Game of Thrones is over, and the playing field is wide open for a new fantasy IP to sweep audiences away to a world of heroes, monsters and dragons. Netflix is betting on The Witcher to fill that void. Based on the bestselling Polish book series by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher tells the story of Geralt of Rivia: a monster-hunter-for-hire who becomes embroiled in a war to decide the fate of the Northern Kingdoms. And on Dec. 20, it'll become Netflix's latest big-budget streaming series.
Some fans know the Witcher through the books; others, through the wildly popular series of video games. But whether you've devoured every word ever written about Geralt, or are simply looking for a new series to fill the Daenerys-shaped hole in your heart, the Witcher seems well worth checking out. Here's everything about we know about The Witcher on Netflix so far.
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The Witcher Netflix release date
Those who are eagerly awaiting The Witcher won't have to wait for too much longer. The series will debut on Dec. 20 on Netflix ($9 – 16 per month), and Season 1 will contain eight episodes. If The Witcher is anything like Netflix's other original drama series, each episode will probably be a little less than an hour long. The whole season should also debut at once, as Netflix is not usually keen on adhering to a more traditional TV schedule.
Whether we see any additional seasons will largely depend on how well the first season performs. But there's some indication that writing for Season 2 is already underway. If the series follows the books closely, there's easily enough material to fill about eight seasons. (Based on two short story collections and six novels.)
The Witcher Netflix trailer
There have been two Witcher trailers so far: a short teaser trailer and a slightly longer, much more detailed full trailer. Here's the teaser, from July 19, 2019:
Here's the longer trailer, from October 31, 2019:
If you've read the books, you can break down the trailer scene by scene, and try to place all the familiar lines of dialogue. Otherwise, here's the elevator pitch: Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher, who hunts monsters for money. He crosses paths with a beautiful sorceress named Yennefer and a young princess named Cirilla. As the story progresses, Geralt does battle with both monsters and men, questioning his own morality and his role in the world as he goes. There's a lot of atmospheric world-building, a fair amount of sword-fighting and a little bit of casual nudity, because that's just how the Witcher rolls.
The Witcher Netflix cast
If you're on the fence about The Witcher, consider this: Henry Cavill decided he'd rather be Geralt of Rivia than Superman. The British actor who played America's foremost superhero in Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League stepped down from his DC role and signed on with The Witcher series instead. Those who criticized Cavill's muted performance in the Superman films might find that his sardonic wit and emotional indifference fit Geralt a little better.
Anya Chalotra from Wanderlust and Sherwood will take on the role of Yennefer: the enigmatic sorceress who falls in love with Geralt. (Whether it's by her own will or due to a magic spell is a source of contention for the entire book series.) Freya Allen will make her debut in a starring role as Princess Ciri. Joey Batey, who's made a name for himself in a variety of British TV series, will play Jaskier — better known to Witcher video game fans as Dandelion the bard.
Aside from Cavill, no one in the main cast is a huge star, but Lars Mikkelsen (Grand Admiral Thrawn from Star Wars Rebels) will play Stregobor the wizard, Anna Shaffer (Romilda Vane in the Harry Potter films) will play Triss the enchantress and MyAnna Buring (Tanya in the Twilight films) will play Tissaia the sorceress. It's a pretty promising cast.
The Witcher Netflix story
Since The Witcher on Netflix is based on Sapkowski's novels, I don't want to potentially spoil it with a recap of what happened in the books. However, here's a very brief setup, if you're wondering whether The Witcher is up your alley:
Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher in the kingdom of Temeria. Witchers are mutants: warriors who trade their sexual fertility for catlike reflexes, magical hexes and unnaturally long lifespans. In theory, Witchers also lose all of their human emotions; in practice, the emotions don't go away quite so completely, and actually cause quite a bit of trouble as the series progresses.
After a few adventures in which Geralt faces off against various monsters and realizes that most morality comes in shades of gray, the southern Empire of Nilfgaard declares war upon the Northern Realms. At the center of the conflict is the preteen Princess Cirilla of Cintra, who represents a lineage that would be convenient for the Nilfgaardians to wipe out. Geralt feels torn between his nomadic calling and his desire to protect the young princess.
Geralt also crosses paths with a variety of sorcerers and sorceresses: powerful magic users who secretly wield much of the political power in the Continent. Magic users can live for centuries, and tend to see themselves as better than the average citizens — and even the rulers — of the realms they nominally serve. Some are good; some are evil; most are at least a little bit selfish and vain.
That's pretty much all you need to know to enjoy The Witcher. If you choose to read the books before the show begins, start with The Last Wish, and move onto The Sword of Destiny. Season 1, at least, is unlikely to get too far past the ending of the latter book.