This is a detailed review of episode one of the first season of The Witcher entitled “The End’s Beginning”. It provides scene by scene analysis of the show and hopefully answers some of your niggling questions. You could also consider this review a recap article. Further information on the TV series can be found in the Introduction & Background to the series article or the initial Season One – Series Overview article. The Witcher Episode 2 Review is Here.
Review – The Witcher Episode One – Introduction
The episode, which retells Sapkowski’s “The Lesser Evil” short story and introduces Geralt and Ciri. This first episode is able to explain some very difficult concepts and story detail without resorting to lengthy exposition. It also introduced a storytelling technique which is very scary in concept.
I’m going to try and not be too opinionated during the review and simply report what happened as best I can. I’ll try and embellish the details with explanations from the books which should help understanding. If there is any justified criticism of this show from the press, it’s that the story is a little hard to follow. This review will try and answer any questions without giving too much away.
This review is different from many on the internet in that I’m a fan of the saga and TV series, there won’t be any negative, patronising criticisms of any part of the show – just scene detail and recap info. It’s intended as a reference that can be used while you enjoy watching the shows.
The Witcher Season One, Episode One Review
Witcher Episode One Review – The Monster and the Little Deer
The show starts with a bit of a cliche, the young deer attempting to drink by the ominous stretch of water in a dark and dismal forrest. There is an ery silence and you just know that the little animal is doomed. We all expected a monster to rise from the water and swallow it whole, instead we got the titular monster slayer, Geralt of Rivia thrust into the scene by his foe, a multi-tentacled monster (known as a Kikimora).
Geralt is actually not looking too good. Many of us already knew that Geralt is positively superhuman but the rather frightening eye makeup isn’t his ‘natural look’, it’s because he has taken a potion to improve his fighting ability and ward off poisons that the kikimora might inflict. Even so, he makes a bit of a meal of killing the monster – not his finest hour (lol, as if we could have done better 🙂 ).
He attacked the Kikimora because of a poster indicating that a bounty would be paid for its death. After defeating the Kikimora, he heads to the local town, Blaviken to collect his reward. When he gets there, he is shown in no uncertain terms, that he is not welcome. That would be a surprise, Witchers are considered mutations, abnormal, cruel and heartless – and just to be clear, it is a reputation that they themselves perpetuate! Being friends with a Witcher would be bad for your health and witchers are better at negotiating the price for monster killing while having a heartless reputation. It’s a shame though, you would think that since there are only a few left, the fact that they go around killing monsters for the benefit of humanity (erm.. and money I guess) would earn Witchers a few more brownie points.
In the local bar, Geralt asks for the person who can pay him his reward for killing the beast. The barman and many of the guests want him to leave but he is supported by Renfri (played by Emma Appleton) a woman of influence visiting Blaviken to attend the market in a day or so. He stays to drink with her.
He was asked if he wanted something to eat but he declined having just had venison! Ewwww, that poor little deer!
Eventually, a young girl, Marinka enters, asks him to follow her regarding the bounty for the monster he has slain.
The Witcher Meets the Wizard
Outside, Marinka explains that he has killed the wrong species of monster. He should have killed a Gravier rather than a Kikimora. Jeez dude, they look nothing like each other! Geralt feels a little silly but is taken to see Stregobor, a local Wizard who may be able to give him some money for the remains of the monster strapped to Geralt’s horse.
The wizard is called Stregobor and when Geralt arrives at his house, he sees that the courtyard is a marvelous illusion of naked women and ….. erm … fruit and stuff.
He meets with the slightly sleazy wizard and he learns that Renfri is a mutated demon! She is also a nasty part the ‘Curse of the Black Sun’ which prophesied that 60 women would, during a full eclipse, become the servants of the demon Lilit who would then destroy the world.
For Queen and Country
Next, the story whisked us away to a picturesque city in the region of Cintra. I need to warn you at this point, that this scene is probably ten or twenty years after the previous scene with Stregobor (frankly I’m not even sure that matters too much but the timelines are definitely different).
Here we see the young Princess Ciri being groomed by her Grandmother, Queen Calanthe and husband, Eist to rule the kingdom. Apparently it’s all very boring for the Princess who, I think, is supposed to be around 14 years old. She attends the formal event as instructed to do so.
Geralt Refuses the Job Offer
Back in Blaviken, Stregobor wants Geralt to kill Renfri. He claims that she is afflicted with the curse and is therefore a danger to humanity. Geralt points out that Renfri doesn’t fit the bill of being a monster as far as he is concerned. Other reviewers and critics are waxing lyrical with a patronising story about morals and monsters and most of us don’t give give a crap, the long and short of it is that some pervy old dude who likes having naked women pick the fruit in his garden (ermm.. I guess a lot of us would like that) wants Geralt to kill his new found lady friend and drinking partner, Renfri. The man is an idiot!
Geralt politely refuses. He telld the Wizard that if he has to choose between one evil or another (i.e. between letting Renfri do her magical mischief or killing her) he would prefer not to choose at all. He leaves – some of us noticed that Geralt didn’t say goodbye to any of the naked ladies picking fruit.
Back in Cintra, it seems that the region is under threat from it’s neighbor, the powerful kingdom of Nilfgaard. War is upon them and a large army is marching towards the capital.
