Mimi Ndiweni

The Witcher (2019) s01e08 – Much More

Did they intentionally wait until the last episode of the first season to bring in the biggest “Game of Thrones” comparisons? Like, not only is there a “Wall” to defend—sorry, sorry, a “Keep” to defend from the North (wait, wait, is it the South)—but the episode opens with Henry Cavill vs. Army of Darkness. Even more, “Witcher” scores with the two “repeat” elements. The zombie creatures in “Witcher” are far more terrifying than anything in “GoT” and the battle for the Wall—sorry, the Keep—is better than any of the battles in “GoT,” any season.

Maybe because it’s a mage war, with Anya Chalotra, MyAnna Buring, and back from long ago (and last episode) Anna Shaffer magicking it up to stop the invading army.

It’s far from perfect—a couple of the one-on-one fights have no intensity because it’s obvious shitty Kylo Ren (Eamon Farren) and his girl Merlin (Mimi Ndiweni) aren’t going to die—or get any better at the whole acting thing—but when it’s large scale battle stuff, director Marc Jobst brings it.

While Chalotra has a battle episode, Cavill disappears after his fight with the Army of Darkness because they need to keep the viewer in suspense about how and when the Cavill and princess Freya Allan story lines are going to converge. While it’s obvious Allan is simultaneous to Mage War, it’s not clear when Cavill’s Bruce Campbell antics occur.

The episode compensates, with Cavill, by giving him some childhood flashbacks before he was a witcher and when he’s just discovering he gets powers from Earth’s yellow sun. Wait, wrong show. It’s a bit of a cop out to do the flashbacks in the last episode of the season and probably would’ve gone far in humanizing Cavill throughout; but it sort of removes him from the show where’s got top-billing. Odd move for a season finale. Especially if he and Allan are destined to Lone Wolf and Cub.

There’s some pretty good stuff with Chalotra bonding with gal pal Shaffer and Buring—some of it even passes Bechdel—but given her relationship with her fellow mages implies history and depth, it just makes Chalotra’s character development between episodes four and, I don’t know, six even more of a shafting. Though jumping ahead thirty to forty-two years isn’t going to go well no matter what. But still… Chalotra’s the best actor the show’s got, her part ought to be better and not, you know, annoying.

Buring’s got some great stuff this episode too.

And Cavill does get a sidekick again at one point—altruistic farmer Francis Magee, who’s perfectly good at being likable. If it doesn’t seem likely he’d survive in a world of monsters.

As for Allan’s part of the episode… eh. She’s a plot pawn, moved around the board. Long fall from her spot in the first episode.

The season finale cliffhanger sets up an entirely different show when it returns, so it’s hard to be anticipating… though I’m sure I’ll be back. Wife’s not going to pass up the Henry Cavill beefcake.

The Witcher (2019) s01e06 – Rare Species

So this episode, set sometime after the last episode as far as Henry Cavill and Anya Chalotra are concerned but still before the first episode as far as Freya Allan’s storyline (there’s some exposition about the political situation leading up to the attack in that first episode, but still just proper noun-filled blather), is where “The Witcher” all of a sudden seemed like it was revealing itself to be a romance novel. Only it’s not—the wife reminded me romance novels have a particular structure and the show doesn’t follow it; it just looks like a romance novel whenever Cavill’s making eyes at Chalotra; he makes all their embraces look like a romance novel cover, which seems to be the point of the show.

Anyway.

This episode’s probably the best in the series so far. Like… it’s an actual good hour of television. They’re all going dragon hunting. Cavill and now steady but still unaging despited the indeterminate advance of time between episodes Joey Batey join up with fun old man Ron Cook (who’s got two sidekicks of his own, warrior women Adele Oni and Colette Tchantcho) while Chalotra’s babysitting royal idiot Jordan Renzo. There are also a group of dwarves and another of “Reivers,” who are just crappy humans. It’s a race to kill the dragon. The casting is mostly good, especially with the dwarves and even though Cook isn’t great, he’s fun. It helps. And Chalotra, Batey, and Cavill have a good dynamic together. Plus Cavill and Chalotra are effective making eyes at each other.

Though there is a scene where Cavill’s got to fall asleep and it’s so awkward you wonder if he’s never actually fallen asleep in real life. Like, he doesn’t seem to know how to do it.

Meanwhile Freya Allan’s in danger with the assassin as they go through the forest. Not the blissful forest from the last couple episodes but the crappy forest where you wonder how Allan and her elf sidekick, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, aren’t freezing. Radjou-Pujalte is better this episode. Allan’s arcs have, frankly, been crap for the majority of the season at this point, despite her being established as the protagonist in the first episode. This episode’s suspense arc doesn’t make up for the previous episode’s weak plots for her, but it does start to get her on solid ground.

Decent CGI with the dragon and an okay surprise at the end… like I said, it’s an entertaining hour of televised amusement. Took the show long enough.

There’s another Batey song over the end credits and I’m even more convinced they paid him with exposure because there’s no good reason to have the song there. Or maybe someone thought Batey’s bard—who lionizes Cavill over the years through song—should be more important than the script writers did. “The Witcher”’s got a lot of problems with narrative perspective, narrative distance. It’s never good enough to really matter but still… the problems are there, even if they don’t matter much overall.

Oh, and now revealed to be main villains Eamon Farren and Mimi Ndiweni (his mage, who has history with Chalotra) really aren’t anywhere near good enough. Like, Farren’s terrible, sure, but if Ndiweni were stronger she could cover it. Only she’s not strong. At all. Ineffectual would be the appropriate descriptor. How “Witcher” manages to cast so many parts well, then so many parts poorly… it’s unfortunate, as uniform performance quality would help a bunch.

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