Henry Cavill was absolutely right to leave the world of The Witcher if Netflix's new spinoff Blood Origin is any indication of the franchise's declining quality. Indeed, Blood Origin is a nail in the coffin of my interest in more televised Witcher entertainment and more there may be if it continues at the worrying rate. Oops, I seem to have forgotten to preface this review with a little background on the miniseries' plot. Well, it's really that important in this case. Blood Origin is about seven elf heroes who make it their personal mission to eliminate a tyrannical empress, one of whom also becomes the first to be mutated into a monster-hacking witch doctor. It sounds more exciting than it is.
What we're really dealing with is an uninspired four-episode filler that doesn't add to the already established Witcher world in any way. The series creators have looked to other fantasy works to cobble together a doomed expansion of Andrzej Sapkowski's strange fairytale world, and the result is the most generic and identity-less fantasy series in living memory. This is the TV world's answer to a front-loaded DLC patch that neither adds to nor renews anything.
There is frequent chatter in Blood Origin about how the fate of the world lies in the hands of the characters, how time and space and how time and space will bend and change for all time! But it never feels like that. There's no weight whatsoever to what happens, nothing feels urgent, nothing feels important or worth caring about. In fact, very little matters, as the screenwriters constantly play to the tune of others and fail to build anything original. You don't have to be a fortune teller or magician to figure out with precision how it will all end.
We follow seven heroes in total, but there should only have been three. At most. The first three are established in the first episode - the rest are tossed in like dishrags and leave no lasting impression. So, in addition to the three important characters, we're forced to follow a wizard that bawls every other minute, a female dwarf who named her hammer after her long-dead mistress, a useless elf with a meat cleaver who has the ability to waste everyone's time, and a seventh member who I still can't even remember five minutes after watching the finale. Michelle Yeoh is cool as usual and mortal enemies Fjall and Éile, who naturally develop a deeper (and forced) bond with each other, work well as the main characters. Otherwise, it's very poor in terms of engaging characters who aren't just flat, bored clichés.
The series basically revolves around how power-mad elves destroyed their own world and the eventual merging of the elven and human worlds, which would have offered much stronger conflict and story. Instead, the series creators are content to constantly find shortcuts to get to the bloody finale as quickly as possible, where Blood Origin probably would have worked better as a TV movie than four pointless episodes. At least something as mediocre as Rings of Power could retain some interest in its attempts to overturn everything we love about Tolkien's wonderful world and toy with viewer expectations. Blood Origin is background noise during Christmas gift wrapping, at best.
Although there are some neat sequences and a few competent swashbuckling scenes, these are also interspersed with ugly scenery, cheap effects and snoozy storytelling, making Blood Origin an unsettling prelude to the third Witcher season. I liked the animated prologue about Vesmir's origins because it had a strong connection to Geralt's journey; Blood Origin tries in vain to hold on to any of the franchise's red threads, but could have been any other fantasy series if they hadn't slapped the Witcher name on this rubbish.
Thanks for the coal in the Christmas stocking, Lauren Schhmidt.