THE WITCHER: BLOOD ORIGIN
UK/US Netflix, streaming now Showrunner Declan de Barra Cast Sophia Brown, Laurence
O’fuarain, Michelle Yeoh, Mirren Mack
EPISODES 1.01-1.04 Big-budget fantasy prequels were all the rage in 2022, but this Witcher spin-off wields a power House Of The Dragon and The Rings Of Power can only dream of: brevity.
Keeping things short and to the point isn’t always fashionable in realms of magic and monsters, but Blood Origin’s pacy, highly bingeable four-episode arc is its greatest strength. The fact that it’s set around 1,200 years before
Geralt of Rivia’s monster-slaying exploits is also a massive plus. Blood Origin’s plot and characters are so many generations removed from the parent show that the curse which afflicts most prequels – the challenge of maintaining suspense in a story whose outcome is never in doubt – is easily sidestepped.
Fans of Andrzej Sapkowski’s original The Witcher books, videogames and TV show will already know that the Elves were once the dominant species on the Continent – by Geralt’s time, they’ve become an oppressed minority – and Blood Origin shows their civilisation at the height of its power. Pretty much the only thing they have in common with the wise, ethereal beings of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, however, is the shape of their ears, because in
The Witcher Elves are every bit as varied, flawed and mortal as humans are.
The Game Of Thrones-esque coup that plunges the Continent into (literal) Chaos is the ideal catalyst to bring together an unlikely band of six Elves and a Dwarf (humans are yet to arrive in the Continent) on an old-school fantasy quest. Their mission? To save the world from a rogue mage (played with impressive menace by Lenny Henry) and some very angry beasts.
This fellowship may be of the dysfunctional variety, but there’s plenty of fun to be had watching them grow into a coherent unit. In an era of sequels and epic multi-season storylines, it’s refreshing to see entire character arcs play out across the running time of a single Lord Of The Rings movie. And even though Blood Origin doesn’t really find its feet until episode two, the story still finds time for romance, betrayal and the brutal genesis of the first ever Witcher. Let’s just say the prototype model lacks Geralt’s poise and good manners…
Crucially, there’s enough crossover with the original show’s mythology that you never feel like you’ve materialised in a different universe. As in Rogue One, the characters here are destined to be footnotes in the history of the Continent, but their actions – and their connection to the infamous Conjunction of the Spheres – seem set to have major implications when The Witcher returns for its third season in 2023. Blood Origin is arguably Netflix’s most satisfying trip to the Continent so far.
Sapkowski didn’t explain the Conjunction of the Spheres in his Witcher novels. The backstory was created for Blood Origin.
Elves are every bit as varied, flawed and mortal as humans