Netflix's The Witcher: Critics praise the first episodes

CNET Technology 5 days ago

Netflix's adaptation of the fantasy book series The Witcher is almost here. The popular novels have already been adapted into a video game series and comic books, but some people have described the upcoming show as Netflix's answer to Game of Thrones.  

The Witcher tells the story of Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter who kills mythical beasts for money. He's cynical and pragmatic, but Geralt does reluctantly help those in need as he travels the fictional land of The Continent. 

It's still weeks away from its premiere, but The Witcher received early praise from critics. Some received screeners for the show, and one critic called what he's seen so far a "masterful job." 

"I'll admit, as a huge fan of the books, I was a little worried, but Lauren S. Hissrichm (showrunner) has done a masterful job telling this story," said Will Franklin on Nov. 23. "It also helps that the cast is amazing! And Henry Cavill, just ... wow."

Multiple critics also praised the show's sword fighting. A tweet from the Whispers of Oxenfurt: A Witcher Podcast Twitter account says the fight scenes make Game of Thrones look "two drunks fighting outside a bar." Another critic said it had the best sword fighting he's ever seen

Here's everything you need to know about the show. (Read: The Witcher en español.)

When's the release date?

The show will stream starting Dec. 20, according to the latest trailer, released on Oct. 31.

On Sept. 11, Witcher fansite Redandian Intelligence reported that it had found deleted tweets from Netflix's Netherlands Twitter account that listed the show's premiere as 97 days away, which would've been Dec. 17 -- not so far off. A Netflix spokesperson told Video Game Chronicles on Sept. 13 that the posts were made in error and that the launch date hadn't been confirmed. 

The new trailer came during the Lucca Comics and Games convention in Lucca, Italy, on Oct. 31. The con had multiple panels for the show, featuring the author of the books, Andrzej Sapkowski; showrunner Lauren Hissrich; Anya Chalotra, who plays Yennefer; and Freya Allan, who plays Ciri. 

Hissrich and executive producer Tomasz Baginski broke down the trailer in a video uploaded to the Netflix Italian YouTube channel on Nov. 12. 

The two start off explaining one of the big themes of the show, which is rebirth. They also confirmed that Cavill does all of his stunts and swordplay. One reveal made in this video is the appearance of Geralt's bard friend, Jaskier, who was called Dandelion in the US. 

Production of the first season officially ended in April, according to social media posts from actor Adam Levy, who plays Mousesack, and director Charlotte Brändström.

In May 2017, Netflix announced it was adapting the books into a series. Hissrich, the showrunner, was a producer for Daredevil and Marvel's The Defenders

The show is less than a month away from its premiere, and Netflix revealed the episode names on Nov. 22 along with a short description for each. (And yes, the list rhymes!)

Episode 1: "The End's Beginning" -- A monster slain, a butcher named.
Episode 2: "Four Marks" -- We look at a sorceress's earlier days.
Episode 3: "Betrayer Moon" -- A picky eater, a family shamed.
Episode 4: "Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials" -- The Law of Surprise is how one repays.
Episode 5: "Bottled Appetites" -- A fateful meeting, a bard is maimed.
Episode 6: "Rare Species" -- The hunt for a dragon is underway.
Episode 7: "Before A Fall" -- A return to before a kingdom is flamed.
Episode 8: "Much More" -- The Witcher Family, as you all like to say.

Before the first season of the Witcher even starts, Netflix ordered a second season of the show. Netflix tweeted about the series renewal news on Nov. 13, which is still well over a month before the premiere. 

Who's acting in the series?

Taking the lead role of Geralt of Rivia is Superman himself, Henry Cavill. The actor has said he's a fan of the novels and the video game series, in particular, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. He told IGN in August 2018, when he was promoting Mission Impossible: Fallout, how much he wanted the role. He was picked for the job the following month.

In the October issue of French magazine Premiere, Cavill talked about his experience on the set and his love for the franchise. A Reddit user translated the interview in which the lead actor talked about how much he loved wearing the costume and wig while on set. He also described how he lived and breathed the Witcher universe before he was cast as the lead and that he already prepared for the role long before the show was even announced. 

A new image of Cavill in the title role appeared on Twitter Sept. 28. 

The other principal actors in the series are Freya Allan (Into the Badlands) as Ciri and Anya Chalotra (The ABC Murders, Wanderlust) as Yennefer. Ciri is the young princess of Cintra, one of the kingdoms in the world of The Witcher, and Yennefer is a sorceress who is Geralt's love interest and mother of Ciri. 

Another important role cast for the show is Roach, Geralt's horse and traveling companion, who's a favorite among fans. 

Hissrich, in an interview with Spanish video game magazine Hobby Consolas, said Cavill personally picked out his horse for the show and the two have a "humorous relationship." 

Some of the cast will speak a new language created by David J. Peterson. He's known for creating the Dothraki and Valyrian languages in Game of Thrones

A new set of shots of the characters appeared in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Oct. 23. The images show more of Cavill as Geralt, along with a new image of Yennefer. There's also a shot of what appears to be a monster trying to hold a woman's hand. 

Who's The Witcher?

Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski wrote the first book featuring Geralt in 1992, with the English title Sword of Destiny. Both it and the follow-up, The Last Wish, were a series of short stories featuring the protagonist. Sapkowski then went on to write the five-book saga about Geralt and Ciri. 

In the books, Geralt's job is that of a professional monster hunter known as a witcher. He was trained for the job as a young child and was experimented on, which turned his skin and hair white and gave him superhuman strength. Geralt is also skilled in magic and sword fighting. 

In his travels, Geralt has killed all sorts of monsters for the right price. He's also showed compassion for those in need of someone with his skills. 

As for the plot of the show, there's minimal info outside of the trailer. A portion of the casting script was leaked on Reddit but contains no plot spoilers. Hissrich tweeted in July that the goal for the end of the season is to make viewers cry. 

Although the series isn't adapting the Witcher video games, the stories told in the games are considered faithful stories of The Witcher universe. The Witcher games are available on the PC, Xbox One, PS4 and a recently released Nintendo Switch version of The Witcher 3

Originally published Sept. 6 and updated as new information is revealed.

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