Dense with clunky exposition, this is a motor-mouthed premiere that doesn’t exactly fill audiences with much hope for the rest of the season.
This recap of The Witcher: Blood Origin Season 1 Episode 1, “Of Ballads, Brawlers and Bloodied Blades”, contains spoilers.
“Of Ballads, Brawlers and Bloodied Blades” begins by introducing the show’s framing device and its most explicit connection to the two seasons of The Witcher also streaming on Netflix. In it, we see Jaskier being plucked from a bloody battle — which we later learn is the Scoia’tael rescuing him from a Temerian army camp — and meeting Minnie Driver as an elf Seanchaí who slips between worlds and times collecting forgotten stories and bringing them back to life when the world needs them.
Jaskier is relevant to the elves because, in The Witcher Season 2, he reinvented himself as the Sandpiper, a smuggler of elves providing them safe passage to Cintra. So, he’s the best bet to recount “The Story of the Seven”, a tale of estranged warriors coming together to fight an unstoppable empire in a battle that will lead to the introduction of humans and monsters to the Continent in the Conjunction of the Spheres, and the very first version of a Witcher. An important story, then, and the one we’re about to be told over the next four episodes. It begins 1200 years ago.
The Witcher: Blood Origin Season 1 Episode 1 recap
There is a lot of exposition here, and a lot of introductions, so hopefully I can recount the necessary details in a more tidy manner than the episode manages. The seven themselves are introduced in flying fashion with brief descriptors about who they are, but frontloading all that information actually causes more confusion than necessary, so we’ll just go over each character as and when they’re properly introduced and have something to do.
We can start with the Lark, then, otherwise known as Eile, a traveling pub singer whom we meet venturing through Inis Dubh in the far northern seas. Through a conversation with Ithlinne, though — yes, that Ithlinne — we learn that Eile isn’t just a bard, but also a former member of Raven Clan, protectors of King Midir and the royal family of Pryshia. Ithlinne has visions and fits and is prone to speaking in prophecies and riddles, as all good young soothsayers in fantasy stories necessarily must.
For what it’s worth, Ithlinne is notable in Witcher lore for being the prophetess who foretold the end of the world in an ice age that would kill all humans and leave only elves alive. The survivors would be saved by an offspring of the Elder Blood, also known as the Swallow, also known as Ciri. So, her presence here is another way that Blood Origin ties into the plot of the main series.
Eile has a kind of equivalent in Fjall, a warrior of Dog Clan who are the royal protectors of the kingdom of Xin’trea. The newly crowned king of Xin’trea, Alvitir, wants to marry his sister Merwyn off to King Midir, but little does he know that Merwyn is already sleeping with Fjall. When this is discovered, he’s banished for betraying his oath, and his father, Osfar, sees him off personally. There’s a pretty loaded conversation here about Fjall’s past, and what seems to be the loss of a brother named Kerrick, but literally none of this comes up again so don’t worry about it.
Eile runs into Fjall in Inis Dubh where he’s working as a sellsword, right as the pair of them are both summoned to return to their respective kingdoms. The big precipitating event here is Altivir intending to form a peace treaty between the three nations that have been squabbling for a millennium, thus bringing the Thousand-Year War to an end. You’d think this would be a good thing, but it turns out nobody seems to want it, let alone anyone in Xin’trea. Chief Sage Balor, a mage who can tear the veil between worlds, has already used his position as an advisor to the king to orchestrate a failed assassination attempt. When the leaders of Pryshia, Darwen, and Xin’trea all assemble to sign the treaty, he uses a giant winged monster loaned to him by some enigmatic magical voice to lay waste to the delegates, creating a power vacuum that is filled by Merwyn, a co-conspirator with Balor and Eredin, who steps up to become a tokenistic Empress.
Of course, Balor and Eredin are using Merwyn, but she knows that and has her own plans to colonize other worlds, all for the apparent good of all elf-kind.
This also puts Fjall and Eile at the top of the most wanted list. Since Ithlinne prophesized that Eile would find redemption through a quest for her clan, she ventures with Fjall to Gaylth — they narrowly avoid an assassination attempt on the way — where they overhear about the coup and see they’re both being pursued. They both swear to get revenge for their clans and head out to recruit Scian, Eile’s old sword tutor who introduced her to music and thus was forced to become a sellsword when Eile left. Scian has been hardened by the years, but she’s up for the chance to recover her sword, Soul Reaver, from Xin’trea, so agrees to come along, with a brief action sequence establishing her badass bonafides.
As the premiere ends, two have become three, and the new trio sets out for the next stage of their adventure.
You can stream The Witcher: Blood Origin season 1, episode 1, “Of Ballads, Brawlers and Bloodied Blades” exclusively on Netflix.
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