The Witcher: The End's Beginning   Show Only 
December 20, 2019 5:16 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Hostile townsfolk and a cunning mage greet Geralt in the town of Blaviken. Ciri finds her royal world upended when Nilfgaard sets its sights on Cintra. (Netflix)
posted by oh yeah! (35 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is trash but I'm enjoying it. Hopefully we improve from literal "we're not so different, you and I" as the series progresses.

The entire episode is worth it for watching Henry Cavill just murder the every loving shit out of some dudes.

I haven't read the story but I don't really understand why he didn't just leave rather than take sides. I'm not sure what motivated him to help the wizard.
posted by selfnoise at 5:31 PM on December 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've never read the books or played the games, so, whoever wants to start a 'books-included' thread, please go ahead. I wasn't sure if people already into the franchise would want episode threads or one S1 thread.

I've been seeing tumblr gifsets of the game and the Netflix promos for ages, so, I was curious to finally see what the fuss was about. I can't say this first episode really won me over though. The naked-women-as-background-scenery in Stregobor's place had me rolling my eyes at the Game-of-Thrones-ness of it all. From the Vulture recap I guess they weren't supposed to be actual live human women, not sure if that should make me feel better or worse about the gratuitousness, since they were actual actresses having to walk around as set dressing it's kinda moot.

The action choreography was good - kinda gory for my taste, but in very 'you are watching a video game' way that made it not actually upsetting?

Do we want individual episode threads for this season? Or is this just a fast binge and meet up in the finale kind of show?
posted by oh yeah! at 5:35 PM on December 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

The fight with Renfri was great, it was cool to see an appropriately fast and muscled woman fighter on tv for once. But boy, I have no idea how anyone who didn't read the books can follow this story at all. I couldn't even explain it to the person I was watching it with and I had read the books. Also it all makes a lot more sense in the books, I know they nees to shortcut the story for TV but the way they did it made no sense.
posted by fshgrl at 7:39 PM on December 20, 2019

But boy, I have no idea how anyone who didn't read the books can follow this story at all.

I’d say that was a legit concern. I still have no clue why he killed Renfri. Her quest for vengeance seemed 100% legit. He seemed to have no motivation to stop her - he specifically said he didn’t want to get involved.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:03 PM on December 20, 2019 [7 favorites]

Two episodes in and this show is in the Uncanny Valley between Game of Thrones and Xena: Warrior Princess.

Both have their merits (and I admit to being more Team Xena over GoT) and this show needs to commit to one or the other. Too many Not Witcher characters who die so I'm not invested in the next one. That Cavill seems to be on screen a third of the time does not bode well.

I'll keep watching, but this is Lone Viewing after my wife has gone to bed (like Mountain Monsters or Hellier) not Share This Around.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:44 PM on December 20, 2019 [5 favorites]

This show is oddly paced in a manner much like the video game. Characters come and go, with larger events looming behind the lesser ones. Relationships are rushed together only to vanish, probably so that Geralt can be moved on to the next event in the next episode. I don't quite know what to make of it. Cavill does, however, channel video game Geralt very well.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:21 PM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I still have no clue why he killed Renfri.

She lied to him and thought he had left town and then she and her gang were going to kill villagers one by one until the magician came out. She was supposed to be a ruthless robber baron type. Not well explained in the show.
posted by fshgrl at 11:43 PM on December 20, 2019 [5 favorites]

I loves it I loves it, and I do not care how batshit it is. I have not played the game Nor read the book, only massively inhaled Witcher fanfic so my view of the show is more nekkid please. The women’ armour is glorious, and the confusing timelines and politics are making everything just spin around for fun.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 1:24 AM on December 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

So, do people want individual episode threads? Or since a lot of you are several episodes in already, will whoever gets to the finale post the full-season thread?
posted by oh yeah! at 4:42 AM on December 21, 2019

Mod note: Okay, a couple things flagged here. Yes, if folks want to discuss the development of the show over various episodes, you should post a full season thread, or wait to talk about it when the proper episode is posted. Discussing what you've noticed from being two (or more) episodes ahead means that you are the only one / one of the few with that framework for discussion, since this is just for discussing episode 1. I don't know if aspects mentioned thus far are actual spoilers, so let me know if I should delete the couple (?) of comments that are jumping ahead a bit.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:29 AM on December 21, 2019

