The Witcher (TV series)
|Created by||Lauren Schmidt Hissrich|
|Based on||The Witcher|
by Andrzej Sapkowski
|Country of origin|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||47–67 minutes|
|Audio format||5.1 surround sound|
|Original release||December 20, 2019 –|
Set on a fictional, medieval-inspired landmass known as "the Continent", The Witcher explores the legend of Geralt of Rivia and princess Ciri, who are linked to each other by destiny. It stars Henry Cavill, Freya Allan and Anya Chalotra.
The first season consisted of eight episodes and was released on Netflix in its entirety on December 20, 2019. It is based on The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, which are collections of short stories that precede the main Witcher saga. Before the first season had been released, Netflix announced a second eight-episode season, to be released in 2021.
The show initially follows Geralt of Rivia, Crown Princess Ciri, and the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg at different points of time, exploring formative events that shaped their characters, before eventually merging into a single timeline detailing the invaders from Nilfgaard.
Cast and characters
- Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, a magically enhanced monster-hunter known as a "witcher". Cintran princess Ciri is his destiny.
- Anya Chalotra as Yennefer of Vengerberg, a quarter-elf sorceress with a former hunchbacked appearance whose path crosses with Geralt's on several occasions because of a spell.
- Freya Allan as Cirilla "Ciri", the crown princess of Cintra, granddaughter of Queen Calanthe and daughter of Pavetta, who possesses magical powers. She is linked to Geralt by destiny before her birth.
- Eamon Farren as Cahir Mawr Dyffryn aep Ceallach, a Nilfgaardian army commander who leads the invasion of Cintra and the hunt for Cirilla.
- Joey Batey as Jaskier, a travelling bard who befriends Geralt and accompanies him on his path.
- MyAnna Buring as Tissaia de Vries, mentor to Yennefer and the Rectoress of Aretuza, a training academy for female mages.
- Royce Pierreson as Istredd, an adept sorcerer and historian who befriends Yennefer at Aretuza.
- Mimi Ndiweni as Fringilla Vigo, a sorceress who trained alongside Yennefer. She eventually leads the Nilfgaardian invasion alongside Cahir.
- Wilson Radjou-Pujalte as Dara, a refugee elf boy whom Cirilla befriends after the Slaughter of Cintra.
- Anna Shaffer as Triss Merigold, a sorceress, the court mage of Temeria and advisor to King Foltest.
- Mahesh Jadu as Vilgefortz of Roggeveen, a charismatic sorcerer who rallies the northern mages to halt the invading Nilfgaardian army in Sodden.
- 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, resident mage in the town of Blaviken and the Rector of Ban Ard, the academy for male mages.
- Therica Wilson-Read as Sabrina Glevissig, a sorceress who trained alongside Yennefer.
- 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 fought during the Battle of Sodden Hill.
- Emma Appleton as Renfri of Creyden, a princess-turned-bandit who leads a gang of brigands and has a bloody grudge against Stregobor.
- Mia McKenna-Bruce as Marilka, daughter of Blaviken's alderman.
- Tobi Bamtefa as Sir Danek, a Cintran commander of Calanthe's royal guard.
- Maciej Musiał as Sir Lazlo, a Cintran knight charged with protecting Cirilla.
- Tom Canton as Filavandrel, the last king of the Elves.
- Natasha Culzac as Toruviel, an elven warrior serving Filavandrel.
- Amit Shah as Torque, a sylvan ("horned devil") who works for Filavandrel.
- Shaun Dooley as King Foltest, the king of Temeria, whose incestuous relationship with his sister created a daughter.
- Julian Rhind-Tutt as Giltine, the enchanter of Aretuza who brings adepts into their perfect physical forms after they graduate.
- Gaia Mondadori as Princess Pavetta, the daughter of Queen Calanthe and mother of Ciri.
- Bart Edwards as Urcheon of Erlenwald/Duny, Pavetta's lover, afflicted by a curse that transforms him into a hedgehog man until midnight.
- Josette Simon as Eithne, the Queen of the Dryads of Brokilon Forest.
- Nóra Trokán as the Dryad General.
- Marcin Czarnik as Ronin Mage, an assassin sent to murder Queen Kalis and her baby daughter.
- Lucas Englander as Chireadan, a healer elf from the Redanian city of Rinde.
- Jordan Renzo as Eyck of Denesle, a virtuous knight.
- 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 from monsters by Geralt.
- Anna-Louise Plowman as Zola, Yurga's wife who offers Cirilla sanctuary in her rural home in Sodden.
