Adam Levy

The Witcher (2019) s01e05 – Bottled Appetites

This episode has storylines converging, something I really thought they’d wait to do until the season finale cliffhanger. Instead, Henry Cavill and Joey Batey run across Anya Chalotra in their quest for a cure to Batey’s magically inflamed throat. The episode opens with Cavill trying to find a djinn’s bottle so he can wish for sleep—the episode’s set an indeterminate time after the previous one, at least for Cavill and Batey (something Batey mentions but with an intentional lack of specificity, maybe because Batey still looks the same age—I’m assuming Cavill doesn’t age normal because he’s a mutant). Because Cavill and Batey are bickering, things go wrong with the djinn and Batey gets a magical owie; they need a mage, Chalotra turns out to be the mage.

Since we’ve last seen her, she’s become a rogue mage who’s trying to recover her ability to bear children, something you have to give up to be a mage. At least if you’ve got a uterus. It’s unclear if gonads get snipped.

Chalotra’s ostensibly a prisoner but has been mind controlling the populace and keeping them going in an Eyes Wide Shut party with season two “Game of Thrones” level nudity.

Cavill’s fun playing the tough guy, especially with Chalotra and Batey around—not sure there’s so much been character development in the series as better writing for what Cavill can do and do well. Plus Chalotra and Cavill trying to get the djinn stuff sorted out lets Cavill play hero in a better situation (he’s trying to save sympathetic regulars—Chalotra and Batey—not fighting for what’s right). There’s a lot with the three wishes and some emphasis on the third mystery wish. “The Witcher”’s predictable, but in a well-executed sort of way.

Now for the poorly executed stuff. Princess in hiding Freya Allan is still in the magical forests of Endor playing with the… oh, wait, wrong franchise. She’s still in hiding with the forest Amazons and since they’re warriors, the bad guys can’t get in. This episode finally gives chief bad guy Eamon Farren a lot to do. Shame he’s terrible. At least when he’s on horseback wearing his silly bird head—it looks like something Gonzo would wear—he’s not emoting or delivering dialogue. He gets off the horse this episode and gets some shapeshifting monster to help him go after Farren.

Adam Levy’s back as the Allan family mage; he’s good. Wilson Radjou-Pujalte’s around as Allan’s young elf friend. He’s not good.

Shame there are only three episodes left, as the teaming up of Cavill, Chalotra, and Batey has paid off better than anything else in the show so far.

Last thing—apparently there are songs (bard Batey’s) over the end credits now. His “Witcher” theme song was a few episodes ago but this one has what the wife described as a poorly written Nick Cave song over the end credits. What’s strange about the songs is they’re done without fanfare, like they promised Batey to put his songs in without paying him for exposure.

The Witcher (2019) s01e04 – Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials

Is tricking a viewer with time periods called a Westworlding it yet? “The Witcher” does a soft Westworld this episode; initially I thought they were just cheap with the CGI establishing shots—Henry Cavill and returning sidekick Joey Batey go to a royal wedding auction (we get a little about the gender politics, but not a whole bunch) and it’s the same city as from the first episode. The one princess on the run Freya Allan runs away from. Because it turns out Cavill’s story is in the past from Allan. How far in the past depends on Allan’s age, which hasn’t been discussed, but it appears to be at least fifteen years after Cavill’s timeline.

It’s not so much a narrative trick as a way to simultaneously introduce characters regardless of time period… if they’d announced the time difference with onscreen titles, it’d be perfectly fine. They don’t and it’s a bit of an eye-roll but still basically fine. Because Cavill and Batey hanging out with Jodhi May and Björn Hlynur Haraldsson is pretty good. May’s great. Björn’s great. May’s particularly fun giving Cavill crap. They talk a bit about how the aforementioned gender politics work. There’s something called “male tradition,” which is pomp and circumstance and the women who rule would rather just go out and kill their enemies and not have silly traditions. What’s so weird about the gender politics is they still seem to be weighed towards patriarchy—May’s daughter (Gaia Mondadori, who’s not good but also doesn’t have enough material to be good) is being married off at this ceremony. Mom May doesn’t like the situation but it’s (male) tradition so her hands are tied. She also really doesn’t like Mondadori’s true love, Ossian Perret, for some obvious but bad reasons.

There are a lot of exposition dumps, some better than others. The multiple ramblings about “destiny,” which is basically the Force in “The Witcher,” comes up multiple times. Then there’s a Quickening scene straight out of Highlander but it turns out not to have anything to do with Destiny or the Force or magic and is just filler before May gets more to do. So long and kind of tedious, but May’s great so it doesn’t really matter.

It’s so much, of course, I haven’t even gotten to Allan or Anya Chalotra yet. Allan goes into this hidden forest place—basically a de facto Amazon (if there are dudes, they rarely get screen time) Green Place—where she can drink a magic potion to forget her past and live a magical future in Ferngully or whatever. It’s fairly disappointing stuff as the Allan stuff was the best part of the first episodes.

Chalotra’s story is about her miserable life in the present; thirty years have passed since she became a mage last episode and basically all she does is nursemaid idiot royals. The idiot royal in this episode is Isobel Laidler, who’s not as good as she ought to be. Chalotra’s completely passive until the end of the episode—odd move considering they’re reestablishing the series’s strongest character basically from scratch—and she still manages to occupy her scenes with Laidler. “Witcher”’s casting is either good or ineffectual, with Cavill basically being the only in-between. He’s got undeniable presence, but mostly a physical one. Though he’s a lot more fun playing civil at the wedding than monster hunting.

As for the “Witcher” drinking game, any time Adam Levy says “Destiny,” you drink. Levy’s May’s mage who’ll go on to be Allan’s pal in the present. What we now know is the present. Or whatever.

It ought to be a lot more uneven thanks to the Westworlding and Allan’s back to nature arc being lackluster, not to mention Chalotra’s entirely different character, but May’s performance is strong enough in the A plot to hold it all up.

Oh, and the episode finally ties at least two of the first episode’s outstanding threads together… with exposition obviously, not scene. Because “Witcher”’s all about that exposition.

Scroll to Top