What once seemed like it could be Netflix’s answer to Game of Thrones seems like it’s in serious trouble. The Witcher has lost Henry Cavill as its star after next season, and its first attempt at trying to expand its universe with a new live-action show seems to be going disastrously.
The good news first: The Witcher: Blood Origin is currently the #1 show on Netflix, indicating it’s got great viewership to propel it over the likes of Wednesday and Emily in Paris.
The bad news: What people are actually watching may make them wish they hadn’t bothered. Right now, in addition to having pretty poor critic scores, The Witcher: Blood Origin has literally the worst audience scores for a major Netflix original I’ve ever seen.
While a 35% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes is certainly not great, I suppose technically I’ve seen worse (my favorite Netflix stat is the double 0% for both of its 365 Days series of movies). But for audience scores? I’ve never seen a nine percent before.
The last time I was writing about a series with all-time low audience scores on Netflix, it was the now-cancelled Resident Evil series, which had a 22% from audiences. Back then, I just hadn’t seen anything close to that, even among other lambasted series. Even shows that were universally though of as pretty bad often ended up liked more by audiences than critics, like Jupiter’s Legacy, which had a 41% critic score and a 77% audience score, or Haters Back Off, a show that appears on many ” worst Netflix shows” lists, at a 50% critic score with a 76% audience score. The only original I saw close to Resident Evil back then was Infinite Darkness, the CG RE series, which had a 50% critic score and a 39% audience score.
The Witcher: Blood Origin may be the worst reviewed series, between fans and critics, Netflix has ever seen. Why? Here are a few samplings from both groups:
- “The TV equivalent, in a way, of a tangentially-related hyperlink that you end up clicking while reading about something else on Wikipedia.” – Ready Steady Cut (Critic Review)
- “Lackluster, unoriginal and carried through on the promise of better things – The Witcher: Blood Origin is a mediocre affair. Michelle Yeoh is wasted, Lenny Henry lacks conviction and Minnie Driver goes some great narration. Best avoided.” – We Got This Covered (Critic Review)
- “Bad. Just really really bad. I wonder when Netflix will reach the point where they can’t treat source material any worse. I certainly hope this is their lowest point finally, otherwise it might be time to leave this platform for good” = Al R (Audience Review)
- “In a generic fantasy setting with several box ticking characters, a show with no soul rises from a place it should never have risen. Between abominable and atrocious, this non-Witcher has basically nothing worthy of noting. It does absolutely nothing for a Witcher fan: adds nothing, builds nothing, has no character or resemblance to the source material. I could watch the original Polish show that you might not even know exists, but this was a little too much.” – Marcelo A (Audience Review)
Just brutal. I don’t know what exactly went wrong here, but Netflix really needs to figure it out to make sure whatever poisoned this series doesn’t translate into the last few seasons of The Witcher itself.
Update (12/27): Have seen some people wondering why we’re having this conversation at all, given that The Witcher is “obviously” being review-bombed into having such a low audience score (now down to 8%, at the time of this update). So, a few things to consider:
Yes, it is unfortunately true that many fantasy series that have cast women or people of color in prominent roles have received racist backlash. And yet none of those have been “review bombed” nearly as bad as what we’re seeing here with Blood Origin. That includes House of the Dragon (82%), Rings of Power (38%) and The Witcher itself (75%). If you want to expand outside fantasy to things we know were actively review bombed, many in the superhero space, even things like Ms. Marvel (80%), Captain Marvel (45%) and She-Hulk (33%) are still not close to Blood Origin’s 8%. Literally nothing is. It’s in a league of its own.
Second, you may want to actually…read the audience reviews before saying it’s some specific pushback to diverse casting. Going through them, I see maybe one comment about “politics” or “diversity” for every…fifty reviews? The vast, vast majority of them are not about that, nor are they mentioning Henry Cavill’s recent departure from the series, but they focus entirely on the weirdly poor production value of the show compared to The Witcher itself, and its wooden dialogue and performances.
Sure, it is certainly the case that The Witcher: Blood Origin is not the literal worst show in Netflix history, as these scores suggest. But to have scores this low, combined with low critic scores as well, something has gone seriously wrong here, and it’s a big deal considering The Witcher was supposed to be such a massive IP and world for Netflix to grow and expand in the future. And it feels like it’s all falling apart now.
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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.