The law of surprise.
That’s where and how everything begins. In Geralt’s own word, “Fuck!”
About the Witcher
The Witcher is more known as a trilogy of games, the Witcher 1, 2, and 3. After its overwhelming popularity, Netflix commissioned a film series. The story itself is based on books. It is the source material. But I will be focusing on the media, the Netflix series.
I mean, the books are its own thing, and so are the games. This Netflix series is its own thing as well. Enjoy for what they are.
As of 2023, two seasons exist with 8 episodes each. Each episode runs for 60 minutes.
Before I begin, I am letting you know that I dove into this series without having played the games. I basically had no knowledge of this series. Granted, I’ve heard of the Witcher games, but I mostly play grand strategy games and passed on playing it.
The lovely first impression
Perhaps because I dove into this series completely blinded, I was, for a while, utterly confused as to what the fuck was going on.
It took about 2 episodes for me to realize that there were at least two different time lines in season 1. The issue was that it switched time without telling you. For those who have played the game or read the book this would have picked it up right away or fast.
I did not because I didn’t know what I was getting into. Initially, I thought it was just two different protagonists. Well, that is kind of true but not quite, either.
The Witcher is a medieval fantasy series where it portrays the adventures of a Witcher, Geralt. He is an exceptional warrior of great prowess as well as sexiness. There are more than one woman who wants him, rather badly.
He is called “the Witcher” which is a generalized term for the organization he works for. They are basically a cult of hardened warriors. They take on jobs as long as coins are paid. Geralt is one of stronger, if not the strongest, member of the Witchers.
As you watch season 1, you will be confused. I was confused. But that is normal because it is my understanding that you are meant to be confused. I felt it was a very inefficient way of story telling where they’d switch timelines at will without telling you. It goes back and forth way too frequently at times.
I wondered why they chose such a style.
Then, when I saw the event where Geralt invokes the law of surprise in season 1 episode 4, everything clicked for me and I understood why they chose such an inefficient way of the story telling.
Long story short, they had to choose such a style. They had to jump back and forth in timelines. It was the only way to keep Geralt on the screen while telling the story of another extremely important character. They had to keep Geralt on screen to keep the viewers on. A sad choice but understandable from a studio point of view.
The law of surprise
Those who haven’t studied the history or folktales may not be aware of this law. The law of surprise is that, when a man saves another but he cannot pay you back for the debt he owes, the savior has a right to invoke the law of surprise.
This law of surprise is often told in folktales, and you may have already read or heard of different versions. So, you may already know without actually knowing its name.
The saved will be oath as well as fate bound to give his savior the first important asset he gets. And an important asset includes children.
For an example, you save a man from a group of bandits on a road at night. The man does not have anything to pay you back. You as his savior has a right to invoke the law of surprise. Once invoked, the indebted will be oath/fate bound to give you whatever important asset he gets first.
At this point, it is important to mention that both parties must agree mutually. It cannot be forced. If forced, it’s forfeit.
Now, the man you saved returns home to find out his wife is pregnant. In this case, the unborn child is yours by fate. Should the man you saved refuse to honor the oath, fate won’t be kind to him.
This law of surprise is the major driving force in the Witcher series. In fact, I feel this law is the sole reason this series exists. Without it, the plot simply cannot go on. Do mind you that the world of the Witcher is heavily magical, so the power of fate/destiny is extra powerful.
Without spoiling too much, Geralt invokes the law of surprise and acquires a very important person who is in fact a princess. Her family refuses to honor the law, and it is the source of pretty much every trouble this series has to offer.
Basically, a royal family brushes off the law of surprise, upsets the wheel of fate, and fate brings a continental war upon the royal family, causing troubles for everyone. This is pretty much the gist of the whole series.
You have to watch it twice at least.
The unconventional story telling of this series means you need to watch it at least twice. That is because, when you watch it for the second time, you will understand everything so much better. AND it will feel like you are watching a different series because you now know what the duck is going on.
It won’t bore you at all. In fact, you will be picking up what you had missed previously. You will enjoy it far better than the first time you watched.
Comparing with original material, the novel
This is one of cases where it’s better for you not to know the original material because the writers of this show butchers it. It is as if the writers of the show either haven’t read or outright hate the source material.
Season 1 is kind of okay. But season 2 is outrageous if you compare it to its original material. In other words, you like the original material, do not watch this because you will be disgusted.
Because I didn’t know the original material before watching this, I didn’t find it too bad. But, after comparing it with the original material, I can see why some fans are raging. It feels as if the showmakers of this show is blatantly butchering it to make a point.
The bottom line
This series requires your commitment. You cannot finish it in one sitting. You will watch once, sit back and attempt to digest it. Then you will go back at it again, watching it for the second time. Only then you will realize why everything has to happen the way it did.
Again, the law of surprise is at the core of everything.
The plot isn’t solely about Geralt himself. His numerous companions will have stories of their own.
The bottom line is that, if you stick with it, you will be rewarded. If you are looking for something simple, then please look elsewhere, for this series will give you a massive headache.
See you around.