Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Witcher: Blood Origin
For anyone looking to ring in the holiday season with some good old-fashioned mayhem and monster-killing, Netflix’s The Witcher: Blood Origin, out Dec. 25, is a must-watch. Blood Origin, a prequel to The Witcher, Netflix’s series about a witcher named Geralt of Rivia, who finds himself embroiled in human politics more deadly than the monsters he hunts, is set some 1,200 years before the events of that series. Here’s what to know about Blood Origin and how it fits into the world of The Witcher.
The Witcher: Blood Origin is not a new season of The Witcher
Over four episodes, Blood Origin tells an origin story to The Witcher series, showing not only how the witchers—superhuman warriors created to hunt the monsters that plague humankind—came to be, but how their world was created from a cataclysmic event known as the “Conjunction of the Spheres,” which introduced humans and monsters to a new land.
The story follows the elf Éile (Sophia Brown), a warrior turned bard, as she becomes embroiled in the politics of the empire. She and a band of outcasts must come together to protect their people, first from their own leaders, but then from the otherworldly threat those leaders unwittingly unleash in their quest for power.
Since this was the story of the world of The Witcher before there were any humans (or witchers) in it, there are technically no human characters at all, which speaks to how well-established the overall series is. Even in the realm of fantasy and science fiction, few stories are willing to eliminate the relatable human element entirely, unless they can be sure the audience is invested enough. Of course, arguably, the elves in this story are basically just humans with pointy ears, going by their failings and foibles—but still.
Courtesy of NetflixA still from ‘The Witcher: Blood Origin’
While Henry Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia is not in Blood Origin, at least one familiar face from The Witcher turns up in the prequel: Jaskier the bard, whose task it becomes to learn the long-forgotten story of Éile and her companions, and bring it back to the present day, and whose appearance is one of the highlights of the entire miniseries.
Blood Origin’s cast notably includes Michelle Yeoh (meaning the show is guaranteed to have at least one great character). Yeoh plays swordmaster Scian of the Ghost Clan, the last of her tribe, and as always, is a force to be reckoned with in her role as mentor and comrade in arms to Éile, Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), and the rest of their band.
Other standouts include Francesca Mills, who is hilarious and affecting by turns as the foul-mouthed and vengeful dwarf Meldorf, and Mirren Mack, whom you may know from the Netflix series Sex Education, who fascinates as the unpredictable elven princess Merwyn (and definitely gets to wear all the best costumes, hairstyles, and makeup in the show).
Also featured is Minnie Driver, who makes a lovely elf, and beloved veteran British actor Sir Lenny Henry as Chief Sage Balor.
So, who becomes the first Witcher?
Now, that would be telling.
How does the prequel fit into The Witcher’s overall story?
Without giving away specifics, many events in Blood Origin illuminate previously unknown facts about characters and events in The Witcher series, and strongly hint that they will feature in the third season as well.
The Witcher stands well on its own
If you are already invested in The Witcher series, the prequel adds depth to its world. It’s framed as a story about the power of stories, and about restoring the lost history of the witchers to the world they were created to protect.
It’s also about big, bloody, elaborately choreographed, profanity-laced battles against lots and lots (and lots) of bad guys and monsters, of course. This is The Witcher we’re talking about, after all.
Admittedly, Blood Origin’s theme about the power of stories would have landed better if its own narrative had been a bit less choppy. Some characters’ backstories and development are given short shrift, which made it harder to care about them or their fates compared to the characters who got better treatment. And most puzzling of all, the scene with Minnie Driver’s character which should have bookended the entire prequel story just…wasn’t there. A real shame—her character was one of the most interesting in the entire miniseries.
Flawed though it may be, Blood Origin is undoubtedly enjoyable. In some ways, the simplicity of the pared-down narrative works well, especially considering that the entire conceit of the story was of it being turned into a song. In the world of The Witcher, songs are not just stories, but history, and the singing of them is what ensures that history is not forgotten. But even a really long song can’t contain that much nuance. A bard’s voice has to get a rest sometime, right?
In short, should we watch it?
The Witcher: Blood Origin is not perfect, and it does sadly lack of a Geralt, but the series proper is hardly free from flaws either. Fans of the main series who are invested in the world therein will find no real reason to dislike this one as well.