Every streaming service dreams of having a fantasy show that will make them the talk of the town. Last year, HBO sort of reclaimed that Game of Thrones hole in their catalog with House of the Dragon, while The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power attempted the same Amazon. The Witcher has long been the closest series of this type for Netflix, which has gone all in on the franchise in the last couple of years, most recently releasing a prequel series The Witcher: Blood Origin (★★☆☆☆).
Essentially an origin story for the whole franchise, Blood Origin tells the story of how the first Witcher, a monster-killer for hire, came to be. Set in the world of elves, Blood Origin follows a group of outcasts trying to keep their society from coming apart at the hands of an evil, power-hungry empire.
Set more than a thousand years before the original show, Blood Origin follows Éile and Fjall, two elves who have been exiled from their clans, aiming to seek retribution for a murderous coup that slaughtered their families. As they make their way toward that goal, they assemble a ragtag group of a similar mindset, with hopes of saving their homes.
At only four episodes, the miniseries plays out at times like a film and, at other times, like a television show, never really figuring out exactly what it wants to be. The miniseries crams a lot of information early on, doing more telling than showing, and more rushing than anything else.
The plot is a mess. If you aren’t being told what’s happening by the narrator, you are being told what’s happening by a character. All of the major plot developments in Blood Origin feel like footnotes, occurring quickly before being rehashed by other characters moments later.
There’s a forced feeling that never quite leaves, making anything but the fight scenes very boring, which is saying something for a four-episode series.
While there are some notable actors — Michelle Yeoh, for example — they just don’t have anything good to work with. The dialogue is as forced as the plot, with the actors clearly trying to make the little breadcrumbs in their possession go way further than possible.
The relationship between the characters is where things really go off the rails, with character developments just suddenly happening without any reason. Two characters fall in love even though they hated each other one scene ago and other characters seemingly have these close bonds that form out of thin air.
The characters fall astoundedly flat when it comes to their LGBTQ characters. The first one we see is — shocker — the villain of the series, who, while not getting the same sex scenes as the straight characters, feels wholly underdeveloped. The “good” queer character is played solo by a woman mourning her lover who was sexually assaulted before being killed. That’s about how far the queer representation goes, not even being worthwhile enough to be outright bad, just disappointing.
At least the show’s production quality is decent. If you watched Blood Origin, you might think it to be a wonder, with the fights and visual effects often doing way more heavy lifting than anything else.
By the end of the fourth episode, you will most likely be bored. Whether it’s the strange plot or the characters who have absolutely nothing to them, there just isn’t enough to keep you entertained. While Blood Origin has the pieces to make something work, it feels rushed and unfinished.
The Witcher franchise has a lot of potential (especially now that cardboard human Henry Cavill is leaving), but it continuously has shown that it just doesn’t understand what it wants. In the various spin-offs, fans of the series as a whole feel like an afterthought, while LGBTQ fans feel like they haven’t been thought of at all.
So what might have been a fun fantasy show ends up being a chore, another Netflix excuse to try and achieve streaming glory.
The Witcher: Blood Origin is now streaming on Netflix. Visit www.netflix.com.
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