Netflix’s newest fantasy series The Witcher is out and it’s definitely a holiday treat to watch. If you’re planning to watch the series—or are still contemplating if your some 7-8 hours is worth it—you’ve come to the right place. Here at Speed, we break down some of the key information you’d need to know to get you into the series—without spoiling the goods.
Going back to its origins
You might be coming into Netflix’s The Witcher as a fan of the books and the games, or maybe because you’ve just seen it on Netflix’s suggestion list. But nonetheless, it’s important to note that The Witcher is an adaptation—or for a better term, a reinvention—of Andrzej Sapkowski’s work, which is a collection of two short story collections and six novels. The very first The Witcher stories began in 1986, appearing in a Polish magazine titled Fantastyka.
The games, however, are positioned well after the source materials. Although The Witcher novels explore the intertwined stories of Geralt of Rivia and Princess Cirilla, and the wars and conflicts that surround The Continent (the world where The Witcher takes place), the games are patterned after the flavor of the short stories, which feature the many adventures of Geralt as, of course, a witcher.
The Witcher showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich explains that the Netflix adaptation will be a bit more than a retelling of the novels or the game. In fact, it’s a whole new interpretation of Sapkowski’s world, exploring what was otherwise minor characters in the story and weaving a more interesting tale more than monster hunting and fantasy world politics. In her words, the series will be about the “reunion of a family,” where the family is composed of the witcher Geralt, the lost Princess Cirilla, and the power-hungry mage Yennefer.
So if you loved the games, expect a different experience altogether when watching The Witcher. But it’s interesting that it feels like there’s a certain homage to gaming in some of the frames and shots in the series. These are angles and shots you won’t usually see in a regular show—and it may feel a bit different—but that’s because these are shots that should be familiar to people who play a lot of RPGs like The Witcher franchise. The quest-style storytelling of Geralt’s story in the first few episodes of the series also feels like the quest-style gameplay of most RPGs, as if you’re following him take on missions from different people in different towns, which eventually branch out into more quests or lead towards the main storyline.
Now, for the fans
There are also juicy Easter eggs that will make your Witcher fan heart jump: The iconic bath tub scene with Geralt and Yennefer, the monsters like the Kikimora, and the Aard sign—a Geralt signature move in the games.
And of course, at the heart of the novels, the games, and the series, is Geralt of Rivia—which Henry Cavill gives life to. One of the best things about the series, coming from the games and the novels, is the way Henry just sort of melts and disappears perfectly into the role. Maybe since he’s a fan of the canon himself, there’s a certain commitment and passion that comes from him. And whatever physical, mental, and emotional preparations he’s undergone for the role has given birth to a master portrayal of Geralt. That once you watch the series, there’s no trace of Superman in there. It’s Geralt of Rivia, flesh and blood…and muscles.
And an interesting tidbit about Geralt’s muscles we couldn’t miss: costumer designer Tim Aslam tells Polygon that Henry’s muscles would wear down the leather of his costume at such an alarming rate that replacements were constantly made.
Yes. They were that that big.
Read before (or while) you watch?
Going back, a word of advice to those who have no idea about The Witcher world: you can Wiki or google stuff. Actually, you should. The storytelling of The Witcher isn’t very straightforward, and there will be a lot of nouns that will be casually thrown around in conversations that won’t otherwise mean anything if you have no idea what they are.
For a more comprehensive enjoyment and understanding of The Continent as you watch, we highly advise you look up the words or names that they drop like the Law of Surprise, Conjuction of the Spheres, the Sacking of Kaer Morhen, the White Flame, and other events or titles or nouns in general that you may not be familiar with. The thing with the series is that it does not expound on these lore, which lends a deeper appreciation of the characters’ motivations and the world’s history and politics.
A different fantasy world, a whole new flavor
There is a lot of expectations from The Witcher, coming right after the conclusion of what is the biggest fantasy franchise in television history. But is it the new Game of Thrones? Not really. It has the same rich lore and world that gives the showrunners a huge playground in terms of creating the series, but it has its own flavor and intentions that’s unlike Game of Thrones.
The series has a different way of storytelling that you can see has been given a lot of thought by Hissrich. There are also moments where the characters’ dry humor comes through, most especially from Geralt—although some of the humor may not be very consistent with the era of the world. And there’s Jaskier, the bard who will be very integral in the story, and introduces an LSS-inducing ballad that adds a certain something to The Witcher’s unique flavor.
The first season of The Witcher was thoroughly enjoying, and there are moments where you’d be wanting to hit that ‘Next Episode’ button right away. Geralt’s character may not be something that you’ll get attach to right away—in fact, Yennefer’s character and backstory is a bit more meaty at the start—but you’ll definitely come to love him as the season progresses and when his story starts to intertwine with Yennefer’s and Ciri’s.
You’ll also appreciate how much budget and effort that came into the show’s production. The Witcher 3 game was one of the masterpieces of its generation, and living up to that visually was something that the series pulled off.
There is also an effort from the writers to create a more welcoming world, where different races and colors have equal appearances in the series. It’s nice to hear different accents and different faces giving life to well-rounded and major characters, and see an effort to tell real-world issues like the plight of refugees mirrored in the plight of the elves in the series.
There is also a good message to the series that underlines that sometimes, the worst things you’ll encounter and fight are not the literal monsters that roam The Continent, but the monsters in the people around you.
The Witcher definitely isn’t perfect; it has its own flaws that many series come with. But is it worth the watch? Definitely, one of the best fantasy watches of this season.