The Witcher: Blood Origin is the second Netflix spinoff set in the Witcher universe, following the anime film Nightmare of the Wolf and two seasons of the flagship series. Set 1200 years before Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri, this limited series tells the tale of the fall of the Golden Empire of the elves and the event known as The Conjunction of the Spheres, following which the worlds of elves, men, and monsters collided on the Continent. The four-episode series stars Sophia Brown as warrior-turned-musician Eile, Laurence O’Fuarain as sworn protector Fjall, and the amazing Michelle Yeoh as sword master Scian. Set to release on Christmas Day, December 25, critics have already received screeners for the show and many of them have already published detailed reviews. Here’s what they have to say.
Reviews for Blood Origin are mixed, leaning towards negative
It became clear almost immediately after the review embargo was lifted that The Witcher: Blood Origin will be a controversial entry in the Netflix saga. Compared to the reviews for the main show, which mostly agreed on The Witcher‘s strengths and weaknesses, reviews for Blood Origin are all over the place.
The result is that the show has a relatively low Rotten Tomatoes score of 42% with 12 certified reviews at the time of writing. The show fares a little better on Metacritic, where the current score is 55/100, but with only 5 reviews listed so far.
Diving in a bit deeper, each reviewer expresses what they believe to be the strength and weaknesses of the series. We will divide these into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
But before we get into them, it’s important to remember that regardless whether reviewers like or dislike something, it’s always best to see the product our own eyes and form our own opinions when the time comes. Meanwhile, we have impressions of people who saw it earlier.
“Ultimately you will find out what laid the foundation for Witchers to come, and Blood Origin conveys just how agonizing the process of becoming a Witcher can be. Grief, shock, pain, and hope are all wrapped up in the process, and this pays off in a finale that is quite thrilling but also heartbreaking in unexpected ways. In that balance, it captures a mix that has made so many other Witcher tales so compelling, and while the effects occasionally do look like they could have used just a bit more time to bake, the moments that stick out never broke the immersion.
“It also helps that when swords and hammers clash the action absolutely delivers. The combat is visceral and brutal, with every swing and smash conveying a grounding sense of weight. It’s become a hallmark of the main Witcher series, and it’s a welcome sight to see that carried into Blood Origin as well.”
“Blood Origin moves along a quickened pace but manages to keep from feeling rushed. That said, it does feel as if the show could have slowed down just a bit to hover in certain spaces in time, giving the talented cast more time to interact and convey more about their history and their hopes for the future. It’s not necessary of course, but personally, that would’ve probably been the perfect mix for me, though I can’t argue that at 4 episodes it never felt like the show was dragging or decompressing for the sake of it, and by the end, I was satisfied with where we started, the journey in between, and where things conclude. The Witcher: Blood Origin accomplishes its goal of setting the stage for a universe and bringing life to a much talked about but rarely explored time in Witcher history, but while the event may be the central point, it’s the characters and their short time together that will stick with me most, and I’m glad I had a chance to tag along.”
With a stacked cast of personality and skill, Sophia Brown’s performance as the Lark is fantastic. She is the catalyst, the heart, and able to showcase the power of violence against oppressors and the importance of telling stories. The choice to make the Lark’s story blend the storytelling of a bard and the fighting of a warrior in equal measure without obscuring the importance both play in her life is what makes her shine as a character.
Michelle Yeoh has been an action icon for decades. She is a forceful and graceful presence, and she overwhelms every fight sequence she is in, in the best ways. From her costuming and role in the story to her infallible skill with a sword, Yeoh as Scian is perfect. Additionally, Yeoh is just the tip of the action iceberg. Like The Witcher, Blood Origins gives its action sequences space to breathe, allowing the audience to see the entire scene instead of close-in jump cuts. This choice also allows for each actor of our seven to show their physicality. Even while Mills’s first fight sequence is off camera, she gets her due in the last two episodes. Fantasy is of course, the main focus of the series, but the action is sublime.
