To get everyone ready for “The Witcher” Season 2, Netflix has released “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf”. The film is billed as an animated spinoff, focusing on the origin story of Vesemir (The James), the mentor to Geralt of Rivia who we follow in the live action show.
The film takes place some time before the live action Netflix show, as it shows how young Vesemir (David Errigo) became a witcher, when there was an entire clan of them led by a veteran witcher named Deglan (Graham McTavish). The process of becoming a witcher is brutal, and the ritual ends up killing most of the young recruits they bring in, but those that survive gain enhanced strength and fighting abilities, and they age incredibly slowly. We see exactly why people are unnerved by the process of making witchers as it’s overall pretty horrible, but completely fitting given their morally-ambiguous nature, as they exist only to collect coin for killing monsters.
Vesemir’s journey from a poor servant boy longing for adventure to coldblooded bounty hunter is a unique spin on the classic fantasy protagonist formula, as his want for adventure and originally altruistic desire to help others leads to him blindly trusting Deglan, even when there are clear warning signs from his demeanor and indifference to the failed witcher recruits that he can’t be trusted.
Lady Illyana Zerbst (Jennifer Hale voices her as a child, and Mary McDonnell voices her as an adult) serves as a key counterweight to Deglan’s corrupt mentorship in the film, as she’s a childhood friend of Vesemir from before he became a witcher that he later encounters as an old woman. She serves as a way to ground him in humanity and to actually care about their plights, giving him a strong moral center — something he arguably passes down to Geralt.
Without spoiling too much, its much larger plot involves a sorceress named Tetra Gilcrest (Lara Pulver) to convince a king to wipe out the witchers, which Lady Zerbst — a widow of a noble — cautions against, not only because doing so would be suicidal given how strong the witchers are, but also because they have little reason to do so. Tetra suspects that the witchers are conning the kingdom out of gold by creating monsters in order to charge to kill them, and is out to prove her theory no matter the cost.
As a whole, it’s a great film, and while I think non-Witcher fans will enjoy this, I don’t think it will turn many people into diehard fans like the live action show did. Still, if you’ve been waiting patiently for “The Witcher” Season 2, this might hold you over for a short time.
“The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf” gets a 7.5/10