There’s always a certain trepidation when a franchise branches out. And for the Witcher franchise, a new frontier is rapidly opening that could see it elevated to the same level as Game Of Thrones, or Lord Of The Rings. The upcoming Netflix series has already amazed critics and fans alike with pre-screenings and a generous amount of teasing. But will the aard-ent fanbase* of both novels and video games be able to deal with changes the show has made?
[*Editor’s note: Connor assures me this is a Witcher pun!]
Take, for instance, the controversial appearance of Nilfgaardian armour. In both the novels and games, Nilfgaard is a sophisticated conquering empire. Their armour is black plate with golden trim, beautifully lacquered and obviously of a high standard. It came as quite a surprise to fans when leaks and teasers showed that the Nilfgaardians in the show appear to be wearing some kind of hideous wrinkly leather over their armour. Even more puzzling is that the armour of other nations featured, like the stalwart Redanians, appears quite practical and attractive to look at.
Fans first thought this “ballsack armour” was a parody that would feature in a nightmare of one young protagonist, Ciri. But as the official trailers dropped it became apparent that this style choice was going to feature throughout season 1. Showrunner Lauren Hirsch, who previously served as a producer for the seminal first season of Daredevil, has responded on social media by hinting that the armour was an oversight, and will probably be corrected for season 2.
As Season Two has already been announced, Netflix seems to be gunning to fill the vacuum that Game Of Thrones recently left behind; and the audience that this entails. The Witcher is a superb choice, as it has the potential to carry forward the themes of a grim fantasy world of moral ambiguity. By following the three story threads of Geralt, Yennefer and Ciri, the series promises to be mostly faithful to the novels. While the outlook is very optimistic, there are still a number of concerned parties, particularly on the Witcher subreddit, who express concern over the editing, accuracy to the stories … and generally doomsay the whole endeavour.
Of course, Reddit is hardly a bastion of positivity. The Witcher has a number of people with some serious credentials; not least Henry Cavill himself. World famous for his role as Humphrey in 2007’s Stardust, Cavill brings a level of wit, grit and swordplay to the role. Concerns were raised over the quality of the wig he’d use (since Geralt has some form of albinism caused by his becoming a Witcher), and him being too muscular for the role. Having been described as “wolflike” in nearly every story about him, Geralt would hardly be a hulking mass of muscle. But Cavill seems to lend an air of animal wariness to the role. His Geralt is haunted and in doubt, decried as a monster even as he kills monsters to defend humanity. Or for the money. Depends on how scummy his current client is.
One aspect of the story that looks perfect is the arc of Yennefer, played by newcomer Anya Chalotra. Yennefer is The Witcher’s rags to riches story; a young woman born a hunchback and ostracised by her community, only to be taken in by a sorceress and given the power to make herself beautiful. A striking theme in the books, lightly touched upon in the games, now properly realised onscreen. Chalotra brings a level of calculation, insecurity and raw power that Yennefer embodies to the utmost degree. The chemistry between her and Cavill is dark and intense, and should sell their rather stormy relationship perfectly.
Another newcomer, Freya Allen, plays the part of Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, heir to the throne of Cintra. Better known as Ciri, she’s a young woman with incredible powers in a very precarious position. Without going into spoiler territory, it’s her arc that I’m most excited for. Rather than a typical damsel in distress or other princess archetype, Ciri has her own agency and goals. She’s determined to have the life she wants, though as a character she perfectly embodies all of the mistakes and lessons that come with growing up.
As the three protagonists’ stories intersect and weave together, the stakes rise ever higher. Unlike Game Of Thrones and its legions of characters, The Witcher focuses tightly on the main trio. With each episode rumoured to be at least an hour long, both confirmed seasons will be able to cover a novel’s worth of content and then some.
Ever since the end of Game Of Thrones, people have been looking for something to fill the gap. The Witcher looks more promising than anything we’ve seen so far, and could see Netflix producing a true successor to the grim fantasy juggernaut, and making even more ludicrous amounts of money in the process. They should probably change that armour though.