The Witcher, the long anticipated show based on the novels is almost here. Odds are, you’re aware of this for four reasons; you saw Henry Cavil in Mission Impossible and want to see more of what he can do, you want the next GoT, you played The Witcher games or you just have a casual interest in what’s new on TV and streaming. IF you fall into any one of those categories, here are some things that maybe you should know before you start buying a Wolf pendant and dying your hair white.
The Witcher is not the next Game of Thrones:
Whether that turns you off or not, The Witcher is not going to be the next Game of Thrones. Where Game of Thrones is focused on the concept of power corrupting people and that nobody is truly good, Witcher tries a more nuanced approach via the concepts of racism, power and characters trying to be black and white in a grey world. You might be thinking that Game of Thrones is never morally black and white, and that is correct, it is a lot of terrible people doing terrible things and having next to no remorse for the hurt they cause outside of maybe Jon Snow. The Witcher is a little more heavy on the themes between the characters and the world that they inhabit. Geralt is not a great guy, but he does try his best to fit into a society that dislikes him, yet needs him, while trying to altruistically help people who truly need it. Geralt will do just about anything for the right price, but he is constantly trying to live with his effect on the world he inhabits and the people he affects along the way. He tries to do the right thing. Arguably, nobody in Game of Thrones tries to help anyone selflessly, outside of possible Brianne or Jon, there is always an ulterior motive to ultimately earn the Iron Throne, or take it.
Where Witcher also differs in its views on social issues. And yes, The Witcher has always had some political overtones, it is not something that Netflix just threw in there to pander to anyone. One of the heaviest themes in the entire series is that of equality and racism. Elves are meant to show as a race that is heavily trivialized and segregated based upon their race and history. They are treated as lesser than lower class, crimes against them are often unpunished, but the slightest crime committed by an Elf was usually punished by death. Witcher, both in the series and the game, has also tackled things like domestication of women being unfair, equality being earned and not granted, poverty and lavishness having more in common than they believe etc. You can certainly find elements of these social issues within series like Game of Thrones, but Witcher makes it an immediate topic. While the show has not made a definitive statement that says what issues it will be exploring, you should expect some topics that are relative to what we see today and in our history.
Perhaps the last way that The Witcher differs is in its hard fantasy setting. And yes, Game of Thrones is a fantasy series, but it does tend to be a little more grounded (with the exception of dragons, white walkers, giants) whereas Witcher is about as pure fantasy in its world building as you can get without being Lord of the Rings. Dwarves, Vikings, Elves, Magic, a host of occult, more monsters than you can shake a necronomicon etc. The Witcher is equal parts about politics and social issues as it is about Geralt just being a badass and slaying monsters for various reasons. The main narrative tends to be relatively easy to follow, but tends to become rather twisted. It is neither Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. IT does not lie quite in the middle but rather is an example of how to have the best of both worlds.
The Witcher is NOT for all ages:
In case the trailers, PR and source material are not fresh in your mind, do not make the mistake of thinking this just seems to be a fantasy series for those who love fantasy. This is a hard TV-MA show that dabbles in some pretty explicit themes and some rather graphic depictions of sex, rape, violence and horror.
The Witcher novels have been widely regarded as some of the bleakest and morally grey depictions of fantasy so far. Themes about racism, social divide and unrest is something that would go over most young viewers heads as it is. However, The Witcher has notoriously featured some rather dark and unsettingly real depicitons of sexual violence and physical violence in all of fantasy. Geralt may be a character trying to help others and help himself, but he is surrounded by morally corrupt and terrible people who do truly terrible things. If this series adapts or discusses even half of what the novels do, it can be safely assumed that this is not a series that the whole family can snuggle up with on Friday night.
The Witcher Show is NOT based on the games:
I feel like this is something that more people should be aware of, The show that we are getting is adapted and inspired by the novels, not the video games which were themselves an individual interpretation by CD Projekt Red. There will be some creative liberties taken just as Red took liberties with their versions, but if you are a fan or a reader of the novels, then you have a better idea of what to expect.
There was a fair amount of controversy behind the casting of Yennefer, Triss, the design of the medallions, the design of the Nilfgard armor etc. Short version, a lot of angry trolls and a few angry fans had no idea that they were taking next to no inspiration from the game as far as design, storytelling and world were concerned. There were some obvious influences like; Geralt’s leather armor design, Geralt’s voice and sarcasm delivery, Geralt’s fighting style, Novigrad and a few others. However, the games are a pretty loose interpretation of the books. More of an amalgamation of dedicated fans that made a really good addition to the world and lore. The books have very different descriptions of the characters looks, delivery and the way the world and its inhabitants interact and look.
Now obviously, if this is your first introduction to The Witcher, than it is not exactly something to be concerned about, it is something to be aware of.
While there are some concerns going into December 20th, and whether or not the early praise for The Witcher is warranted, it seems to have a very dedicated crew of people working on it. While actor’s should always be taken with a grain of salt, Cavil appears to be a legitimate nerd for The Witcher series and allegedly he spent close to three years continuously pitching and requesting to be cast as Geralt. And while the cast is a lot of newcomers, that often turns out for the best with series like this.