Friday, January 03, 2020

The Witcher: Betrayer’s Moon – review

Director: Alex Garcia Lopez

First aired: 2019

Contains spoilers

2019 saw a Netflix original series of the Witcher. Probably best known in the UK due to the games, here on TMtV we have previously looked at the Last Wish, the first book, which contains the story that has led to this review. The story was also included in the Polish TV Show Wiedźmin, which I reviewed a while ago.

The world of the Witcher is full of vampire types. In this case the vampire type might not seem that vampiric within the episode, but as it is a vampire type (no matter how it acted) I’m looking at the episode. Note I am concentrating on the episode's Geralt (Henry Cavill, Blood Creek & Justice League) storyline. There are three arcs running through the series, all interconnected but all in different timelines. Episode 3 was the first that actually expressed the difference in timelines and, if I had a complaint about the show, I think it should have made the fact that there were different timelines more explicit for the more casual viewer.

Henry Cavil as Geralt
So, in Geralt’s timeline things start with another Witcher, Remus (Gudmundur Thorvaldsson), who visits a group of miners who are being plagued by a monster. One of them is mortally injured and suggests that the creature is a vukodlak – the undead child of a pregnant girl who died before her time. Remus is paid 3000 orens in advance and goes to find the creature but meets his end. Geralt hears of Remus passing through at an inn, from a prostitute. Short of coin he leaves Roach, his horse, as a deposit and heads to Temeria, the kingdom in which the attacks take place.

hand of the monster
The miners are close to revolt as they believe their king, Foltest (Shaun Dooley), is not doing anything to protect them from the monster. When Geralt arrives, the reception is not good as they believe Remus took their money. Geralt apologises for his guild, tells them he takes the payment after the monster is killed and he’ll do the job for a third of the price. This is going well until the King’s man, Ostrit (Jason Thorpe), arrives with troops, breaks up the crowd and has Geralt escorted from the kingdom.

Remus' corpse
However, in the forest, his escorts all fall asleep and the King’s sorceress, Triss Merrigold (Anna Shaffer), takes Geralt back in secret. She has Remus’ body and, when discovering that the body is missing heart and liver, Geralt realises that it is a striga. Similar to the vukodlak – in that it is the unborn daughter of the dead Princess Adda – the difference is that the striga is cursed (indeed was cursed in the womb and it was this that killed her mother) and can be restored to humanity if Geralt can break the curse. Of course, with it being part of the royal family things are not going to be simple.

face to face
The striga is portrayed as monstrous, and large – pretty much sticking to a bipedal creature feature style – but with a long prehensile umbilical cord. The creature is night time active only and slumbers in her tomb during the day. Other than that, we are offered very little lore. However, what we get is a nice little watcher monster hunt, with a view to breaking the curse rather than kill the monster. There is a nice atmosphere to this and the episode is primarily shared with a story set in a timeline when Foltest and Adda were still children.

Shaun Dooley as Foltest
This version of the Witcher works really well, Cavill is excellent in the role and the stories capturing the grey morality of the books/games. Unfortunately, I’m struggling to score this as I don’t think the episode would work out of the season whole, with the arcs all being equally important. So unusually the score is for the season as a whole, despite only this episode having a vampiric element (and then that aspect is played down). Nevertheless 8 out of 10.

The episode’s imdb page is here.

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