It’s been a year of epic television: from the return of the Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings to the fascinating originalities of Severance, 1899, The Peripheral, and more, as well as trotting along with Slow Horses, The English, The Dropout and Pam & Tommy. Indeed, it has been incredible, but for fans of The Witcher the wait for the new series will go on for a little longer, so the eagerly-anticipated spin-off Blood Origin arrives just after Santa and some of the cast have been telling us what we can expect from the new show…
Set 1,200 years before the events of The Witcher television series, Blood Origin will depict the creation of the first Witcher and the events that leads to the Conjunction of the Spheres, something that brought around bringing humans into the elf world.
“Viewers will be surprised because they’re going to see a story told about a period of elven history that was buried by the humans after their arrival and eventual conquest of the continent,” creator Declan de Barra told Tudum in September. “We get to tell a tale about the elves when they were at their height, like all great societies before their fall.”
Leading the series is Sophia Brown (Girl/Haji) as Éile, a warrior queen who leaves to take up being a travelling musician. Chatting to journalists, she talked about the lure of playing her and her story, saying: “Éile is an elite warrior bred from birth to do that and she has decided to walk away from her clan and follow her heart of being a Nomadic musician and she has left her noble guardian of being the Queen’s guardian and has abandoned her family so she has a lot of guilt. It becomes a redemption journey for her that has a lot of self-discovery.”
Laurence O’Fuarain (Game of Thrones) returns to the mythic world alongside Brown as Fjall, a man born into a clan of warriors sworn to protect a king but who sets out in need of vengeance after a loved one dies in battle trying to save him. On his characters, O’Fuarain says he was drawn to his troubled past, saying: “He doesn’t feel life has any sort of meaning in any respect. He carries a deep scar from the trauma he carries with losing his brother and blames himself and cannot let it go so he has a lot of self-hatred with him and I really wanted to tap into that and dive into that part of his psyche, his brashness and cockiness comes from insecurity.”
Also along for the ride are twins Zacaré (Lizzie Annis) and Syndril (Zach Wyatt), elven sages with a “great aptitude for magic and dimensional travel” who also play a pivotal part in the storyline. On the lure of the series, Annis said she was lured to everything about The Witcher: “It was a real pleasure and joy discovering and educating myself about the world of The Witcher through all the wonderful facets of this universe. They are two halves of the same whole, they unlock their true potential when they are together, something we are really excited for fans to see. “
Wyatt echoed his excitement for fans, as well as stepping into the shoes of such an epic world, adding: “I think there is a lot of excitement and nerves about taking part in such a huge world. There are the books, the games, the series, the latter of which was my entry point, understanding the flavor and magic of the show and understanding where Syndril might fit in.”
Also appearing – or should that be reappearing – is Joey Batey aka Jaskier and you can read our interview with him right here.
As for the show itself, well, the question remains about whether, despite all the uncertainty surrounding the future of the franchise, the show is any good or not. Led once again by showrunners Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and Declan de Barra, they have managed to keep the spirit of the previous seasons running through the spin-off but – and forgive us for saying this – but the magic hasn’t quite followed with it. It has all the sword and sorcery elements you would expect, as well as some solid performances notable from Brown, Batey, and the legendary Lenny Henry, but something is missing that makes the show feel inferior to what has gone before, despite the love of the source material of all involved in the making of it. The first two episodes are perhaps the series’ stronger moments with the unveiling of the new story (or, technically, old story in mythology terms) and some bruising, spectacular fight sequences that feel truly Witcher, but once the wheels start turning it grinds to something of a crawl, and feels underwhelming in comparison to what has come before, save a few sporadically entertaining further battles.
Fans, however, might see past its flaws and take solace in the fact that they are getting their fix of The Witcher over the Christmas break before the return of the main series in the Summer of 2023 – sadly, however, it isn’t quite up there with the best television/streaming has offered us in another spectacular year of programmes.
The Witcher: Blood Origin arrives on Netflix on December 25th