I didn’t care much for The Witcher. One problem I had with it is how magic works. Magic can basically do anything: teleportation, telekinesis, mind control, illusion, healing, etc. There’s even a genie that can grant wishes. So anything can happen. (At least we didn’t see anyone raised from the dead, but maybe that’s just because they’re saving that for the next season.)
We’re at least shown that magic sometimes has a cost. Sometimes casting a strong spell kills the mage or gives them a nosebleed or something. However, there are also strong magic users that can seemingly cast any spell they want without consequence.
When absolutely anything can happen, I feel like it lowers the stakes. No one is really in any danger when the characters can just magically make their problems go away. In the instances when they don’t use magic to fix everything, you wonder why they don’t.
In one episode, the group is climbing a mountain. Yennefer could use magic to teleport all of them to the top of the mountain if she wanted to, but she doesn’t for some reason. Along the way, some of her traveling companions fall off a cliff. She could use magic to save their lives, but instead she just watches them fall to their deaths because that’s what the plot says has to happen.
In another episode, there’s a scene in which a mage controlling a monster is trying to kill Yennefer and her companion. Instead of magically killing the monster, she teleports away. The mage follows her, so she teleports away a few more times before finally using magic to kill the monster. Why not kill the monster as soon as it appeared? Because the plot said a few people needed to die first. If Yennefer just killed the monster right away, she won’t get to experience the tragedy the plot says needs to happen.
What’s the difference between a witcher and a mage anyway? They both have magic powers, but mages are respected while witchers are reviled. I think the only reason Geralt is a witcher instead of a mage is so he can have a dark past and be shunned by society. Some more artificially-created tragedy just for the sake of tragedy.
Another problem is the plot is driven by destiny. Characters don’t have their own personal motivations for what they do. They just do what destiny requires of them. They’re basically automatons doing what the plot says they have to, making them far less interesting as characters.
Another issue I had is that the villains routinely kill their own people. Why waste your soldiers like that? Bad guys killing their own loyal followers is a trope that never made sense, and shouldn’t still be a thing. It’s just a lazy way of indicating to the audience how evil the bad guys are.
It’s also unclear who we’re supposed to root for. The villains believe everyone should be equal, but in a bad communistic way. However, the heroes are fighting to uphold the monarchy in which kings and queens live the good life and everyone else struggles to get by. Is that really a cause worth fighting for? As bad as communism is, it might actually be the lesser of two evils in this world.
I’ve been picking on the show a lot here, but there are fun things about it. It’s worth watching if you have some time to kill. I just wouldn’t put it at the top of your to-watch list.
If you’re looking for a good fantasy series to get into that’s also on Netflix, I’d recommend The Dragon Prince instead. How magic works makes more sense and it’s more diverse. Gay people exist in this world and people with disabilities don’t require fixing as they do in The Witcher. Since it’s a kid’s show, it relies on quality storytelling rather than sex and violence to capture the audience’s attention. The moral conundrums make more sense as well. Instead of one side in a war being pure evil, both sides have motivations that make sense. The Dragon Prince is more fun and light-hearted, although it does have its brooding moments too, and the animation is gorgeous to behold. Everyone who loves fantasy regardless of age should be sure to check it out.