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The Witcher (TV series)

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The Witcher
The Witcher Title Card.png
Genre
Created byLauren Schmidt Hissrich
Based onThe Witcher
by Andrzej Sapkowski
Starring
Composer(s)
Country of origin
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes8 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s)
Cinematography
  • Jean-Philippe Gossart
  • Gavin Struthers
Editor(s)
  • Liana Del Giudice
  • Nick Arthurs
  • Jean-Daniel Fernandez-Qundez
  • Xavier Russell
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time47–67 minutes
Production company(s)
DistributorNetflix
Release
Original networkNetflix
Picture format
Audio format5.1 surround sound
Original releaseDecember 20, 2019 (2019-12-20) –
present (present)
External links
Website

The Witcher is an American fantasy drama series produced by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich. It is based on the book series of the same name by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. The first season, consisting of eight episodes, was released on Netflix in its entirety on December 20, 2019. Before airing of Season 1 had started, a second season of eight episodes was announced for release in 2021; production was scheduled to commence in London in early 2020.[8]

Set in a medieval fictional world on a landmass known as "the Continent", The Witcher follows the story of solitary monster hunter Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) and Cintran princess Ciri (Freya Allan), who find their destinies tied together. The first season is based on The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, a collection of short stories which precede the main Witcher saga. It explores formative events that shaped the three lead characters, prior to their first encounters with each other.

Cast and characters

Main

Recurring

  • Jodhi May as Queen Calanthe, ruler of the Kingdom of Cintra and grandmother of Princess Cirilla.
  • Adam Levy as Mousesack, the court druid of Cintra and advisor to Queen Calanthe.
  • Björn Hlynur Haraldsson as King Eist Tuirseach, husband to Queen Calanthe and step-grandfather of Cirilla.
  • Lars Mikkelsen as Stregobor, the Rector of Ban Ard, the academy for male mages and the resident mage in the town of Blaviken.
  • Emma Appleton as Renfri of Creyden, a princess-turned-bandit nicknamed "Shrike", who leads a gang of brigands and has a bloody grudge against Stregobor.
  • Maciej Musiał as Sir Lazlo, a Cintran knight tasked to protect Cirilla.
  • Tobi Bamtefa as Sir Danek, a Cintran commander of Calanthe's royal guard
  • Therica Wilson-Read as Sabrina Glevissig, a sorceress who trained alongside Yennefer.
  • Shaun Dooley as King Foltest, the incestuous king of Temeria.
  • Terence Maynard as Artorius Vigo, court mage from Toussaint and uncle of Fringilla.
  • Judit Fekete as Vanelle of Brugge, a sorceress and one of the mages who died during the Battle of Sodden Hill.
  • Josette Simon as Eithne, the Queen of the Dryads of Brokilon Forest.
  • Nóra Trokán as the Dryad General
  • Frida Gustavsson as Ma/Visenna, mother of Geralt of Rivia

Notable guests

  • Mia McKenna-Bruce as Marilka, a girl who works for Stregobor.
  • Amit Shah as Torque, a sylvan ("horned devil") that works for Filavandrel.
  • Gaia Mondadori as Princess Pavetta, the daughter of Queen Calanthe and mother of Ciri.
  • Bart Edwards as Urcheon of Erlenwald / Duny, a knight afflicted by a curse that transforms him into a hedgehog man until midnight, Pavetta's lover and betrothed by oath.
  • Marcin Czarnik as Ronin Mage, an assassin sent to murder Queen Kalis and her baby daughter
  • Jordan Renzo as Eyck of Denesle, a virtuous knight.
  • Lucas Englander as Chireadan, an healer elf from the Redanian city of Rinde.
  • Ron Cook as Borch Three Jackdaws, a man who is actually the golden dragon Villentretenmerth.
  • Ella-Rae Smith as Fola, a young sorceress in Aretuza.
  • Francis Magee as Yurga, a travelling merchant in Sodden rescued by Geralt from monsters.
  • Anna-Louise Plowman as Zola, Yurga's wife who offers Cirilla sanctuary in her rural home in Sodden.
  • Julian Rhind-Tutt as Giltine, the enchanter of Aretuza which brings adepts into their perfect physical forms after they graduate.

Episodes

The first season is based on The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny.