Mod note: Update, I've gone ahead and deleted, since it seems like the info from future episodes is probably a deliberate choice from the writers in terms of how the viewer will experience the show.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:59 AM on December 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Holy moly I am loving this! Prior to this I'd often found Henry Cavill a net negative, but I love him in this, just the right balance of funny and dry and snarky and heroic, he's adding a lot of depth to a character with really not a whole lot of exposition. It's enough that I might reattempt his Superman. Also the occasional "FUCK!" when something doesn't go according to plan. It's gorgeous, I love the color palette (teal is just about my favorite color and there's so much of it here). I don't even care that I don't really know what's happening most of the time. There are monsters, ok?
posted by biscotti at 8:05 AM on December 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

For me this was a mixed bag. There was great stuff like the queen in battle, but I was also super frickin confused! I'd be curious to see what people say in a full season thread because right now I've hit pause on this show.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:26 AM on December 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I still have no clue why he killed Renfri. Her quest for vengeance seemed 100% legit. He seemed to have no motivation to stop her - he specifically said he didn’t want to get involved.

Sure, he said that, but then he shows back up in town, so Renfri and her minions (pretty understandably) assumed that he'd either been lying or changed his mind and accepted the sorcerer's commission to kill her. So they attacked The Witcher when he returns.

Also, regarding the "100% percent legit" thing, as fshgrl points out, "she and her gang were going to kill villagers one by one until the magician came out. " So, y'know, I think they're setting up a world with plenty of moral ambiguity and one where there's plenty of lying. Not saying I didn't find Renfri's account of her circumstances plausible, but IMO the show definitely leaves it open as to who is telling how much of the truth (the magician or Renfri) about her situation, and The Witcher has no way to figure that out on his own. So he decides "I'm not getting involved" - and then does anyway.

And the fight choreography is pretty darn good.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:43 AM on December 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was also super frickin confused! I'd be curious to see what people say in a full season thread because right now I've hit pause on this show.

I also spent a lot of this episode going "what the heck is happening here?" Which for me made me decide to stick with it for a couple more to see if there's more info coming or not. Without being spoilery, things do get clearer the further you go (at least as far as I am right now), so you do get less confused as you go. YMMV if you feel it's worth it, of course.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:47 AM on December 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Having finished episode 2, I'm not going to do more individual episode threads - it doesn't seem like the kind of puzzle-box series that will lend itself to episode-by-episode discussion, since the answers are probably all going to boil down to "it was XYZ in the book/game". Not sure if I'll finish my binge today or tomorrow, but definitely before the weekend is over.
posted by oh yeah! at 10:00 AM on December 21, 2019

I thought he killed Renfri because he thought she had some kind of curse/ was a supernatural revenant, and he's a professional monster slayer. Killing monsters for a bunch of villagers who don't appreciate it is kind of his whole deal. So they had that conversation in the woods that was like "maybe don't be all about revenge, and you won't be a monster" and she was like "maybe don't kill me, because my cause is just." In the end they were trapped by their natures: she had to try and have her revenge at all costs, and he had to try and stop her.

I suppose that's not a bad place for the Witcher to start, because it gives him room to be less of a hard-ass in the future. Shame about Renfri, though. I wouldn't have minded her being a recurring character.
posted by surlyben at 12:47 PM on December 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

They evidently got lucky with Renfri's casting- evidently they shot the whole episode with another actress, but when she wasn't available for reshoots, they had to shoot all her material again with Emma Appleton (you can tell because Henry has a better wig in episode 1 than in the other early episodes- that's another thing that got swapped midway).
posted by gsteff at 3:20 PM on December 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

Mod note: One deleted. See earlier comments.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:28 AM on December 22, 2019

About halfway through I started googling and the first thing that came up was an industry article that said it made no sense unless having read the books, so ok, monsters and random magikstuff, can deal.
posted by sammyo at 9:44 PM on December 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well, I liked this. I don't like Cavill as an actor but his Geralt is fine, the voicing and the grunts are just right, and mostly he rescues Geralt from the weight of his own ridiculousness. The look of the show is okay, just a slight notch above cheap-looking. My SO was asking questions and I could tell she was getting into it. I know some people find it to be Extruded Fantasy Product but idk, to me there's enough of a difference that it feels like something's going on.

This episode's story is a little muddled but it has the setup I was hoping for that made the game work and that I thought would make for a good TV show: the shitty village of the week. I could watch a million variations; I hope they don't get stuck in an overarching plot too soon.

