The awesome Nightmare of the Wolf expands The Witcher universe

The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. Courtesy of Netflix.
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. Courtesy of Netflix. /

Check out our spoiler-free review of The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, which blows past all expectations.

Netflix is all in on The Witcher. From showrunner Lauren Hissrich’s new overall deal with the streamer to the recently launched WitcherCon, Netflix is quickly expanding The Witcher universe. But as we await season 2 of the Henry Cavill-led mother series, as well as a prequel show, I’m happy to report the first actual expansion of The Witcher franchise, Nightmare of the Wolf, knocks it out of the park. In fact, the animated film that follows Geralt of Rivia’s mentor Vesemir is so good that everything following has a tough hill to climb.

Fans of The Witcher should not be turned off by the fact that the movie is animated, as everything they love about the series is here: monsters, sorcerers, bloodshed and intriguing characters. Personally, I’m all for expanding rich fantasy worlds like The Witcher’s via any medium possible as long as the quality remains as high as it does here. Nightmare of the Wolf is more than a simple exploration of Vesemir’s past; the movie fundamentally changes out understanding of the history of the Continent, and the Witcher’s role in it. I won’t spoil the reveal, but it’s a big one.

In the meantime, we start with Vesemir’s humble origins as a servant who yearns for more, and finds it through a meeting with his own eventual mentor, Deglan. Vesemir quickly leaves his old life, including his love interest Illyiana, behind to go join the Witchers. Unlike with Geralt, we get to experience the horror of a Witcher’s training, which is downright brutal. These boys are essentially fed to monsters for no apparent reason, and take mutagenic drugs to enhance their abilities that can exert lethal, terrifying tolls on their bodies. Still, at the end of the process, Vesemir gets what he desperately wants: fame, power and money.

Years later, Vesemir reunites with his lost love Illyiana, now a noblewoman of the northern kingdom of Kaedwen and known as Lady Zerbst. And although Vesemir has barely aged, Illyiana is now an old woman who has lived a full life spent protecting orphans and, as it happens, Witchers. A noblewoman named Tetra, a powerful sorceress, has been persecuting them.

Skirting around the major spoilers, Vesemir must navigate complex emotional situations, like reuniting with Illyiana, as well as cooperate with Tetra against a powerful new threat. Along the way, fans will enjoy plenty of monster battles, including a massive battle at the film’s climax at the Witchers keep of Kaer Morhen. The action is well done, and easier to follow than action scenes in many a live action flick.

Like Geralt, Vesemir faces betrayal, prejudice, and powerful foes. Viewers will feel his emotions throughout his journey. Vesemir is a fully realized character with shifting agendas and loyalties. When an older Vesemir debuts in The Witcher season 2, now played by Kim Bodnia, we’ll understand him much better.

The film occasionally seems to rely on the viewer to infer events have happened off screen, but that’s a minor quibble. Nightmare of the Wolf expands and changes the Witcher franchise while leaving plenty of room to further explore the Continent’s history in the years before Geralt arrives on the scene. And hopefully, that’s an opportunity we get, because if any potential sequel is as good as Nightmare of the Wolf, it will be a must-watch for Witcher fans.

Grade: A-

Next. The Witcher season 2 will have to be “great” to get a season 3. dark

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