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1"The End's Beginning"Alik SakharovLauren Schmidt HissrichDecember 20, 2019 (2019-12-20)

Following Geralt of Rivia's battle with a kikimora, he enters the town of Blaviken and meets Renfri, a cursed princess-turned-bandit hunted by the wizard Stregobor, who thinks her evil for her birth during an eclipse. Stregobor lures Geralt to his hideout seeking to hire him to kill Renfri, but Geralt refuses. Renfri later offers Geralt a counter-proposal, but he refuses with an ultimatum: leave or die. She feigns agreement, but upon waking up the next morning, Geralt realizes Renfri will not stop until Stregobor is dead, and he rushes to stop her. After killing her men, he fights and fatally wounds Renfri, and her dying words warn him of a girl who will be his destiny. Stregobor arrives to take Renfri's body for autopsy. When Geralt opposes, the townsfolk force him to leave, urged on by Stregobor. The kingdom of Cintra is conquered by southern neighbor Nilfgaard, and Princess Cirilla is sent away by her grandmother, Queen Calanthe, to escape and find Geralt. Cirilla is captured by Nilfgaardian officer Cahir, but the sight of the burning city and castle trigger her powers, allowing her to escape.


Based on "The Lesser Evil" from The Last Wish.[9]
2"Four Marks"Alik SakharovJenny KleinDecember 20, 2019 (2019-12-20)

Hunchback Yennefer from Vengerberg of Aedirn is sold to Tissaia de Vries by her father. She is taken to Aretuza, for training in magic, but finds difficulty in the practice. She makes a friendship with Istredd, even revealing her quarter-elf heritage, a cause of her deformity. Unbeknownst to either, Tissaia and Stregobor were using Yennefer and Istredd respectively to spy on each other. Later, Yennefer witnesses Tissaia turning three students into eels to act as conduits powering Aretuza with magic. Geralt is hired to investigate grain thefts in Posada and is followed by Jaskier the bard. They encounter a Sylvan[disambiguation needed] named Torque, who knocks them unconscious and takes them to his mountain cave. There, Geralt meets Filavandrel, the elven king and urges he lead his people to better lands after being banished by the humans. Instead of killing them, Filavendrel frees Geralt and Jaskier, taking the former's words to heart. Cirilla encounters Dara, a boy in the woods, who guides her to a refugee camp. Dara returns to save her as the camp is attacked by Cahir's forces, and she later realizes Dara is an elf.


Based on "The Edge of the World" from The Last Wish.[9]
3"Betrayer Moon"Alex Garcia LopezBeau DeMayoDecember 20, 2019 (2019-12-20)

Yennefer and Istredd become lovers while finishing their training. While Yennefer has the chance to transform her body into her ideal image during graduation, the Brotherhood of Sorcerers discuss the allocation of their newly initiated to their respective kingdoms. But through Stregobor's scheme, Yennefer is assigned to Nilfgaard instead of her preferred Aedirn due to her elven blood. Realizing what happened, Yennefer angrily breaks up with Istredd knowing only he could have told Stregobor about her blood. Having missed graduation, Yennefer undergoes the painful transformation to be beautiful at the cost of her fertility. Yennefer charms Aedirn's King Virfuril into taking her as advisor, sending Fringilla to Nilfgaard instead. Geralt enters the kingdom of Temeria investigating a monster and is assisted by Triss Merigold, King Foltest's sorceress advisor. He identifies the monster as a Shtriga, a creature born from a curse he later discovered was placed by the courtier Ostrit who learned about the affair between Foltest and his sister, Princess Adda. Using Ostrit as bait, Geralt battles to contain the shtriga until dawn which lifts the curse. Cirilla enters a dense forest in a trance as Dara follows to help.


Based on "The Witcher" from The Last Wish.[9]
4"Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials"Alex Garcia LopezDeclan de BarraDecember 20, 2019 (2019-12-20)

