I ran across The Witcher on Netflix recently. I am a Never-Gamer type of person (sorry gamers, no offense) and I haven’t read the books, so I didn’t know what to expect. If you can stomach the violence, the show is as guilty a pleasure as Nacho Cheese Doritos dipped in queso, a perfect blend of eye candy, tried-and-true clichés of heroic fantasy, hammy acting, and writing that slaloms wildly between bingeworthy cheez and indigestible lead balloon.
If you are concerned about spoilers do not read further. You’ve been warned.
The main attraction is Henry Cavill as Geralt in the title role. A “witcher” is a mutant enhanced to be able to kill monsters. Never mind that the mutant trope is weirdly borrowed from superhero comics, or that Geralt’s world has medieval technology– but also advanced knowledge of genetics. (Actually, scratch the “advanced.” I have only now remembered Stregobor’s line that girls born during eclipses have “interior mutations.”)
Henry’s hairdo is one part Fabio, one part Legolas from Lord of the Rings. But I shall not cavil (verb, intransitive, “to make petty or unnecessary objections”). The camera serves him up to his eager viewers like a splendid Thanksgiving turkey, pectoral muscles a-bulging, golden-hued and glistening. (As a vegetarian I long ago gave up turkey, but in this case meat is really the only apt metaphor.) He gets to be wryly laconic, less of a stiff than he was as Superman. Despite the excessive gore, Henry really shines in the action scenes, moving fluidly yet giving the impression of immense strength. And, the show-runners seem to know that we want to see his charms displayed to best advantage. He obligingly soaks in a bathtub (apparently this is also a thing in the games), and in my favorite scene, the camera zooms in on his shapely rear end, clad in clingy black faux-leather.
The first episode, about his encounter with a woman bandit named Renfri, had me scratching my head. So…the Witcher goes around ridding the earth of monsters, but somehow the people detest him enough to stone him and run him out of town? Never mind that he just killed the huge spider-thing haunting their swamp, plus the gang of bandits that were hanging about the pub scowling and brandishing weapons. He is a sickening mutant, remember? A tall, physically godlike, golden-eyed mutant. Yeeessss. I mean, Yeccch!
In spite of this silliness, I quite liked the way Episode One handled the inevitable sex scene with Renfri. The kiss between her and Gerant was convincing, Renfri did NOT bare all, and the director did NOT cut immediately to a scene of them going at it like rods and pistons. There is some gratuitous female nudity in the wizard Stregobor’s magic garden, but it’s tastefully done. I am looking forward to seeing more of Henry’s magically delicious tush.
Just when I was about to quit my Netflix subscription, since I’ve seen nothing there of interest since Bridgerton, I found myself…beWitched.
And then there’s Tom Hiddleston as Loki on Disney Plus. Now, this ought to be the perfect palate cleanser after the feast that is Gerant. Brains and banter instead of brawn and ballast. Light on his feet and gracile yet masculine, with a 32-inch waist and a bulging cranium. The thinking woman’s superhero.
I have to admit that Loki is disappointing. Maybe it’s because I have only seen one Thor movie, and I am woefully ignorant of CinemAsgard and its resident Trickster’s machinations. The plot has Loki running afoul of creepy cosmic Time Police and meeting various alternate-reality versions of himself–even a female Loki (Sophia di Martino), who seems to be the only character with any idea what’s happening. I lost track (though I lasted a good three episodes past the Long Suffering Husband), and puzzled over the plot. How did Mobius (Owen Wilson with extra-crooked nose, playing himself) get a working TemPad so that he could return from the Void to the TVA? Wasn’t the whole point that none of them had a TemPad and they were trapped in the Void? And then they got one, but… everyone wanted to stay and battle the big cloud monster with glowing red eyes.
By the end, I was keenly reminded of old Star Trek and Dr. Who plots (Time Lords! Low-tech monsters with glowing red eyes! Clipboards! Good Spock meets Evil Alternate Universe Spock!). Even Hiddles couldn’t keep me happy. His dyed black hair isn’t particularly flattering, and he looks very pale. Though it’s fun to watch Loki stuck in a 2-minute Groundhog-Day-from-Hell with an angry woman who pummels him until he admits to utter narcissism and Jackass-style practical jokes, I am used to a diet of Hiddles as Coriolanus, Henry IV, and the Night Manager. Sorry, but this show does not measure up. The writing in Witcher is better!!!
My sole consolation was Hiddles in his slim-fit TVA suit and tie, looking like he’s ready to dance.