“The talented Brown rises to the challenge of being a movement’s figurehead. She fills her character with equal parts charisma and empathy, which helps the one called “The Lark” connect with the masses and inspire. Almost as likeable are the other members of the seven, Meldof (Francesca Mills) and Callan (Huw Novelli). It would be easy to use their noticeable size differences for comic relief, but its their playful banter that makes the pair so endearing. Mills and Novelli have great chemistry with each other, and how entertaining their scenes together are makes you wish that Callan had a bigger role. Furthermore, though other members of the group have their roles, they still are underdeveloped.”
“Of course, The Witcher: Blood Origin has plenty of exciting and brutal action sequences. To help distinguish each warrior, they have their own signature weapon. This helps instill some freshness into the choreography. Michelle Yeoh’s sword master, Scian, doesn’t disappoint and she is as graceful as she is deadly. The conclusion has an epic quality with fights taking part on different fronts.”
“The seven outcasts and their respective adventures are definitely the highlight of Blood Origin and are worth the watch alone. Each individual has their own unique backstory and personality to boot. If I had one complaint about the group, I just wish we were able to spend more than four episodes with them.”
“The first two entries in the miniseries are mostly used to bring them together, with Laurence O’Fuarain’s Fjall and Sophia Brown’s Éile acting as the de facto leaders of the group. Michelle Yeoh brings a welcome bit of gravitas as the Elfan sword master Scian. Yeoh continues her reign as an absolute badass in anything she’s in, as she slices and dices her way through waves of the enemy’s soldiers. In typical Witcher form, the action scenes are a joy to behold with stellar fight choreography and plenty of blood.”
“The Witcher: Blood Origin delivers an action-packed and memorable look into how the Conjunction of Spheres and creation of the first Witcher prototype came to be. While the villains and political storylines surrounding the Golden Empire are less interesting, the series is bolstered by its engaging band of misfits as they journey across The Continent kicking butt wherever they go. And though the special effects aren’t on par with more recent big-budget fantasy series out there, the stellar use of Iceland’s landscape as a backdrop for The Continent more than makes up for the average-looking monsters.”
“This prequel’s short length is regrettable because, despite these over-arching problems, Blood Origin is a blast. Do you want to see Time‘s Icon of 2022 Michelle Yeoh repeatedly take out bands of baddies using sick sword-fighting moves? What about enough portal fighting to make a live-action Rick and Morty look like a good idea? Want to watch the oppressed masses rise up, fueled only by vengeance and song? Of course you want all of that. All of these things are objectively awesome, and the last one is basically the plot of Les Misérables. Blood Origin delivers on all of these promises and about a dozen other killer moments, especially when it comes to Jaskier (Joey Batey). Yet by the time you know everyone and start to really fall for the gang, it’s all over.
“Brown and Mills in particular are standouts. Éile, a former warrior and current wandering bard, is a character who runs the risk of being too outlandish to work. But like the witchers for hire or law firms-slash-detective agencies before her, she’s a juxtaposition who simply fits into this universe where nothing is as it seems. A lot of this stems from Brown’s confident portrayal. It takes talent to make rousing fantasy ballads feel cool, and Brown has that distinct talent. Likewise, Mills is a force onto herself. Her off-putting quips and snarky expressions stand at the center of some of the best moments in this surprisingly funny series. Yet this dual-wielder is also responsible for the most heart-breaking scene in this show.”
“Despite it being set 1,200 years before The Witcher, Blood Origin tells us not only about where this world has been, but also where it’s heading next. The humanisation of Eredin, fleshing him out to glimpse an understanding of how he picked up the mantle of Leader of the Wild Hunt, proves these shows are connected deep in their roots.
“That, alongside the introduction of a key character from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, who won’t be spoiled here, and their discovery of a very different manner of travel is a tease juicier than a fried groat.