Having served Aedirn for three decades, Yennefer escorts Queen Kalis of Lyria when they are ambushed by an assassin. The assassin follows them through multiple portals, killing Kalis. Although Yennefer escapes with Kalis's newborn daughter, the baby dies from a thrown dagger. Geralt accompanies Jaskier to the betrothal feast of Princess Pavetta, Queen Calanthe's daughter. Urcheon of Erlenwald (also named Duny) interrupts to demand Pavetta's hand through the Law of Surprise, having saved her father years earlier. Urcheon suffers from a curse that transformed him into hedgehog/man creature. Despite Pavetta's acceptance, Calanthe refuses and a brawl ensues. When Calanthe tries killing Urcheon, Pavetta activates her power, unleashing a maelstrom until Geralt and Mousesack intervene. Wanting her daughter happy, Calanthe marries Duny and Pavetta, which lifts Duny's curse. Duny, thankful for Geralt's aid, insists he take a reward, so Geralt jokingly invokes the Law of Surprise for something Duny has but doesn't yet know. The crowd then immediately learns Pavetta is pregnant with Duny's child. In the present, Nilfgaard's forces resume their pursuit of Cirilla with Mousesack as their prisoner. Meanwhile, Cirilla and Dara encounter Queen Eithne and her Dryads in Brokilon Forest, while Cahir and Fringilla track Ciri's location.


Based on "A Question of Price" from The Last Wish, and "Sword of Destiny" from Sword of Destiny.[9]
5"Bottled Appetites"Charlotte BrändströmSneha KoorseDecember 20, 2019 (2019-12-20)

Several years after Pavetta's betrothal, Geralt and Jaskier discover a Djinn and accidentally release it. Initially, it seems that Jaskier is the Djinn's 'master' but then he falls seriously ill. Geralt seeks help from the nearest healer, the elf Chireadan, but as they need a mage to heal Jaskier, Chireadan reluctantly refers them to Yennefer. Although Yennefer cures Jaskier, her plan is to use him to capture the Djinn to grant her wish of regaining her fertility. As Jaskier uses his last wish, nothing happens and it's revealed that it is Geralt, not Jaskier, who actually has the wishes. Geralt realises the Djinn will kill Yennefer, so he uses his third and final wish to save her (but the wish itself is not revealed). The Djinn leaves. Now free and safe, Geralt and Yennefer act on their attraction and have sex. Yennefer asks what his third wish was, but Geralt does not answer as he has finally fallen asleep. Cahir hires a doppler to assume the identity of Mousesack by copying his form and memories, then kills him. Later, Eithne allows Ciri to stay in Brokilon, but "Mousesack" arrives requesting Ciri and Dara leave with him.


Based on "The Last Wish" from The Last Wish.[9]
6"Rare Species"Charlotte BrändströmHaily HallDecember 20, 2019 (2019-12-20)

Geralt, Jaskier, and Yennefer are invited to join a dragon hunt by adventurer Borch and his two bodyguards Téa and Véa. Yennefer's knight joins the party along with a band of dwarves and Reavers, professional monster hunters. After camping overnight, the party finds the knight dead and the Reavers have departed. The dwarves take their party to a mountain shortcut, but the bridge gives way. Borch's group sacrifices themselves rather than endanger the party. Geralt and Yennefer reconcile before reaching the dragon's den, but find it dead with Téa and Véa alive guarding the dragon's egg. Borch reveals himself as Vilentretenmerth, a golden dragon. The five of them defend the egg from the Reavers. Borch later pays off the dwarves with dragon teeth, and Geralt reveals to Yennefer his third wish bound their fates together. Dara grows suspicious over "Mousesack", so Ciri questions him and the doppler reveals himself. In the scuffle, Dara is knocked out as Ciri escapes, but is captured by Cahir. "Ciri" reveals itself as the Doppler and fights Cahir before escaping. Dara frees the real Ciri, but leaves her. Cahir and Fringilla plan their next move.


Based on "The Bounds of Reason" from Sword of Destiny.[9]
7"Before a Fall"Alik Sakharov & Marc JobstMike OstrowskiDecember 20, 2019 (2019-12-20)

With Nilfgaard poised to invade Cintra, Geralt decides to invoke his Law of Surprise. Calanthe offers up an imposter for Ciri, but Geralt is not fooled and is imprisoned by King Tuirseach. After visiting Istredd, Yennefer returns to Aretuza with the sorcerer Vilgefortz. When he announces his intention to rally mages to oppose Nilfgaard, she declines. The Brotherhood votes to remain neutral, but Tissaia, Vilgefortz, Triss and other mages resolve to fight. Tissaia convinces Yennefer to join. Nilfgaard invades, sacking the city and breaching the castle. Calanthe wants to send Ciri away with Geralt, but he has escaped his cell and is nowhere to be found. Ciri fends for herself after escaping Cintra. Later, she is discovered by her old friends who suddenly turn on her, and her powers activate.