- Frida Gustavsson as Ma/Visenna, mother of Geralt of Rivia.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||"The End's Beginning"||Alik Sakharov||Lauren Schmidt Hissrich||December 20, 2019|
Following Geralt of Rivia's battle with a kikimora in 1231, 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 told him of a girl in the forest who is his destiny forever. Stregobor arrives to take Renfri's body for autopsy. When Geralt opposes, the townsfolk force him to leave, urged on by Stregobor. In 1263, the kingdom of Cintra is conquered by southern neighbor Nilfgaard, and Princess Cirilla, also known as Ciri, 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.
|2||"Four Marks"||Alik Sakharov||Jenny Klein||December 20, 2019|
In 1206, 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. In 1240, Geralt is hired to investigate grain thefts in Posada and is followed by Jaskier the bard. They encounter a Sylvan 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, Filavandrel frees Geralt and Jaskier, taking the former's words to heart. In 1263, 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.
|3||"Betrayer Moon"||Alex Garcia Lopez||Beau DeMayo||December 20, 2019|
In 1210, 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. Wearing her new body, Yennefer charms Aedirn's King Virfuril into taking her as advisor, sending Fringilla to Nilfgaard instead. In 1243, Geralt enters the kingdom of Temeria to investigate a monster, assisted by Triss Merigold, King Foltest's sorceress advisor. He identifies the monster as a Striga, a creature born from a curse he later discovers 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 Striga until dawn, which lifts the curse. In 1263, Cirilla enters a dense forest in a trance as Dara follows to help.
Based on "The Witcher" from The Last Wish.
|4||"Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials"||Alex Garcia Lopez||Declan de Barra||December 20, 2019|
In 1240, having served Aedirn for thirty years, 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. In 1249, 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 a 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 1263, 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.
|5||"Bottled Appetites"||Charlotte Brändström||Sneha Koorse||December 20, 2019|
In 1256, seven 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. In 1263, 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.
|6||"Rare Species"||Charlotte Brändström||Haily Hall||December 20, 2019|
In 1262, 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 guarding the dragon's egg. Borch reveals himself as Vilentretenmerth, a golden dragon. The five of them defend the egg from the Reavers. Later Geralt reveals to Yennefer his third wish bound their fates together. Believing her feelings for Geralt to be artificial, Yennefer declares that she can't be with him and leaves. Hurt, Geralt blames Jaskier for all of his misfortunes and hopes that they never meet again. 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.
|7||"Before a Fall"||Alik Sakharov & Marc Jobst||Mike Ostrowski||December 20, 2019|
In 1263, with Nilfgaard poised to invade Cintra, Geralt decides to invoke his Law of Surprise and claim Ciri to protect her. Seeing through the impostor offered up by Calanthe, he is imprisoned by Eist. 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.
|8||"Much More"||Marc Jobst||Lauren Schmidt Hissrich||December 20, 2019|
Based on "Something More" from Sword of Destiny.
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." In May 2017, Netflix announced the start of production on an English-language drama TV series based on the books.
In December 2017, it was reported that Lauren Schmidt Hissrich would serve as showrunner on the show. In April 2018, Schmidt Hissrich revealed that the script for the pilot episode was finished, and the first season would be eight episodes long. 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. However, he met with Schmidt Hissrich in April 2018 and in May 2018 she stated that Sapkowski was on the creative team of the project. In August, Andrew Laws was revealed as production designer. In December, Radio Times reported directors Alik Sakharov and Charlotte Brändström had joined the project.
The first season was told in a non-linear manner, spanning different time periods. Hissrich said this was inspired by Christopher Nolan's 2017 film Dunkirk. She pointed out that Yennefer's story covers around 70 years and Ciri's only about 2 weeks. Hissrich also said that Yennefer and Cirilla were given more prominence to allow the viewers to understand them better. By showing their backstories, along with Geralt's, "we get down to the soul of the story. It's the story of a broken family. It's a story of three people who are on their own in the world, really orphans all living in the margins of society who are determined to not need anyone, and yet of course they do."
Hissrich said the story for the second season will build on the foundations of the first season, becoming more focused; the characters will interact with each other more frequently. "When I talk about The Witcher, I always talk about how these three characters coming together — Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer — they come together as a family. It’s the most important part of the series for me," Hissrich said. "And when you start to imagine someone’s family, you also need to understand their family of origin. For Geralt, it’s his brothers, it’s the brotherhood of the witchers. So I’m really excited to get back in and meet Vesemir, his father figure, for the first time and all of these men that he was raised with since he was seven years old."
