequel set twelve centuries before the main series, is a quick binge that deepens the mythology of this fantasy world and manages to tell a substantial story with interesting characters in less than half the episodes of a traditional series. The Witcher: Blood Origin is far better than I expected

Netflix,The Witcher,Michelle Yeoh,Blood Origin

HBO and Prime Video learned the challenges of making a satisfying prequel this year. Both House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power had massive fanbases to appease and managed to do so with huge budgets and actors with name recognition. For Blood Origin, Netflix took a calculated risk in giving The Witcher series creator Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and writer Declan De Barra leeway to cast relative unknowns, with only Michelle Yeoh amongst the main cast. While Joey Batey appears as Jaskier and the series features a small but vital role from Minnie Driver, most of Blood Origin‘s cast is populated by actors unfamiliar to audiences outside the UK. But, after this series airs, I would not expect these actors to remain unknown for long. Everyone fully inhabits this precursor to the familiar world of The Witcher in a story that surprised me with how directly it connects to the main series.

While The Witcher does feature a lead trio in Cavill as Geralt, Anya Chalotra as Yennefer, and Freya Allan as Ciri, Blood Origin boasts a full fellowship of heroes, primarily elves. The series focuses primarily on Eile, a bard known as Lark, played by Sophia Brown, and warrior Fjall, played by Laurence O’Fuarain. Both elves come from warring clans and are forced to unite when Merwyn (Mirren Mack) slaughters all of the clans and unites them as an empire. Merwyn has plans alongside Chief Mage Balor (Lenny Henry) and soldier Eredin (Jacob Collins-Levy) to plunder parallel worlds to strengthen their control. Eile and Fjall unite, despite their differences, and enlist Eile’s former teacher, Scian (Michelle Yeoh), to take down the dictator. Along the way, they are joined by dwarven warrior Meldof (Francesca Mills), elf Callan (Huw Novelli), and magical elves Zacare (Lizzie Annis) and Syndril (Zach Wyatt). Together, this group has limited time and weaponry to stop Empress Merwyn, who also has a monstrous beast at her beck and call.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX7lQq2J9WY

The world of Blood Origin is vastly different from what we have seen in The Witcher, and at first, it seems odd that elves and dwarves are the primary races in the story. It all comes together in the final chapter of the four-episode series in a way that complements the world we have come to know in the Geralt-centric series. The first three episodes spend a great deal of time fostering the relationships between the main characters and how they overcome their differences to defeat a common enemy. Standouts in the cast include Francesca Mills, whose performance as Meldof is an easy scene-stealer. Yeoh, as always, is fantastic here, but the chemistry between leads Brown and O’Fuarain is palpable and really makes the events of this story feel vital and important. While the series starts out a little slow, I was bought in by the second episode, and I am glad I stuck with it to the end as the final episode is essentially an hour-long action sequence that informs so much of The Witcher mythos that fans do not want to miss it.

Writer Declan de Barra, who shares scripting duties with Alex Meenehan, Aaron Stewart-Ahn, Tania Lotia, Kiersten Van Horne, and Tasha Huo, has crafted a story that works as a nice lead-in for the next season of The Witcher while never feeling unnecessary. The limited four-episode run is just long enough to build up these characters without overstaying its welcome. In fact, I would have enjoyed more episodes or even another standalone mini-series focused on this era. With consistent production values and style to The Witcher, this series could have been inserted as part of the next season, and it would have worked perfectly. Thankfully, Blood Origin is given its own space to breathe and develop and benefits from Bear McCreary’s atmospheric score and sumptuous location shoot in Poland.

Netflix,The Witcher,Michelle Yeoh,Blood Origin

The Witcher: Blood Origin is more like an extended movie rather than a series and works as an epic binge, perfect counter-programming this Christmas. It also proves that The Witcher is not a fluke and that with the right production values and cast, this fantasy is more than capable of surviving without Henry Cavill. By giving us the distant beginnings of Witchers and how magic and monsters came to their world, Blood Origin is a great introduction for fans learning about The Witcher and a treat for hardcore aficionados awaiting the new season of the main series. There is sex, violence, and just the right amount of humor to make this a worthy addition to The Witcher canon, as well as hold its own opposite the other fantasy series that debuted this season.

The Witcher: Blood Origin premieres on December 25th on Netflix.

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.