Based on "Something More" from Sword of Destiny.[9]
8"Much More"Marc JobstLauren Schmidt HissrichDecember 20, 2019 (2019-12-20)

Yennefer and the mages reinforce the strategic keep of Sodden Hill, aiming to prevent Nilfgaardian forces from invading the rest of the Northern Kingdoms. Having escaped from Cintra, Geralt encounters a merchant burying the bodies of dead refugees. He defends the man from undead monsters, but is wounded and loses consciousness. Ciri is awakened by the woman she met earlier and discovers the dead bodies of her harassers around her, killed in gruesome ways. The woman takes her to her farm. The Nilfgaardians launch their attack, with both sides utilizing magic and inflicting heavy casualties on each other. Tissaia attempts to talk down Fringilla, but Fringilla disables her. Vilgefortz fights Cahir, but loses and is thrown down a hill. Geralt wakes to find himself on the merchant's cart en route to the man's farm. When Vilgefortz wakes up, he kills a Northern sorcerer, revealing himself to be a turncoat. When Nilfgaardian soldiers begin to overrun the fort, Yennefer channels a massive stream of fire, then seemingly disappears. In his delirious state, Geralt dreams about his mother Visenna. He later arrives at the same farm, and upon hearing the woman talk to the man about Ciri, heads into the forest. Seeing a vision of Geralt searching for Yennefer, Ciri wakes up and wanders into the forest, where she finds Geralt, asking him "Who is Yennefer?"


Based on "Something More" from Sword of Destiny.[9]

Production

Development

Andrzej Sapkowski's The Witcher book series was almost adapted into a standalone Netflix film but Kelly Luegenbiehl, Vice President of International Originals at Netflix, dissuaded the producers. She recalled asking them, "How can you take eight novels and just turn it into a film? There's so much material here. Through a number of conversations, the producers got really excited about the idea of using the source material for a longer-running series."[10] In May 2017, Netflix announced the start of production on an English-language drama TV series based on the books.[11][12]

In December 2017, it was reported that Lauren Schmidt Hissrich would serve as showrunner on the show.[13] In April 2018, Schmidt Hissrich revealed that the script for the pilot episode was finished, and the first season would be eight episodes long.[14] In 2017, it was reported that Andrzej Sapkowski would serve as a creative consultant on the show, but in January 2018, Sapkowski denied any direct involvement.[15] However, he met with Schmidt Hissrich in April 2018[16][17] and in May 2018 she stated that Sapkowski is on the creative team of the project.[18] In August, Andrew Laws was revealed as production designer.[19] In December, Radio Times reported directors Alik Sakharov and Charlotte Brändström have joined the project.[20]

Netflix announced a second season on November 13, 2019,[21] with production set to begin in London in early 2020, for a planned release in 2021.[22]

Writing

The first season was told in a non-linear manner spanning different time periods, which Hissrich said was inspired by Christopher Nolan's 2017 film Dunkirk.[23] Hissrich said that Yennefer's story covers around 70 years and Ciri's only about 2 weeks.[24] Hissrich also said Yennefer and Cirilla were given more prominence to allow the viewers to understand them better, by showing their backstories, motivations, journey, and complications.[25] For the second season, Hissrich said the story will build on the foundations from the first season, becoming more focused, and that characters will interact with each other more frequently.[26]

Casting

Henry Cavill and Anya Chalotra at the 2019 San Diego Convention for The Witcher
Freya Allan at the 2019 San Diego Convention for The Witcher

In September 2018, Netflix announced that Henry Cavill would play Geralt of Rivia,[27][28] who was selected from more than 200 actors.[29] In October 2018, Anya Chalotra and Freya Allan were cast as Yennefer of Vengerberg and Princess Cirilla respectively, while Jodhi May, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Adam Levy, MyAnna Buring, Mimi Ndiweni, and Therica Wilson-Read also joined.[30] More casting was announced later that month, including Eamon Farren, Joey Batey, Lars Mikkelsen, Royce Pierreson, Maciej Musiał, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, and Anna Shaffer.[31]

Filming

In April 2018, Schmidt Hissrich revealed that the show would be filmed in Central and Eastern Europe.[32]

