SERIES REVIEW – When it comes to high fantasy these days, almost every streamer and network has its own entry into the genre. Netflix had a huge hit with The Witcher, starring Henry Cavill in the title role, then greenlit the animated film The Witcher: A Wolf’s Nightmare, followed by the miniseries The Witcher: Blood Origin. Like The Wolf’s Nightmare, The Witcher: Blood Origin is a prequel set well before the timeline of the universe, telling the story of the Gathering of the Spheres and the creation of the first Witcher, some 1200 years earlier. Blood Origin presents a framed narrative, with Jaskier (Joey Batey) writing the story of the legendary Seven Warriors who play a central role in the series.
Blood Origin is aimed at those who are already more or less familiar with The Witcher storyline, including the books in addition to the previous two series and the games, and will be comfortable with the universe. The prequel series does little to reacquaint us with the world of the continent, starting with the expectation that we know who Jaskier, Geralt and the Witcher are. It’s hard to imagine anyone watching Blood Origin without having seen the original series, and by making the series inaccessible to new viewers it limits the audience to existing fans.
The story is full of adventure and quests, but the characters lack the gruff, endearing charm that Cavill gave to Geralt. While Sophia Brown is relatively convincing as the warrior-turned-bard Éile (sometimes called Patchouli), the inter-character dynamics between the group of heroes working together take too long and leave little emotional weight. This is largely due to the fact that the series consists of only four episodes (down from the originally commissioned six), and not only does it introduce us to the seven heroes, but also to a new elven court.
Too much chaos, too little magic…
Of the seven protagonists in the series, only Brown Éile and Laurence O’Fuarain Fjall’s character really delve into the story. This is disappointing because the other five members of the group are much more convincing, especially as Éile and Fjall already share similar story threads. The series plays with the idea of chaos magic, for example, but never really delves into the dynamics of the magicians. Instead, one is positioned as the one-dimensional protagonist of the story, while the others exist simply to move the plot forward, rather than as characters in their own right. Fighters such as Francesca Mills’ Meldorf and Michelle Yeoh’s Scian offer a glimpse into their character’s past, but the story never fully delves into them, which is disappointing considering they are two of the series’ high points.
This is unfortunate because when the gang is finally together, there could be great camaraderie between them, but the series chooses to focus on Éile and Fjall’s romance rather than the company as a whole. Although the two characters act like they are our protagonists and are given a bigger arc, the trajectory of their relationship is not very convincing. The problem is again caused by the short running time of the series.
This love story is not very convincing…
We first meet Fjall as the protector of Princess Merwyn (Mirren Mack); the two have an illicit love affair, and when this is revealed, Fjall is quickly banished from his clan and position. It is hinted that he cares for Merwyn, but shortly after his banishment, he meets Éile, who poses as a bard named Warbler. As exiles from opposing, warring clans, an aggressive ‘chemistry’ develops between them almost immediately.
It has all the potential to be a great love story, but the series has to juggle the political changes in the kingdom and introduce the other characters, not to mention lay the groundwork for Clash of the Spheres. The gaps left in the plot are filled with their romance, which jumps from a longing glance to a declaration of eternal love so quickly it’s laughable.
If Blood Origin aims to tell the story of the first Witcher and explain what the Conjunction is, it only half succeeds. While it does well with the former, we almost forget about the Conjunction until it happens, and even then, it plays second fiddle to the origin story. This is a missed opportunity, as a more nuanced story might have been possible after the Conjunction with the arrival of humans and monsters on the continent.
Even Jaskier is off…
Despite the fact that The Witcher: Blood Origin looked promising, it often slips into either a heavily B-rated kitsch parade, a cheesy horror, or a drippy melodrama. Fantasy series like The Witcher are exciting in part because they have a rich cast of characters who may initially fit into archetypes of heroes and villains, but who are actually revealed as complex people capable of going far beyond that. The Witcher: Blood Origin also tries to match this to some extent, but fails. The villains seem half-baked, their goals seem like obstacles set up for the heroes to overcome. Even Jaskier’s newer songs are less catchy than “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher”, his ballads more to make up for the hefty story than to entertain.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of The Witcher: Blood Origin will depend on how invested you are in The Witcher universe and how convinced you are by the intertwined story presented here. In other words: we can still recommend it to fans, even if the chances are that the blood will not be very “original” for them…
The Witcher: Blood Origin
Direction - 4.4
Actors - 3.8
Story - 3.4
Visuals/Music/Sounds - 8.2
Ambience - 4.2
Ultimately, your enjoyment of The Witcher: Blood Origin will depend on how invested you are in The Witcher universe and how convinced you are by the intertwined story presented here. In other words: we can still recommend it to fans, even if the chances are that the blood will not be very "original" for them...
Leave a Reply