I do like that it's mixed with Ciri's backstory but damn, Cintra has the most pathetic army ever, I don't remember a single shot of a Cintra soldier doing anything except dying horribly.
posted by fleacircus at 1:13 AM on December 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Mixed feelings on this; on the one hand, Geralt never knowing who was the more just side of the feud between Renfri and the wizard seems appropriate. On the other hand, literally saying “we’re not so different” is pretty terrible, and Stretogor’s illusionary naked women were gross in the book and equally gross here. I think in general Netflix just didn’t quite manage the budget they needed if they wanted to have this be a GoT competitor, but I’ll probably watch the rest of this off and on.
posted by tautological at 8:33 AM on December 23, 2019

Some bits felt very much like a game -- when the princess is walking down the hallway looking into each room it seemed like I should have the option to click through the doorways -- and the naked ladies repetitively picking fruit were annoying, but I enjoyed it overall and will watch more. I really liked the young woman who'd killed a rat (and a dog).

(I can't look up names because the Internet wants to tell me everything that's going to happen in the next ten seasons.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:09 AM on December 23, 2019

I noticed there were some naked dudes as well, including some butt, but not as showcased as the boobs of course.
posted by fleacircus at 10:50 AM on December 23, 2019

I really liked the fight choreography on this. Not so sure about the weird colour grading.
posted by smoke at 5:07 PM on December 24, 2019

We turned this off after 2 eps because I don't consider "characters with near-unintelligible accents, backgrounds and motivations take turns making women suffer and/or die" to be anything close to entertainment.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:15 PM on December 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

ok so we just watched the first ep last night. I had low expectations, like something in the Sleepy Hallow range (which would have been a fine level of enjoyable fluff) but it was...bad? like, really bad??

it sounds like people are enjoying it though? maybe it was too 'video game' like for me? although mr supermedusa is a gamer and also thought it was really bad. should we give it another ep or two?
posted by supermedusa at 1:25 PM on December 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah, same. The only character that I found even slightly interesting was Renfri, so I didn't bother beyond this episode. Also I mostly don't understand what was going on? I assume it makes more sense to people who have read the books and played the video games.
posted by grandiloquiet at 1:31 PM on December 31, 2019

I don't have any history with the source material, but it seemed to make sense to me. Geralt didn't want to take sides, but then Renfri is in town to kill the wizard despite telling Geralt she'd leave it behind. She then threatens the young girl, explicitly says she'd kill townsfolk one by one, and says if she and Geralt were to fight, she wouldn't be able to stop herself. Then while they're fighting Geralt gains the upper hand, spares her life and tries to get her to yield, which she immediately rejects, seemingly leaving him no choice.

We're then left wondering if she really was a monster or if she was just a human pushed too far and driven to monstrous acts. And the more the wizard speaks the less convinced we are that Geralt has done the right thing.

Interested to see where the series goes from here. I'm not usually too big on this kind of ambiguity - I like my good guys to be good guys, as cliché as that is - but it's working for me here so far.

Aside from the naked women as set dressing aspect there seems to be a decent amount of female characters (with lines and motivations!). Although we've just lost the two best ones (warrior grandmother queen was amazing imo), hopefully the trend continues.
posted by ODiV at 9:22 PM on January 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

Uh, not the trend of them dying, to be clear.
posted by ODiV at 9:43 PM on January 5, 2020

Because you need this in your life: Fight scene from this episode set to Toxic.
posted by ODiV at 6:41 PM on January 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

Can anyone tell us if the show gets better after the first couple of episodes? I sorta liked the first episode, then 10 minutes into the second one got so bored and annoyed I quit. But I like the Witcher 3's stories and am fine with the general setup of the show, would love to hear it gets tighter and smarter and is worth the time.

(I think the "Toss a coin to your Witcher" meme really ruined the show for me. It highlights the cheesy Rennaissance Fayre LARPing aspect of the production.)
posted by Nelson at 7:32 AM on January 11, 2020

My experience is that it gets a lot better, but it took until episode 4 for that to happen. Feel free to MeMail me if you want more detail.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:18 AM on January 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

having watched several eps now, yeah it does get better. just generally more engaging. I don't really care about Geralt but I love the sort of deadpan snark he delivers.
posted by supermedusa at 1:04 PM on January 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I had forgotten how shitty this first episode is. Hang in there if you're checking this out for the first time, because every other episode is much better than this.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:41 PM on November 18, 2021

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