The Witcher Blood Origin is fun when it’s at its best, but fails to fully capitalise on its own potential
The Witcher Blood Origin is the most ambitious Witcher project that Netflix has committed to since the first (excellent) season of the main fantasy series. Not only is it essentially Witcher-less, but it is also almost entirely detached from the central story and characters which audiences already know and love.
So, The Witcher Blood Origin is banking on the hope that audiences will be interested enough in backstory and lore to tune into the new Netflix series, and then enjoy what’s on offer enough to stick it through to the end. And, there’s no doubt that plenty will make it to the show’s conclusion, reeled in by the many strengths. Still, the new prequel series is certain to lose people along the way too because The Witcher Blood Origin is a frustrating, often-fun and often-not combination of highs and lows.
The story of The Witcher Blood Origin is centred around the much-hinted at Conjunction of the Spheres. Set over 1000 years before the adventures of Geralt, Yennefer, and Jaskier, the TV series follows a group of warriors and mages in an era where Elves rule supreme over the continent. Each of the seven main warriors has their own motivations, and their individual quests collide with the overarching story in a way that raises stakes and emotions beyond what each of them anticipated.
The series’ biggest strength is, undoubtedly, that septet of warriors, as well as the hugely entertaining Princess Merwyn played by Mirren Mack. These warriors are well-cast, and share a palpable connection. They are led by Sophia Brown as Éile and Laurence O’Fuarain’s Fjall who share the most screen time of the seven and so are often the characters who the audience will connect with the most. Out of the rest, it is Michelle Yeoh as Scian who unsurprisingly steals the show at every given opportunity.
Her, and the rest of the cast, are at their best in the several brilliantly choreographed and excellently-executed action sequences. One set piece in particular stands out as gasp-worthy and justifies the existence of the show alone. Particularly here, it isn’t any shock that Yeoh elevates these setpieces, and she slices through her opponents like water finding a route through the cracks in rocks. She is magnetic, and when she’s on the screen it’s impossible to look away.
Her relationship with the rest of the warriors, and their relationships with each other are also a big draw. The series follows a model where their fellowship ought to be front and centre, and when it is, The Witcher Blood Origin really works. Aside from the hair-raising action, the connection between these characters is entirely responsible for the emotional highs, though they come infrequently.
Beyond that, the other side stories are a distraction and aren’t half as compelling. There are too many excess characters for The Witcher Blood Origin’s four-episode run, making it hard to get to know (and subsequently care) about anything outside of the main event. Too often there are scenes exclusively between characters who are underdeveloped, and it will leave you admiring the scenery, or simply losing your focus instead. That time – especially because the series is so short – ought to have been devoted to the primary story and the primary cast.
At its best, the series is a whirlwind of action and blistering fun, with a well-balanced core cast of characters. At its worst it can lose your attention with subplots and side characters who neither have the charm or gravitas that the series thinks they do. But, even in those moments, while they can be surprisingly dry, they’re not offensive: only boring.
On the whole The Witcher Blood Origin is far from perfect, and it doesn’t have the same quality as its predecessor. However, its flaws stem from execution and timing. Its issues aren’t down to the concept, even if the series doesn’t seem to understand its own strengths. What The Witcher Blood Origin does show is that there is endless potential for the world of The Witcher in a post-Cavill age, even if this often falls short of that. Still, there’s undeniably a lot to enjoy in The Witcher Blood Origin – especially if you come in with limited expectations.
For more on The Witcher Blood Origin, check out our guide to The Witcher Blood Origin filming locations, or find out who is the first Witcher. Alternatively, take a look at our explainers on the characters in the series like Merywn, Scian, and Fjall.