Knowing nothing about the Witcher, I came into the newly released Netflix series a little blind, my only prior knowledge being that there was an abundance of violence and sex scenes throughout the episodes. I've seen Game of Thrones, so I wasn't quite fazed by that. Rather, I was curious as to how this story would relay to me the universe that Witcher is set in, the characters which inhabit it, the kingdoms, politics, magic, and essentially gain a general understanding of this fantasy series. For the first few episodes, I only gained a skeleton outline of what was transpiring in this world. Of course, Spoilers Ahead.
Geralt of Rivia is a legendary monster-hunter, a Witcher, tasked with killing harmful beasts that are threatening the lives of humans, the world's dominant species. During his journey, he encounters new challenges that tear his life apart, such as being thrust into a Law of Surprise deal, in which a child is tasked to him without his or the recipient's knowledge (that sounds very confusing I know, I'll explain it later), new foes, and a belligerent, expansionist empire called Nilfgaard, whose penchant for ruthless conquest and destruction is consuming all the world in a raging fire. There are two other series protagonists, Yennefer and Ciri. Yennefer is a farmgirl with a spinal disease that is taken in by a mysterious order of sorceresses, training and becoming the greatest of their rank, yet the most arrogant. Then there's Ciri, a young girl who escapes Nilfgaard's wrath and carves out a path for herself in this dangerous world, meeting new companions and enemies along the way.
Similarly to Mandalorian, the Witcher's eight episode length prevents it from truly exploring the finer details and aspects of the Witcher Universe, but these eight tidbits are more then enough to become invested in these characters, and by episode eight, leave you craving for more. Most episodes are enclosed, isolated tales in these characters' stories, with only Ciri's timeline being consistent with the overarching plot. Yennefer's adventures depict moreso her origin, and Geralt's segments (which I find the most entertaining) are him slaying monsters, meeting new friends and facing off against wicked enemies. For me, Henry Cavill portrayed the gruff monster-slayer perfectly, despite my rather lacking knowledge of the series (I did some research, mind you). Some state his acting makes one feel detached from the character, but I believe that's merely Geralt's personality, to be totally removed from the world and focus on his occupation to avoid his oncoming destiny, a theme that resonates throughout the show. Anya Chalotra as Yennefer and Freya Allen as Ciri also played very compelling characters, but ultimately, I still found the adventures of Geralt infinitely more fun to watch. For one, he meets a quirky bard named Jaskier (played by Joey Batey), who supremely elevates every scene he's in with both comedy and snarky commentary, and fights a cast of horrific creatures that make Game of Thrones's Wights and Dragons seem like child's play in comparison.
The show also bore a rather strange consistency. It's not a direct timeline of chronological events, but rather an anthology, with Ciri's story taking place in the future, while Geralt and Yennefer's adventures mostly occur in the past, with these different stories converging in Episode Eight, satisfying and rewarding the viewer for paying attention and becoming invested in the plot. To those who want a linear progressing show, you'll be disappointed, I'm afraid. However, this show is still a fun watch, even for casual fans like myself who merely wanted something to fill the void that disastrous Game of Thrones finale season left.
The villains of this show range from CGI monsters to the imperialistic nation-state of Nilgaard, and while most don't get much development, I'm sure that's because this season is merely a test run to gauge fan reception, with the second season being more refined in both character development and understanding the motives of enemies like Nilfgaard.
Regarding the supposedly 'problematic' violence prevalent in the show, it doesn't display these bloody moments gratuitously, but rather uses them to further the plot elements. A particularly gruesome moment in Episode Three sees Yennefer suffer in agonizing pain to transform herself, a major catalyst for her character arc in the remaining five episodes, and what her desires morph into subsequently. When Geralt faces off against a monster that bloodies and beats him, and he refrains from killing it, it displays the righteousness of his character, a quality he'd likely never admit personally, but holds in spades. If one can ignore the fake blood and guts spewing all over their screen, they'll find quite a pronounced enjoyment from these moments and many others like it throughout the story.
Ultimately, the Witcher Season One doesn't provide all the answers you're looking for regarding the more minute details of this universe and the characters. It grants a somewhat detailed look at the events occurring during it and documents three characters and their adventures through this world. If you want an eight-episode joyride filled with action, intrigue, and compelling characters supplemented by a rather brilliantly done score, then this is the show for you. My final ranking for the Witcher is 9/10.