Going without Henry Cavill costs the Netflix series plenty.
No doubt Netflix’s goal in releasing the Witcher spinoff The Witcher: Blood Origin was to tide audiences over. They wanted to give the fans a little something while waiting for Henry Cavill’s final season as Geralt. Conveniently framed as a tale told to Jaskier (Joey Batey) by Elf storyteller Seanchaí (an always welcome Minnie Driver), Blood Origin finally digs into the Conjunction of the Spheres, which created the world of men and monsters we’ve already seen.
The premise itself is meaty enough. Set 1200 years before The Witcher, it features seven legendary elf warriors teaming up to topple a puppet monarch. Michelle Yeoh is on hand to class the joint up as wandering swordsmith/warrior Scían. Alas, the show gives her far too little to do.
While the four-episode runtime keeps The Witcher: Blood Origin bite-sized, it feels more like a wasted opportunity. As in The Witcher, the action here doesn’t stop to catch its breath. Instead, it hops from plot point to plot point like an accountant checking off boxes. The leads are all capable enough, and the fight scenes certainly thrill, but there just isn’t enough there there. We get little time to connect with the characters before the scene whisks away to another clandestine meeting. One thing you can safely say about both The Witcher and Blood Origin, there is always a surplus of clandestine meetings to be found.
The plot kicks off with sorcerer Balor (Lenny Henry) and General Eredin (Jacob Collins-Levy) committing a seriously gnarly coup to install Princess Merwyn (Merrin Mack) as Empress of the three elf nations. In one nifty swoop, the uprising wipes out the warrior clans who protected the heads of state. Fairly predictable results—rebellion and famine—follow.
This serves as the impetus that unites the first two members of the Magnificent Adequate Seven, Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain) and Éile/Lark (Sophia Brown), two outcast warriors from rival clans who serve as the primary focus in the ensemble. Unfortunately, while both actors tackle the roles with a particular earthy gusto, their burgeoning romance comes across as forced and hastily tacked on.
While the four-episode runtime keeps The Witcher: Blood Origin bite-sized, it feels more like a wasted opportunity.
All that said, there are bright spots in The Witcher: Blood Origin, from Yeoh’s elegant swordsmanship to hammer-wielder Meldof ’s (Francesca Mills) uncompromising savagery. The increase in the Witcher effects budget shows in some truly dazzling showdowns. The bloody introduction is especially impressive. Mack serves as a credible foil for Henry and Collins-Levy, who make full use of Merwyn’s naïveté. The costumes, makeup, and sets are all top-tier. So why is Blood Origin simply just okay? As Jaskier tells Seanchaí in the first episode, “It’s been done. To death.”
The lack of Henry Cavill’s Geralt is never felt so keenly as it is here. Fjall attempts all of the gruffness of our favorite Witcher but never quite comes close. If The Witcher: Blood Origin gives us a taste of what a Cavill-free Witcher looks like, this franchise is headed for troubled times.
The Witcher: Blood Origin is now wielding its blades on Netflix.