Let’s start with Netflix. “The Witcher: Blood Origin” digs into material from the Andrzej Sapkowski books on which the game was based to detail the creation of the first Witcher in a story that unfolds 1,200 years before the core Netflix series. (Prequels were big in fantasy TV this year.) The show opens with a familiar face in Jaskier (Joey Batey) as he struggles through a bloody battle that’s interrupted by Driver’s Seanchai, who kind of serves the same role that Cate Blanchett did in “The Lord of the Rings” films as she tells the story of the early days of this land to Jaskier.
“Blood Origin” follows a classic fantasy series structure in that it gathers a merry band of misfits to save the day from a potential event that could shatter the peace in this land, which allows the writers to play with different character types in one “fellowship.” The leaders here are Eile (Sophia Brown) and Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), the former a musician and the latter a disgraced guard who was exiled after getting a bit too intimate with a princess named Merwyn (Mirren Mack), who ends up becoming the villain of the piece. The four episodes of this mini-season do little more than set the table as Eile and Fjall join forces with Scian (Yeoh), Meldof (Francesca Mills), and others.
Despite its undeniable production values, everything about “Blood Origin” feels minor. There’s a romance that’s bland despite the charisma of its stars, and Driver and Yeoh aren’t given nearly enough to do. And everything feels like merely a way to tide people over until the third season of the proper show (which will be Cavill’s last before Liam Hemsworth takes over). It’s as if Netflix looked at the numbers on Christmas weekend for “The Witcher” and rushed this thing into production when they learned that season three wouldn’t be ready. It’s for hardcore fans only, and even they will be bored.