Some TV reviews today, one show from late last year and another that’s brand new to 2022, and, as I did earlier this month with both The 355 and Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, I’ve decided to review them both as a “double bill”.
The Witcher (Series Two)
★ ★ ★ ★
Netflix’s first season of this fantasy series, an adaptation of both the novels and the popular videogames, was good as it brought a decent story to the screen and gave us a few good characters as well as one particularly memorable song, though the non-linear storytelling was a massive hindrance and it left this particular viewer really confused as to what was going on, and while I liked, though certainly didn’t love, the first series, this second series really improves on what came before, I’m glad to say, and it seemed to “fix” many of the problems that series one had and ended up being a worthwhile viewing experience.
First of all, events in this season are told in chronological order, thank the Lord, so that’s one big problem fixed, and in other areas, the writing is more confident as it seems to “raise the stakes” as it focuses on different factions and various characters who all strive for different things, setting up a big Game of Thrones type conflict that will progress during subsequent seasons; I have to admit that it was still difficult for me to truly understand just who all these people were and who belonged to which “group” (committed fans of the books and/or games will obviously have no trouble in recognising who’s who) but I’d say that the show does a good job in bringing this large, epic and intricate story to its audience and, overall, I felt that I understood most of what was going on.
Furthermore, the second series takes itself a little less seriously (heck, the constantly grumbling Geralt is a little more lighthearted this time around and surely smiles more often) and visually, there’s more colour and the series seems less gloomy and grey than its predecessor. There’s more confidence in the battle sequences, certain participants actually getting to make use of “signs”, which are a big part of the games, and looking at the characters and performances, it’s good to see important franchise characters like Vesemir and Triss play a bigger part in the show and in the leading roles, Henry Cavill continues to make the role of Geralt of Rivia his own (the original author has even given his blessing), appearing strong, confident and brave while also demonstrating affection and love towards his ersatz daughter, and Freya Allan (having grown up a whole lot since last time and thankfully having done away with those bleached eyebrows) plays a much more vital role in the series as Ciri, the powerful “lion cub of Cintra” on whom the powerful players seek to get their hands, and she often appears fierce, brave and determined, though also scared, troubled and lost when she needs to be. But perhaps faring worse is Anya Chalotra, who plays the formerly mighty Yennefer of Vengerberg, because she’s a little more submissive this time around, a far cry from the mighty mage who could previously wrap lesser beings around her little finger with her confidence and beauty, and as the story is far more focused on Geralt and Ciri, Yennefer ends up having relatively little to do.
So all in all, I’m still invested in this particular fantasy franchise. I will continue to play The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (though I doubt that I’ll ever finish it!) and I await subsequent TV series as well as the upcoming prequel show Blood
The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window
★ ★ ★
Now, I remember when news of this Netflix series first appeared on Twitter and how there was some confusion (well, to me anyway) as to whether it was going to be a comedy or a straight up drama. Because with a terrible title like that and a plot so generic (lonely alcoholic woman with an irrational fear of something spies on her hunky neighbour and witnesses a murder, though no-one believes her, so is she mad or is there some conspiracy afoot?), how could it NOT be a spoof or parody of works like The Girl on the Train or the rubbish Woman in the Window? But the trailer suggested that the players involved would, bafflingly, be playing it completely straight so the question remains: is TWITHATSFTGITW (good lord!) a comedy or a drama?
Answer: the show is mostly the latter but at the same time, it seems to want to be a blend of both, wanting to appear as a thrilling, sexy mystery but also “covering its bases” by throwing in some obvious tropes and jokes in an attempt to mock the genre at the same time. But in attempting this, it fails.
Let’s start with the positives. The series looks good as all the cinematography and production design is crisp, the acting is decent, and when the series strays away from the comedy, particularly in its middle block of episodes, it proves itself to be a perfectly decent drama that can easily be binge watched (I myself, quite atypically, took in six episodes in a row!) and the mystery is ably written and it’s good to watch and to keep guessing who, indeed, “dunnit”, though I figured out the answer three episodes in. It’s not the most original plot you’ll ever see – surely any new writer could come up with something similar – but the drama is engaging and, as I said, it can all be binge watched.
But the problem with the show is the comedy and the programme makers’ refusal to commit to it being either a drama or a comedy. Throughout the show, particularly in the first and last episodes, we are given some “comedic” lines that serve to lighten things up and to perhaps send up the thriller genre but the comedy is wholly ineffective and is at complete odds with the drama that surrounds it, resulting an a tonal mismatch that proves detrimental to the programme. With a title as terrible as the one we’re given, I can’t help but feel as though this series should have been a straight up parody, perhaps akin to something like Scary Movie, and, with an actress like Kirsten Bell at the centre, it could have been a real breath of fresh air, were it played for laughs.
The series also has a few plot holes/inconsistencies, a lame ending, and several ridiculous moments, which include a final confrontation and a certain “revelation” that occurs at the very end of the seventh episode which is SO stupid and utterly ridiculous that I really did laugh and shout at the television, though it’s disappointing that this, too, is played completely straight and not for comedic value, as it should have been.