“The Witcher: Blood Origin certainly does suffer without the muscular anchor of a Henry Cavill-type, as its writing simply isn’t strong enough for the splintered tale it’s telling. That said, punchy, memorable performers like Mirren Mack and Sophia Brown elevate this origin story to something still worth unwrapping on Christmas Day.”
“What is different about all this though is how quickly the story unfolds. Netflix is notoriously bad when it comes to pacing across the entire board, and The Witcher is guilty of that too, so the decision to cut Blood Origin down to just four episodes feels like a deliberate rebuttal to this. And it’s one that we welcome, but with a few caveats.
By condensing the main arc in this way, Blood Origin avoids some of the tedium that can often set in with similar shows around the halfway mark. The problem now, though, is that the story is almost too short. With such a limited runtime, we don’t spend enough time getting to know this brand-new cast of characters, so inevitably some fall by the wayside. Yet four episodes is still too long to fully capture the punchy, thrilling pace that a movie could nail. What we’re left with is a strange hybrid of TV and film that fails to fully emulate the highs of either.”
“A few characters still manage to stand out. It’s hard not to be drawn to a legendary swordmaster played by Yeoh, and Mills is hilarious as a heartbroken warrior with a delightfully foul mouth. But the rest often muddle together. Making matters worse, there’s a whole lot of politicking going on here — something that’s usually background fodder for the series — that obscures the more human (or, rather, elven) drama. The result is a show that feels more like a history lesson than an entertaining miniseries. It’s cool to learn these historical details about where witchers and monsters came from, but I could also get that from a wiki entry. Somehow the show even makes the now-requisite bath scene dull.
It’s not impossible to make an interesting Witcher story without Geralt; we’ve already seen it happen with Nightmare of the Wolf. But that animated prequel was still centered primarily on witchers and had a character in Vesemir who had much of the same appeal as Geralt. Blood Origin, on the other hand, feels too far removed from the stuff that actually makes the franchise interesting and too crowded for any one character to carry it.”
“Paradoxically, The Witcher: Blood Origin could have become a turning point for the entire series, which, through a completely unknown story, would encourage even orthodox fans to watch more Witcher productions. The problem is that this is a useless, sloppy series that is related to The Witcher mainly by name.”
“The series inadvertently reproduces many of the problems we recently witnessed with Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. Starting from a shallow, uninteresting and generic story, through a multitude of archetypal characters, to a world that, although it can captivate, even despite mediocre special effects at most, seems as artificial as the characters’ elven ears. “
“The creators created a painfully ordinary fantasy world, completely not using the potential in the motif, in which elves, not people, are the lords of the land. Already in the first episode we visit a village that resembles many human settlements that Geralt used to visit. So if it wasn’t for the pointy ears, it would be hard to say that these are elven characters who lack anything else that would prove their different race. Both their appearance and behavior are more reminiscent of the human monsters that the Rivian has been stopping in his own series than of flesh and blood elves.”
“Netflix’s second Witcher spin-off is a fantastical misfire on multiple levels and struggles to add anything significant to its wider universe. There are some magical elements that, with better planning and execution, could have made for an enjoyable watch. As it stands, though, Blood Origin’s issues are far too great to make it worth your time.”
“A show of this ilk needs time to bed in its characters, setting, and main story threads before it gets to the good stuff – namely, the fun-filled, violent action sequences (more on these later), and some politically charged and emotionally dramatic moments. But Blood Origin always feels like it’s rushing to get to those moments without giving due consideration to the journey itself.
“And that’s a crying shame. As a story that fills in some huge gaps in Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher book series, it deserves to be told and flesh out The Witcher’s fascinating universe. Equally, the show’s primary characters – Éile (Sophia Brown), Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), and Scían (Michelle Yeoh) – are likeable and relatable enough to demand both your attention and sympathy for their individual and collective plights. However, it’s difficult to care about them when their backstories are reduced to passing remarks made during conversations between the trio.”
