Review: The Witcher: Blood Origin is a chaotic, cringeworthy mess

The Witcher: Blood Origin
The Witcher: Blood Origin /
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Meldof (Francesca Mills) in The Witcher: Blood Origin. Image courtesy Susie Allnutt/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc.
Meldof (Francesca Mills) in The Witcher: Blood Origin. Image courtesy Susie Allnutt/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc. /

Episode 2: “Of Dreams, Defiance, and Desperate Deeds”

After spending nearly the entirety of the premiere with Fjall and Éile, Episode 2 gets us acquainted with the rest of the seven warriors destined to overthrow the elven empire. We start with the dwarf Meldof, played by Francesca Mills. “Of Dreams, Defiance, and Desperate Deeds” begins with her raiding a pleasure house in her hunt to exact vengeance on a Golden Empire sergeant. That sergeant, we discover later, raped and murdered Meldof’s partner Gwen.

Mills’ performance as Meldof is easily one of the best on the show. She doesn’t have a whole lot to do in “Of Dreams, Defiance, and Desperate Deeds,” but what bits we do get are strong, from her off-screen rampage through the pleasure house to her unhinged discussions with her hammer (also named Gwen). By the end of Episode 2 she’s exacted her vengeance in a haunting scene where she paints the walls with the blood of her enemy while filling in the audience about how he killed Gwen.

The story feels a bit disconnected from everything else in the show, but that’s easy to forgive since it’s generally entertaining and Mills is perfect in the role. It left me looking forward to seeing her team up with the rest of the cast.

Merwyn (Mirren Mack) in The Witcher: Blood Origin. Image courtesy Susie Allnutt/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc.
Merwyn (Mirren Mack) in The Witcher: Blood Origin. Image courtesy Susie Allnutt/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc. /

Things go off the rails in Xin’trea

Blood Origin’s cracks really start to show through the plotlines revolving around the characters in Xin’trea. As Merwyn walks down a hallway of the palace, Minnie Driver’s narration kicks in to let us know about the princess’ inner turmoil; she’s unsettled over Chief Sage Balor using her as a pawn. Blood Origin often uses narration to tell us very obvious things that could have easily been conveyed by the actors. Were this the only time it happened it could be overlooked, but the show is full of this stuff. This is one of the first times it makes you want to facepalm.

Merwyn is attacked in the hallway by a peasant, who tries to kill her because he and the other “lowborn” are starving. Merwyn is saved by an apprentice magician named Avallac’h (Samuel Blenkin). He’s a very important character in The Witcher mythos and we will see him again in the mainline show, but Blood Origin’s take on him is just kind of weird. In The Witcher novels, Avallac’h is an enigmatic elven sage who helps Ciri even as he tries to use her for his own ends. Blood Origin portrays the younger Avallac’h as the butt of a great many jokes.

Gripes about Avallac’h aside, Blenkin is certainly entertaining to watch. The script is entertaining, too, but not in a good way. When confronted by Chief Sage Balor and Captain Eredin about the attack in the hallway, Merwyn mutters that the assassin “said something about…starving?” I laughed out loud at how unnatural the dialogue sounded.

Then, later on, Merwyn enlists Avallac’h to help her figure out how Balor is using the monoliths, since that’s what gives him his so much magic power and access to the beast. While Blenkin and Princess Merwyn takes Avallac’h’s cape, then waltzes out the front door to blend in with her people, convinced the hat is enough disguise. This is a well-worn trope, and the way it’s handled here feels lazy and ridiculous.

Blood Origin continues to cut corners as Merwyn heads into the city proper. We’re told how awful things are, but we really don’t see much to back that up. Instead Merwyn walks down a city street filled with people and it looks just like any other fantasy metropolis, except we hear people shout things off-screen like “Please, I’m starving!” and “Murder!” It just doesn’t quite work.

By pure coincidence, Merwyn bumps into Eredin in the streets, and after following him learns that he’s having a sordid affair with a merchant. Later she blackmails Eredin into helping her oust Balor. The logic there — that Balor is lowborn and that he hates Eredin and Merwyn for being highborn — is kind of baffling. I will never understand Blood Origin’s choice to pull away from the two distinct elven groups set up in Sapkowski’s works — Aen Sidhe and Aen Elle, elves of a different world and of the Continent, respectively — and instead make up a cookie cutter social strata. We’re going to talk about this a lot more when we get to the season finale, but for now it suffices to say that I have some beef with the lowborn/highborn dynamic.

Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), Éile (Sophia Brown), and Scian (Michelle Yeoh) in The Witcher: Blood Origins. Image courtesy Susie Allnutt/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc.
Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), Éile (Sophia Brown), and Scian (Michelle Yeoh) in The Witcher: Blood Origins. Image courtesy Susie Allnutt/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc. /

Of bank battles and creepy visions

As in the premiere, Episode 2 concerns itself mainly with Fjall and Éile, who are now being guided in their quest for revolution by Michelle Yeoh’s ScÍan. After heading toward a nearby city and finding it under siege by the Golden Empire, the trio decides that their only hope is to raid a village known to have a well-stocked bank so that they can hire sellswords.

However, when they arrive they find that the place has already been looted. They’re trapped by Golden Empire soldiers, who come spilling into the bank to take down the three wandering warriors on order of Balor and Eredin to prevent tales of their deeds from spreading. That they haven’t accomplished any real deeds yet is beside the point; Balor doesn’t want to give them the chance to rile up the people against the empire.

The battle in the bank might be Blood Origin’s single best fight scene. It’s claustrophobic and intense, and it emphasizing how comfortable the characters are working as a team. Éile is the weak link in the group since she’s spent so long off on her own. When she’s overcome with bloodlust and attacks a soldier on her own, it results in ScÍan getting injured.

The Witcher: Blood Origin
The Witcher: Blood Origin /

The trio eventually escapes their predicament, but ScÍan’s festering wound makes things difficult. As Fjall and Éile search for herbs to try and help their friend, they cross paths with Callan, also known by the nickname Brother Death. Brother Death’s introduction is well-done, in no small part thanks to Huw Novelli’s solid acting. He considers turning the others in for their bounties, but upon finding out that they’re trying to overthrow the empire he decides to join them, since the empire recently slaughtered a bunch of villagers who had once taken him in.

Brother Death claims he knows a mage who can help ScÍan, and leads the group deeper into the forest where they’re afflicted with terrifying visions: Fjall’s sees how his brother dies before Merwyn vomits a bunch of black goop onto his face during sex; and Éile pulls a lark out of her stomach. It calls back to the horror elements in the mainline Witcher show.

When they wake, we’re introduced to two more of the seven warriors destined to overtake the empire: Zacaré (Lizzie Annis) and Syndril (Zach Wyatt). The two mages are “celestial twins,” meaning they were “Born at the same time, in the same village, under the same burning star” and “Gifted with the same magical talents.” The idea of Celestial Twins is not something from Sapkowski’s novels, although it’s a cool idea.

Zacaré successfully heals ScÍan and the group agrees to try and infiltrate the castle by using a monolith gateway. It’s here we get one of our first real info drops about what is going on with the monoliths: Syndril figured out how to use them to open gateways to other worlds, but was horrified to find only a blasted plane with monsters on it. He used that to escape Xin’trea, and believes he could use portals to similarly lead everyone straight into the palace.

Syndril’s escape feels like it got left on the cutting room floor. Before his appearance in Zacaré’s nest-house, Syndril had only been seen locked up in a prison cell in the palace, and since it was lined with dimeritium, he presumably couldn’t do magic there. We have no idea how he actually escaped, but there’s nothing for it but to shrug and move along.

The plan to use a monolith quickly goes awry, because the world Syndril leads everyone to is a different one than he expected, with two moons and an eerie landscape. The episode ends with a giant worm/angler fish monster attacking Éile. I’ll say one thing for Blood Origin: it does end episodes in a way that makes it very easy to keep watching.

The Witcher: Blood Origin
The Witcher: Blood Origin /

The Witcher: Bullet Point Origin

  • Meldof says that Gwen smelled of winterberry and lilac; this is a nod to Yennefer’s trademark scent in The Witcher.
  • Syndril says that Balor can now access other worlds because he took Syndril’s “book of monoliths.” So…I guess that one tome was all that was needed?
  • Zacaré lives in a nest! That’s fun.
  • The costumes for Zacaré and Syndril feels very incongruous with the outfits worn by the rest of the people they’re traveling with. It’s weird to watch.
  • Balor tries to get more power in this episode by sacrificing a couple of kids to the spirit living in the other world he’s accessing with the monolith. It only gives him a taste though; for something more substantial he’ll have to sacrifice something he actually cares about. This is another moment where Blood Origin could have let us come to our own conclusions but instead awkwardly spelled it out for viewers with narration.
  • The bit with ScÍan’s poisoned wound felt cut right out of The Fellowship of the Ring or the opening episodes of The Wheel of TimeBlood Origin plays the greatest fantasy hits and ends up feeling generic.
  • Bear McCreary’s music remains a highlight, and recalls both The Witcher games and his work on Black Sails.


Despite having a few solid scenes, “Of Dreams, Defiance, and Desperate Deeds” is a step down from the premiere. The Xin’trea plotline in particular made me groan out loud several times. But at least we got to meet more of our band of heroes in this episode; some of the performances are enjoyable, and the action scene in the bank was awesome.

Episode Grade: D+