Principal photography for the first season began on October 31, 2018, in Hungary.[31] Much of the series was filmed at Mafilm Studios near Budapest; the outdoor set included the exterior of wizard Stregobor's household. The hall in Cintra was constructed at Origo Studios on the outskirts of Budapest. Fort Monostor (Monostori Erod) and the nearby forest was used for some exterior scenes in Cintra. The Battle of Marnadal was filmed in the hills of a village in Hungary, Csákberény. The village that was Yennefer's original home was filmed at the Skanzen Village Museum, an open air site near Szentendre some 30 kilometres (20 mi) north of Budapest; this location was also used in scenes with Ciri in an area with a windmill. The production used the exteriors of Burg Kreuzenstein, a castle near Leobendorf, Austria, for the abandoned fictional castle Vizima, but the interiors were filmed at Origo Studios.[33]

In March 2019, production commenced in Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands, Spain, with some scenes planned to be shot in the islands of La Palma and La Gomera as well.[34] Scenes at the Sorcerers' Aretuza Academy (Tower of the Gull) were shot at Roque de Santo Domingo in Garafía, an islet, and enhanced with CGI. However, the interiors used for the graduation ball were at the Kiscelli Museum in Óbuda, a monastery from the 1700s; this location was also used for the conclave of the Northern Mages. For scenes of some arid landscapes, the Barranco de Fataga area on Gran Canaria island was used. When Ciri was traveling in the desert, the actress was actually in the Natural Dune Reserve of Maspalomas in Gran Canaria. Most of episode 6 was filmed on La Palma island. [35]

Filming of Season 1 concluded in Ogrodzieniec Castle in Poland. The ruins of this medieval castle from the 1300's were the backdrop for scenes including the fictional Vilgefortz of Roggeveen and Triss Merigold. The ruins were also included when shooting the Battle of Sodden Hill in the final episode of Season 1.[36][37] Filming for the first season wrapped in May 2019.[38]

Music

The original song "Toss a Coin to Your Witcher", composed by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli and sung by Jaskier (Batey) in the second episode, became a viral hit shortly after the series' release.[39] Users have created mods to patch the song into the video game adaptions of The Witcher.[40]

Release

In April 2019, Netflix's Ted Sarandos told investors in an earnings call that the series would be released in late 2019.[41] Netflix released the first teaser for the series at San Diego Comic-Con on July 19, 2019.[42][43] The first full trailer was revealed at Lucca Comics & Games on October 31, 2019.[44][45] Netflix released a final trailer on December 12, 2019.[46]

The series premiered on December 20, 2019.[45]

Reception

Critical reception

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 66% approval rating for the first season with an average rating of 6.06/10, based on 80 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads: "Though the world of The Witcher at times feels only half-formed, Henry Cavill brings brawny charisma to a series teeming with subversive fantasy elements and dark humor."[47] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 53 out of 100 based on 17 critics to the season, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[48]

In a positive review of the first season, Erik Kain of Forbes wrote, "If you're looking for an original dark fantasy with some horror elements, some bare skin and plenty of blood and gore (and monsters) look no further.",[49] while James Whitbrook of io9 said, "if you are willing to sit through those trudging opening episodes, punctuated by a cool fight here or an intriguing character scene there, The Witcher slowly but surely finds itself a fantastical slice of bloody, schlocky fun."[50] Conversely, Entertainment Weekly critic Darren Franich said of the series, "my destiny is to never watch this borefest ever again", awarding the first season an F rating.[51] Franich drew criticism for admitting to skipping to the fifth episode.[52]

Author Andrzej Sapkowski has been favorable towards the show, stating, "I was more than happy with Henry Cavill's appearance as The Witcher. He's a real professional. Just as Viggo Mortensen gave his face to Aragorn (in The Lord of the Rings), so Henry gave his to Geralt — and it shall be forever so". Sapkowski added, "I shall be happy if the viewers — and readers — take anything away, anything that shall enrich them in some way. Also, I sincerely hope to leave the viewers — and readers — hot. In every sense. Not tepid, not lukewarm."[53]

Audience viewership

According to Parrot Analytics, The Witcher, in its US debut, was the third most "in demand" original streaming series, behind Stranger Things and The Mandalorian.[54] Parrot's process measures "demand expressions", which is "its globally standardized TV-demand measurement unit that reflects the desire, engagement, and viewership of a series weighted by importance."[55] On December 31, 2019, Parrot Analytics reported that The Witcher become the most in-demand TV series in the world across all platforms.[56]

On December 30, 2019, Netflix issued a number of official lists including the Most Popular TV Shows of 2019. These series were among the most viewed in the U.S. market, where The Witcher was ranked second among series.[57]

References

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