“The prologue is everything the tale that comes after isn’t: mysterious, faintly anarchic, and anchored by a character in Jaskier that is overflowing with magnetism and charisma – something which Blood Origin is desperately crying out for. What follows is a flat limited series that will have you questioning its very existence – including how it enhances The Witcher’s universe.”
“When the ensemble eventually has the opportunity to bounce off one another, there’s a hint of something magical in the air. But whenever Blood Origin threatens to build any momentum, its legs are hacked off by cutting to an interminably dull storyline involving Princess Merwyn (Mirren Mack). The plodding plot sees the royal puppeteered by Chief Sage Balor (Lenny Henry) and Eredin (Jacob Collins-Levy), who each harbor their own secrets and nefarious motives. Even Henry’s wonderfully camp pantomime villain serves to remind you that the far superior Rings of Power, which the actor also appeared in, exists.
“The back-and-forth between the two stories is wrapped in a structure that has clearly been butchered in the editing booth. Blood Origin’s very public change from six to four episodes is written all over its rushed story. One character’s arc, for example, is laughably sped through: they’re a royal bodyguard, exiled, and then asked to return – all within the first 20 minutes.
“That fast-forward approach means the show’s worst plot device, its narrator, has to stitch together the story. Clumsy and exposition-heavy voiceovers, instead of character work and rich dialogue, fill in the gaps between a patchwork collection of scenes. As a result, declarations of love, blood oaths, and betrayals become unearned as the series refuses to settle and instead races through plot points before reaching its final act.”
“It’s unfortunate because when the gang is finally together, there is potential for great camaraderie, but the series chooses to focus on the romance between Éile and Fjall instead of the party as a whole. While the two characters act like our protagonists and are given more of an arc, the trajectory of their relationship doesn’t land. The problem again is the short runtime of the series. We first meet Fjall as a protector of the Princess Merwyn (Mirren Mack); the two are having a forbidden love affair and when it is revealed, Fjall is quickly ousted from his clan and his position. It’s implied that he cares for Merwyn, but not long after his banishment, he meets Éile who is performing as a bard called the Lark. The two immediately have a push-and-pull chemistry as exiles of opposite warring clans. All the potential is there for a great love story, but the series must juggle a political shift in the kingdom along with introducing fellow characters, not to mention laying the groundwork for the eventual Conjunction of the Spheres. The gaps left in the plot are filled with their romance, which jumps from one longing look to proclamations of undying love so quickly it is jarring.”
“Despite having great promise, too often Blood Origin slips into either complete camp, cringe, or melodrama. Part of what makes fantasy shows like The Witcher exciting is a rich cast of characters who might initially fit into archetypes of heroes and villains, but actually reveal themselves to be complex people who can expand far beyond this. Blood Origin tries to do this, but falls flat. The villains feel half-baked, which makes their goals seem like mere obstacles erected for the heroes to topple. Even the Lark’s songs are less catchy compared to the likes of ‘Toss a Coin to Your Witcher’, with her ballads acting more to fill in for exposition than entertainment. Ultimately, your enjoyment of Blood Origin will depend on how invested you are in The Witcher universe, and how convinced you are by the slapdash storylines it presents.”
“Art is by its nature experimental, and experiments can fail. But Blood Origin thuds resoundingly, with each echo of its impact more disconcerting than the last. This show doesn’t have to answer for whether The Witcher can exist without Henry Cavill — but it’s a troubling look at what the universe could be without a steadying presence like his. Cavill isn’t the only thing that makes The Witcher; some of the most interesting stuff in the universe has nothing to do with him at all. But he is a defining feature of it, a constantly committed fanboy who finds such depth in a character that would be so easy to make really boring. As our perspective character, he (or the people who care about him) set the series’ tone, and the poignancy he establishes radiates out into stories he’s not even in.