In September 2018, Netflix announced that Henry Cavill would play Geralt of Rivia. He was selected from more than 200 actors. In October 2018, Freya Allan and Anya Chalotra were cast as Princess Cirilla and Yennefer of Vengerberg respectively, while Jodhi May, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Adam Levy, MyAnna Buring, Mimi Ndiweni, and Therica Wilson-Read also joined. More casting was announced later that month, including Eamon Farren, Joey Batey, Lars Mikkelsen, Royce Pierreson, Maciej Musiał, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, and Anna Shaffer.
In February 2020, Netflix announced Kim Bodnia had been cast as Vesemir, an experienced witcher and a mentor to Geralt. Other additions included Kristofer Hivju, Yasen Atour, Agnes Born, Paul Bullion, Thue Ersted Rasmussen, Aisha Fabienne Ross, and Mecia Simson. In September 2020, it was announced that Basil Eidenbenz would replace Rasmussen in the role of Eskel.
Principal photography for the first season began on October 31, 2018, in Hungary. 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.
In March 2019, production commenced on Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands, Spain. Some scenes were to be shot on the islands of La Palma and La Gomera, as well. Scenes of the Sorcerers' Aretuza Academy (Tower of the Gull) were shot on 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. The museum was a monastery in the 18th century. This location was also used for the conclave of the Northern Mages. The Barranco de Fataga area on Gran Canaria island was used for some scenes of arid landscapes. When Ciri was traveling in the desert, the actress was actually in the Natural Dune Reserve of Maspalomas on Gran Canaria. Most of episode six was filmed on La Palma island.
Filming of the first season concluded in Ogrodzieniec Castle in Poland. The ruins of this medieval castle, dating from the 1300s, 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. Filming for the first season wrapped in May 2019.
Filming for the second season began in London in early 2020, but was halted for two weeks in March due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic and actor Kristofer Hivju's confirmation that he tested positive for COVID-19. Then, in May 2020, film and television productions that were filming in the U.K. were given permission to resume filming, including season two of The Witcher. The show resumed pre-production in July and officially resumed filming on August 12, 2020, with filming for the second season expected to extend into early 2021. On November 7, 2020, production was halted again after a number of crew members had tested positive for COVID-19. Production resumed two weeks later on November 24th, 2020.
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. Users have created mods to patch the song into the video game adaptions of The Witcher. All violin solos, for the entire series, were performed by Lindsay Deutsch.
Netflix released the first teaser for the series at San Diego Comic-Con on July 19, 2019. The first full trailer was revealed at Lucca Comics & Games on October 31, 2019. Netflix released a final trailer on December 12, 2019. On August 26, 2020 a making-of about the first season of the show titled Making The Witcher was released on Netflix. On September 2, 2020 the making-of series The Witcher: A Look Inside the Episodes premiered on Netflix.
The first season received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised the production values, action sequences, soundtrack, and Cavill's performance; criticism was mainly focused on the pacing and the lack of world-building. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 67% approval rating for the first season, with an average rating of 6.21/10, based on 88 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." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the season a score of 53 out of 100 based on 17 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
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.", 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." Conversely, Entertainment Weekly critic Darren Franich said, "my destiny is to never watch this borefest ever again", awarding the first season an F rating. Franich drew criticism when he confessed to watching only the first, second, and fifth episodes.
Author Andrzej Sapkowski, commenting favorably on the show, stated, "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."
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. 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." On December 31, 2019, Parrot Analytics reported that The Witcher became the most-in-demand TV series in the world, across all platforms.
On December 30, 2019, Netflix issued a number of official lists, including the Most Popular TV Shows of 2019. The series was among the most viewed in the U.S. market, where The Witcher was ranked second among series. On January 21, 2020, Netflix announced that the first season had been viewed by over 76 million viewers on its service within its first month of release. Netflix had recently changed its viewership metric, from 70% of an episode under the previous metric, down to two minutes under the new metric. The new metric gives viewing figures 35% higher on average than the previous one. The 76 million views in its first month based on the new metric (at least two minutes or more) is the largest for a Netflix series launch since the introduction of the new viewership metric.
In January 2020, Netflix announced an animated spin-off film titled The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf focusing on the origin story of Geralt's mentor and fellow witcher Vesemir. Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and Beau DeMayo are working on the film, with production by Studio Mir.
A live-action prequel limited series, The Witcher: Blood Origin was announced by Netflix in July 2020, set 1200 years before Geralt's time to show the origin of the Witchers. The prequel is also being developed by Hissrich. She will executive produce and Declan de Barra will showrun.
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