Faith isn’t meant for the cynical. Folks harboring realistic views perceive life as a chaotic mess with no rhyme or reason. There’s no master plan aside from three basic steps: we’re born, we live, and we die. In the interim, the world we exist in is defined by cruelty and a lack of fairness.If we trust our five senses alone, the existence of divinity can be disproven. From this angle, it’s easy to understand why some people don’t believe in a higher being.
Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) is one of these people. As the main protagonist of The Witcher -Netflix’s good new dark fantasy series adapted from the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski that were popularized by the CD Projekt Red video games- Geralt views his medieval world of kings, peasants, forests, and tundras with an unconvinced glare and an understandable sense of disbelief. Afterall, he’s a witcher: a monster hunter imbued with supernatural abilities and skills. Geralt has seen and battled horrors that most farmers and nobles can’t fathom, and those numerous encounters with beasts and enemies have left him emotionally scarred. Even when presented with the possibility of divine intervention, his brooding demeanor and disdainful groans remain undeterred. Geralt is a man without hope
Ironically, The Witcher’s thematic core revolves around maintaining hope in a miserable bloody world. For Geralt however, maintaining hope and faith is easier said than done seeing as The Witcher places him amid many moral dilemmas. All eight episodes act as mostly self-contained adventures meant to build Geralt’s character and the fantastical world he dwells in. From the very first episode, The Witcher cements Geralt as a badass while also establishing a dark tone. In the first episode, Geralt slays a gang of human enemies single handedly in order to accomplish an objective (no spoilers) but is left with a ponderous question: did he make the correct choice? Was killing all these people worth it? The Witcher wisely doesn’t answer these questions and lets the audience ponder them instead. Indeed, do the ends justify the means?
The Witcher contains two other prominent characters that complement Geralt’s grim adventures. My favorite of these characters is Yennefer (Anya Chalotra): a disfigured mage in training. Due to her hunchback, Yennefer experiences ridicule and personal setbacks, making her an easy character to sympathize with in The Witcher’s brutal world. While she often uses her power for personal gain and to commit mischief, Yennefer lives with deep emotional pain. She’s dissatisfied with her life, and as a result, she lashes out, using her discontent soul to channel chaotic magic. She’s undeniably selfish, but her reasons are understandable. I love her.
The second of these characters is Ciri (Freya Allan): a young princess fleeing her home after it was conquered by the rival forces of Nilfgaard. As a character, Ciri adds a layer of innocence to this dark show. Even though she grew up rich and ignorant of the world’s suffering, she doesn’t deserve the mistreatment she receives. Ciri is a pure good person in a world that rewards the wicked and the vile, and her character injects the show with a sense of right and wrong that many of the other characters don’t possess. She’s the heart of The Witcher.
Yennefer and Ciri interact with Geralt’s exploits in a way that chucks Geralt’s disdain for “destiny” back in his face. In terms of Yennefer, she’s a romantic partner and somewhat potential adversary to Geralt. Whether it’s fate or random circumstance, the two keep bumping into each other both personally and sexually. The lovers and part-time enemies are meant for each other. The two are inextricably linked.
Ciri and Geralt have an entirely different connection. After her home was taken by Nilfgard, Ciri’s objective is to find Geralt: her legal guardian and protector due to the whims of fate and an accidental legal loophole. Even though Geralt despises the very notion of a higher power pulling the strings, the innocent and hopeful Ciri yearns to find him so that she can reclaim a sense of personal normalcy and safety, a new family that can replace the one she lost. Against all odds, Geralt is the living embodiment of Ciri’s hope.
As stated earlier, hope is The Witcher’s main theme. Despite how The Witcher operates in a realm run by greed, war, murder, genocide, and racism, the series posits that hope can always survive. Even in dark, cold, unforgiving, and unfair times, there are brighter days that can offset the onslaught of suffering. All one has to do is reach out and grasp the rays of hope as if it were a lifeline. It’s a poignant message that’s true of the lost Ciri, the morally compromised Yennefer, and even the jaded witcher Geralt (though he’d never admit it).
The Witcher admittedly isn’t perfect. The show contains an odd editing structure that makes determining a timeline of events difficult, and even though Geralt’s, Yennefer’s, and Ciri’s story are spliced side-by-side, the scenes take place at different times in the world and narrative. I won’t deny that I was thrown off for awhile. Additionally, The Witcher season 1’s final episode ends on a brutal cliff-hanger. Numerous plot threads and character arcs remain hair-pullingly unresolved, and while this isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, the ending was indeed frustrating.
With that being said, the obtuse ending and peculiar editing befit The Witcher’s hopeful theme. In season 2, we’ll likely get some answers and closure of the plotlines left open ended by the finale. Season 1 introduced audiences to great characters and a cool, yet brutal, fantasy landscape all while teasing a bigger story for season 2. Like Geralt, we too just have to have a little faith.