“Blood Origin exists as the opposite of that: a world with no defining fantasy characteristics, a multiverse even Michelle Yeoh can’t rescue. It is a textureless world populated by generic archetypes fighting to get from point A to point B because the plot wills it.”
“The problems are deeper than not having a star to root the world in. The Witcher: Blood Origin ultimately falls victim to the risk any multiverse (and there are many) runs when it too greedily expands, losing what makes it special. Blood Origin has no time for consideration of what makes the Witcher universe unique or meaningful at all, leaving it as just a muddled, reckless attempt to get more Witcher stuff out the door. If there’s hope for The Witcher to survive losing a star and build itself into a bigger universe, it’s going to have to make a better case than this.”
“The other part of why Blood Origin is so fun is just how unhinged it is. When I say Blood Origin is bad, I mean comedically bad. If 2022 has been a year filled with high budget fantasy and science fiction shows, The Witcher: Blood Origin is the Morbius of the crop.”
“In this age of prestige fantasy shows, Blood Origin feels like a chaotic aside that came about because Netflix wanted to cash in on The Witcher name. That might sound harsh, but that is genuinely the feeling I came away with. When the streamer first announced they were doing a live-action spinoff set during the Conjunction of the Spheres (which again, was a mislead), my first thought was, “Why? Who asked for this?”
“The source material was treated more as a hindrance than something to be explored. There are fascinating elements to the elven civilization that predates the Conjunction outlined in Sapkowski’s books, but the spinoff ignores them in favor of telling a standard fantasy adventure story, with some Seven Samurai mixed in. The Witcher lore is not engaged with much at all.”
“For all that, it’s also fun at times, and best watched with friends and as many strong drinks as you can muster. It’s clear that there was genuine passion behind this show, despite the fact that it also feels like a cautionary tale of putting the proverbial cart before the horse and making spinoffs while the main series is still finding its footing.
If you come to Blood Origin hoping for a compelling story that expands on The Witcher in any sort of meaningful way, you will be sorely disappointed. But if you are willing to disassociate Blood Origin from the books, games, and mainline series, then it can also be a pretty raucous watch.”
“Blood Origin was announced as a six-episode miniseries. It was scripted and shot as a six-episode miniseries. However, it is being released as a four-episode miniseries. Looking at changes to the announced credits, it seems that the big alterations were in the middle, with the central four episodes condensed down to two. According to co-showrunner Lauren Schmidt-Hissrich, the scenes trimmed were mostly ‘beautiful scenes of people around campfires and sort of slowing down.’
“Of course, it’s important to stress here that Blood Origin was probably not a secret masterpiece before those changes were made. After all, co-showrunner Declan de Barra’s past credits include working as a writer on Iron Fist, and there’s enough evidence from what remains in these four episodes that Blood Origin was probably always clunky
This sort of editorial tinkering is obvious. The show contains a lot of ADR. There’s a handy voiceover narration that can helpfully dump exposition and character motivation. A lot of dialogue is delivered over wide establishing shots, some of which are rendered entirely by computer-generated imagery. Even as a plot delivery mechanism, Blood Origin is clumsy and uneven. This clumsiness is both distracting and frustrating because it is so transparently covering for a ruthless edit.
Still, even allowing for the fact that the character-focused scenes were probably cut because they were legitimately terrible, their absence seriously undermines Blood Origin. It is difficult to care about any of the characters in the show, which is insane considering that the show’s third lead, Michelle Yeoh, is currently a frontrunner for this year’s Best Actress Oscar.”
Of course, Blood Origin doesn’t just suffer from what has been taken out. There is also the problem of what has been left in. The scripts for Blood Origin are a heady cocktail of references and allusions to better pop culture. The first episode features a fantasy riff on the most memorable set piece from The Godfather Part III. Meldof quotes The Terminator. The series is inordinately fond of the dialogue construction, “[character] was done with [thing], but [thing] wasn’t done with [character].”
