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The Witcher: Blood Origin Review: Netflix's Unnecessary Fantasy Prequel Can't Capture the Magic of the Original

Overstuffed with characters and exposition, the limited series never builds any momentum

Kyle Fowle
Laurence O'Fuarain and Sophia Brown, The Witcher: Blood Origin

Laurence O'Fuarain and Sophia Brown, The Witcher: Blood Origin

Lilja Jonsdottir/Netflix

It's perhaps appropriate that Netflix's The Witcher: Blood Origin deals with an event where the world expands beyond its limits, causing a rupture and leading to a collision of people and magic, because the ever-expanding universe of The Witcher is starting to feel a little untenable. Fans of the show were concerned when news dropped that Henry Cavill will no longer be playing Geralt of Rivia in Season 4 of the flagship series, but could that bit of casting news really signal a deterioration in the property overall?  

Well, if you love the first two seasons of The Witcher and were hoping that this new prequel would assuage any worries about the franchise, you won't be feeling so hopeful after sitting through four episodes of heavy exposition and very little excitement. The limited series has its moments, and any viewer who loves digging into the mythology of The Witcher — a story and world that spans books, video games, and TV shows — will certainly find something to like in Blood Origin, but in the grand scheme of things the show hardly feels necessary or intriguing.


The Witcher: Blood Origin


  • Sophia Brown and Laurence O'Fuarain as enemies turned allies
  • Great texture and landscape
  • Michelle Yeoh wielding a sword


  • Too many new characters and plotlines to follow across four episodes
  • Incredible amount of dull exposition
  • Most characters are flat and lack any emotional depth

The Witcher: Blood Origin begins with a familiar face, as Jaskier (Joey Batey) the bard is confronted in battle by Seanchaí (Minnie Driver). She wants to tell him the story of "the Conjunction of the Spheres" and how the first Witcher came to be. The show has a little fun with the storytelling premise, winking at the audience while Jaskier rolls his eyes, sure that this will just be the same old "band of outcasts come together to save the world" narrative, before getting into the actual story, which takes place 1,200 years before Geralt's time. 

That winking, knowing tone would be canny if what followed were at all unique or interested in flipping the hero's journey upside down. Unfortunately, that's just not the case. While six episodes were originally filmed, Netflix has cut the series to just four, allegedly to make the story flow more cleanly. There's no way to know if the two extra episodes would have helped this season find its footing, but as it is the four episodes somehow feel both rushed and dull, and a large part of that is due to the fact that the characters and their stories have no room to breathe. 

The basic thrust of the story is this: A coup has shaken Elven civilization, as a peace treaty to unite the kingdoms has fallen through. The Princess (Mirren Mack) has taken power and is seeking to create a new Golden Era, while the mischievous Chief Balor (Lenny Henry) pulls the strings of power from the shadows. Their goal in taking over is to expand their empire into lands known and unknown, using monoliths to harbor magic and demonic creatures. In doing so they destroy the rival Dog and Raven clans, which forges the show's first bond between Éile (Sophia Brown) and Fjall (Laurence O'Fuarain), outcasts of their respective clans who now must band together to kill those responsible for the coup. Along the way their troop grows, and each character joins the resistance and comes complete with their own reasons for revenge.

Michelle Yeoh, The Witcher: Blood Origin

Michelle Yeoh, The Witcher: Blood Origin

Lilja Jonsdottir/Netflix

The trouble is that the show doesn't really have any time to deepen these character motivations beyond a surface level explanation. We get glimpses at why Scian (Michelle Yeoh) is fighting for her people, or how Meldof (Francesca Mills, in a standout performance) came to be the efficient killer she is, but none of these moments are more than snapshots. The picture seems incomplete, and that's the general problem with the series. The Witcher: Blood Origin feels like a footnote, as if the show itself isn't even all that concerned with making these characters more than archetypes — the few romantic moments don't feel earned, nor does the climax, in a finale that's actually occasionally entertaining due to all the action — because this isn't meant to be a real series. It's just a prequel that's meant to be setup for something else. 

What that means is that even though the finale is better than what came before it, The Witcher: Blood Origin feels like a meandering prologue to a novel more than a prequel to a hit TV series. This is not a story that stands on its own, and yet it's also not a necessary piece of the larger story. There's very little here that must be seen if you're a fan of The Witcher, and there's nothing that would hook someone who hasn't checked out the show already. The Witcher: Blood Origin is a non-entity, landing on Netflix with a dull thud.  

Premieres: Sunday, Dec. 25 on Netflix 
Who's in it: Sophia Brown, Laurence O'Fuarain, Michelle Yeoh, Lenny Henry, Mirren Mack 
Who's behind it: Declan de Barra and Lauren Schmidt Hissrich (creators) 
For fans of:The Wheel of Time, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
How many episodes we watched: 4 of 4