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Having dislocated my shoulder a few weeks ago, I haven't been doing much video gaming. I can do some PC gaming on my laptop using my trackball mouse and wireless keyboard (and plan on having a new Civilization VI strategy published real soon), and I also finally started playing Breath of the Wild on the Switch, since the Switch controller is much more comfortable to use with my arm in a sling. I haven't touched the PS4 since the dislocation. I've also been watching a lot more TV and movies.

One such television show has been Netflix's new The Witcher TV series, based on the novels that inspired the video game series of the same name. The Witcher III is a fantastic game that I've come to adore due to its exceptionally well-written and thoughtful quests. But I never played the first two games in the series, nor read the books. So I was looking forward to the TV show hopefully filling me in on more of the backstory and history of these characters and this world.

I just wish that I was having an easier time following along with what the heck is going on in this show, as its plotting and structure seems to be rather muddled.

I'm not even talking about the large, big-picture structure of the show. I followed along just fine with the show jumping back and forth between Ciri's escape from the Nilfgardian invasion of Cintra, and the travels of Geralt that happened in the 15 or so years leading up that invasion. It took me a few episodes to wrap my head around it, but I'm fine with it.

No, what's confusing me is the minute-to-minute plotting and character motivations. There have been numerous times during these eight episodes that I just kind of threw my hands up and asked aloud "what is going on here?". Why are these characters doing what they are doing? And why do so many conversations feel like they are made up of non sequiturs? There's going to be some light spoilers here, so if you haven't watched the show yet, you can maybe skip the next two or three paragraphs.

I found myself very confused as to why certain things were happening.

Most of my confusions revolve around Geralt's actions. He sometimes makes decisions that seem to come out of nowhere. In the very first episode, my girlfriend and I had to pause the episode to try to make sense of why Geralt goes back into town and fights Renfri's gang, then again when Geralt seems to go berserk, and then had to stop yet again to ask why the mage seems to use his magic powers to turn the town against Geralt. Didn't he want Geralt to kill Renfri and her men? Didn't everyone in town think Renfri and her men were a dangerous menace? Where did this apparent double-cross come from? Having played the game, I'm familiar with Geralt's regret regarding his reputation as "The Butcher of Blaviken". It's a big deal in his life. But having never played the earlier games and having never read the novels, I never quite understood what happened at Blaviken. After having seen it portrayed in this show, I'm still unclear what happened.

Similar seeming non sequiturs crop up in other episodes. I didn't quite understand the queen's hostility toward the hedgehog knight, nor did I follow along with Geralt's conversation when captured by the elf leader. Oh, and we also had to stop the show to look up what the heck the "Law of Surprise" was, because I don't recall that ever being explained up until there's a massive fight over it. There were also a few interactions between Yennifer and Istred in the early episodes that threw me for a loop.

It feels like some important setup scenes were maybe cut. But why? I mean, did you learn nothing from the internet's reaction to the rushed hack-job that was the last few seasons of Game of Thrones? This is a streaming show. It doesn't have to be cut down to a rigid runtime to fit in an hour-long broadcast slot. If you needed more time to properly flesh out the scripts and make sure that everything is properly explained and setup, then just make the episodes 90 minutes. Or, alternatively, just cut out all the flash-forward segments with Ciri and save that stuff for next season, so that you have more time to tell the stories about Geralt and Yennifer. Or just add 2 more episodes to this season (to make it an even 10), and put the whole Ciri storyline in those two episodes. Most of the scenes with Ciri don't really move the narrative of this season forward anyway. And besides, the writing seemed to come together a lot better in the last 2 or 3 episodes, as all the main characters' storylines finally converged and the episodes could be written as one, singular story (rather than three independent plot threads).

Every episode alternates between Geralt, Yennifer, and Ciri over a decade later.

I also wish that the show did a better job of conveying how much time had passed between episodes. Even though Ciri's story takes place over the course of a few days (or maybe weeks?), Geralt and Yennifer's stories seem to take place over a span of about 10 or 15 years. The characters occasionally make mention of years having passed, but the show doesn't provide much (if any) context for what's been happening over those years. Like, has Jaskier just been following Geralt around for 10 years being an annoyance and a liability?

Again, I've never read the books, so I can't be sure if the confusing nature of the TV show is a problem with the TV show's writing, or if it's actually a good adaptation of not-very-well-written novels. Are the show's writers being too faithful to poorly-written source material (and the game's writers managed to elevate the material)? Or are the show's writers doing a bad job of adapting good source material (whereas the game's writers successfully adapted the material)?

To the show's credit, the production values are very high. The creatures generally look good, and the fight choreography is fantastic. I also really like the music. It's very similar, but not quite as good as the music from The Witcher III game.

I do kind of think that Henry Cavill is trying a bit too hard with the gruff voice. To me, he doesn't sound like somebody with a naturally gravely voice; he sounds like somebody trying to pretend to have an unnaturally gravely voice. I feel like he's trying to hard to sound like the character from the video game. It's not a deal-breaker, and I eventually got used to it. Cavill is otherwise doing a fine job with the material that he's being given. I think that his portrayal of Geralt is a bit too grumpy and angry, compared to the more stoic depiction in the video game. But again, maybe this is actually more true to the books?

Geralt always seems grumpy, instead of being stoic.

I don't know, I'm on the fence with this one. I want to like it because I know how good the stories in this world and with these characters can be. But I just can't ignore the fact that we had to pause episodes to try to talk each other through what the hell we thought was going on.

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