“The Witcher: Blood Origin does not respect the intelligence of the viewers, and inconsistency with the saga is the least of its problems. Bad dialogue and bland plot are much bigger problems.”
“A sequence of events shows us how the Conjunction of the Spheres came about and what exactly the monoliths are all about. And it is impossible to get rid of the impression that the series was created mainly for the latter reason. The monoliths were invented for the needs of Netflix’s The Witcher, causing many fans to stupor and surprise – and the explanation of where they are from and why they were created is to seal their importance in the Witcher world. The problem, however, is that the story is neither interesting nor intriguing nor sensible.
“To keep viewers from getting lost in the political intrigue (which pretends to be complicated, but it’s not), and in the other events, which are literally a patchwork of scenes, a narrator is introduced explaining what is happening. Only, instead of helping, it only deepens the impression that the show treats viewers like idiots. It feels like someone wrote a draft of the script and then decided they didn’t want to add the missing scenes. Each time the narrator summarizes what we have just seen or heard, as if we did not understand the dialogues of the characters, which, by the way, also leave much to be desired.”
“The characters either exchange one-sentence jokes or explain the world to each other. The dialogue is dull and bland, accompanied by equally dull acting. Although looking at the names in the cast, it should rather be assumed that the actors had nothing to play and these lines could not be said better.”
“The characters themselves are very boring. The exception is, for example, the dwarf Meldof, but it is more thanks to Francesca Mills, who manages to get 200% out of this heroine. I am surprised that the creators did not use Michelle Yeoh’s talent. This character’s potential is huge, but completely wasted – both in terms of fight scenes and the portrayal of her character.”
“The Witcher: Blood Origin is a huge disappointment in every topic. Both fantasy fans and fans of Andrzej Sapkowski’s work will be dissatisfied. Even viewers of the series The Witcher will rub their eyes in amazement that the same team is behind this series. Even the appearance of Jaskier, who is supposed to be a bridge connecting the spin-off with the main series, does not help.”
“This is a cheap trick to attract fans of the original to the new production. It seems to me that it was better to go the way of HBO, which, dissatisfied with the quality of the Game of Thrones spin-off pilot Bloodmoon, simply deleted it and buried it somewhere deep in the archives, so that it would never see the light of day and would not harm the franchise. Netflix decided otherwise.”
“In the context of the larger conversation surrounding Netflix’s The Witcher, the prequel series is not going to help improve the franchise’s current reputation. From the premise alone, the diehard fans of Andrzej Sapkowski’s work or CD Projekt Red’s video games might find themselves irritated because it strays so far from the source material without adding anything truly exciting to the rich mythos. This show is not going to draw in anyone who wasn’t already a fan of Netflix’s fantasy world. Viewed on its own merit, however, it’s fair to say a lot in the mini-series would prove challenging even for a full-length series. Instead of trying to present viewers with a world as complex, exotic, and exciting as its setting promises to be, The Witcher: Blood Origin instead throws a small group of elven characters at viewers with occasionally interesting gimmicks but little more below the surface.”
“None of the three characters, who have appeared prominently in the marketing material, has any real sense of development. They change because characters say they have changed, and their stories are told through a deluge of expository dialogue. In fact, one of the four episodes seems almost entirely dedicated to exposition, none of which is likely to make audiences care about the show’s many characters, including Éile, Fjall, and Scían, no matter how many sad stories they tell about their past.
“Things might have been different if the four-episode series focused more intently on those three characters, but instead, the story attempts to create an entire fellowship akin to Lord of the Rings. None of the characters in this fellowship are particularly memorable, however, and the show struggles to provide audiences with a reason why there is an entire fellowship in the first place. The lackluster character development is mirrored in action scenes of limited complexity and quality, as well as the show’s simple dialogue.”
The Witcher: Blood Origin drops on Netflix on December 25, so we can very soon watch it and make our own opinions.