Meeting Renfri again
Geralt has left Blaviken and is picking herbs for potions by the river when he is joined by Renfri. She tells him that Stregobor is a butcher that has killed many innocent women while trying to combat his interpretation of his prophecy. She tells him her story about how one of his men raped her and then let her go (she didn’t kill him as Stregobor had said). Geralt has now learnt both sides of this bitter story and tries to tell Renfri to leave Bavicen and try and live her life. Revenge won’t bring her the pease she thinks it will. She understands however, that if she returns to kill Stregobor, she would first have to go through him.
In Cintra, Queen Calanthe eventually rides off with her husband Eist to confront a massive invading army from the Nilfgaard kingdom.
A huge battle takes place. Eist is killed with an arrow through his eye and Calanthe is mortally wounded. The battle is lost. Calanthe manages to get back to the city to try to see if she can save Ciri – or at least to be with her as the city falls.
The unfortunately named wizard, Mousesack puts up a forcefield around the castle to stop the invading army – but it surely can’t last long.
Just outside Blaviken, Geralt is talking to his horse. He is interrupted by a solitary Renfri. She tells him that after considering his words (more of a threat I thought) she has decided to leave Blaviken in the morning. They kiss and settle down for the night.…. Yep, I think so too! But we didn’t see anything racey.
In Cintra, the force field eventually breaks and the Nilfgaardian soldiers enter the castle. Many of its inhabitants, are taking poison to avoid capture and torture and Calanthe tells Ciri that she must find the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, as he is the best person to protect her. Ciri is distraught and in her whimpering she inadvertently manages to make the table and some glasses shake. the significance of this is lost on Ciri but it is noticed by both Queen Calanthe and Mousesack who nod toward each other knowingly.
Ciri is hurried away to her escape. Calanthe meanwhile commits suicide by defenestration (death by jumping out of a window – it’s a shame of course, I really liked Calanthe, but omfg, ‘defenestration’ is such a cool word…. erm…. )
The Butcher of Blaviken
The next day, Geralt wakes up alone in the forest. He slept very uneasily and it seems that Renfri has something to do with it. Also, he was late waking which makes us wonder if Renfri was indeed, up to no good. Geralt quickly makes his way back to Blaviken and is immediately confronted by Renfri’s men. They tell him to turn back but he refuses. The next scene had the internet buzzing for days after the premiere because it was so well done.
Geralt refuses to leave and seven or eight of Renfri’s men attack him. The Witcher fights them off with ease and the choreography of the fight was truly marvelous. I don’t know of anyone that thinks this fight scene wasn’t terrific!. It wasn’t so much the special effects as the choreography. Very nicely done. And by the way, pretty damned violent and gory too – just saying – in case you are just about to eat.
Renfri then appears and is clearly upset that Geralt has killed all her men. I think she did genuinely like them. She is holding the urchin, Marinka hostage in an attempt to draw out Strgobor (I think Marinka worked for him), but the pervy wizzard wasn’t taking the bait.
Geralt and Renfri fight and Renfri is defeated and killed. It’s a real shame, neither of them wanted to fight each other but I guess it was destiny! Speaking of which, she tells Geralt as she bleeds-out that his destiny lies with a ‘girl in the woods’.
Back in Cintra, Ciri has been captured by a Nilfgaard captain as she had tried to escape. He has her bent over his horse. As they gallop away, she sees her home burning in the distance and screams. The horse buckles and the rider tries to cover his ears as they all fall to the ground. Ciri certainly has some sort of magical power as was briefly demonstrated in the castle with the Queen and Mousesack. Unfortunately, she is only just learning this herself. As the soldier tries to recapture her, she screams again.
A second scream knocks down a large rocky outcrop and opens a huge chasm in the ground separating him from her. She runs off into the forest to make her escape.
Back in Blaviken, the pervy wizard is pleased to see that Geralt has killed Renfri. He asked that her body is taken back to the house so he can do an autopsy. Geralt is still upset and stops him. He is sad about her death and doesn’t want her body mutilated. Geralt threatens to kill the wizard who then incites the onlooking townsfolk to throw stones (as Renfri had previously predicted). Even the urchin Marinka tells him to leave. Geralt walks off scowling, knowing that if he insisted on staying to stop the mutilation of Renfri’s body in an autopsy, it would only lead to more attacks and killing.
And there the show ended. Magnificent! Waiting a week to watch the next episode is going to be really hard…. oh wait, of course…. 🙂
The Witcher Episode One Review – Conclusion
That was great fun to watch and reviewing this after watching it again only made it even more fun! High points of the episode were the graphics, direction and wonderful storytelling. Hissrich has done e fantastic job of bringing this to the medium-sized screen (after the small screen of the video games, kindle and smart phones). Her ingenuity in telling elements of the story in parallel even though they were not part of the same timeline, kept us interested and yet it all held together. It was very clever writing trick – possibly a little irritating for the next few episodes, but if the viewer can work the timeline thing out early enough, it would just make the series more entertaining.
For me, this Witcher Episode One Review was marked down on production. Yeah I know right – I hate myself! But in comparing the show to GoT (which is the only thing I can compare it to) it seemed slightly less epic. I’m a little bit miffed that there was less nudity but that would be a bit too cheeky I guess. And by the way, almost everyone we were introduced to in Cintra was murdered! Harsh much!?
I’d therefore rate this a huge 9.2 out of 10.
What did you think? You can see other articles and comments about the show in the Witcher Forums and even post comments yourself! Better still, you can rate the show by selecting the “User” tab above, in the review box. Then score each section yourself – Let us know what you thought!.
The Witcher is a Czech-American fantasy drama web television series created by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich for Netflix.
This Witcher TV Show Episode One Review is copyright Tony Fawl and not for reproduction without permission.