A bit of background for those of you who are not as nerdy as I am. The Witcher is a series of books by Poland’s answer to JRR Tolkien, Andrzej Sapkowski. They focus mostly on the adventures of a monster hunter called Geralt of Rivia in a dark fantasy world. It’s a bit like Game of Thrones but with the boring political bits cut out and the magic and monsters wacked up to eleven.
The books were adapted into a series of video games the most recent of which, Wild hunt, won game of the year when it came out in 2015 and is as far as I’m concerned one of the greatest games ever made.
Well it has recently been announced that Witcher is going to get its own Netflix show to air in 2020, with eight hour long episodes in the first season. This gives it a chance to win over audiences who will be looking to fill the void left in their lives by the ending of the final season of Game of Thrones.
A Witcher TV show stands to do well with an audience who enjoy to Game of Thrones dark plot lines and resistance to a clear good triumphing over evil narrative. Sapkowski’s stories confront the reader with characters and plots that occupy a moral grey area where the “heroes” of the story refuse to comply with the usual ideals of good and evil. There are no clear good guys but the flaws of the protagonists are what make them believable and sympathetic. They manage to avoid the trap that most fantasy characters fall into of being bland stereotypes with villains that murder puppies for fun just to show they’re evil and good guys who are boring cardboard cut outs that can do no wrong with character flaws like caring to much or being to honourable.
The books are filled with the same dark realism as Game of Thrones, rape, torture and graphic violence are common, although flashed of comedy do shine through and save the audience from giving up on the world entirely. A strong focus on the horror and pointlessness of war runs through the work making it darker and more realistic as the focus is moved away from lords in castles towards the everyday people who make up the majority of the cast of the Witcher.
Any adaptation of the Witcher has the added advantage over Game of Thrones that it does not have to add gratuitous scenes of sex or violence to distract audiences from the fact that they are really watching a medieval version of House of Cards. The Witcher eschews political manoeuvring in favour of engaging storylines, sex, violence and monsters that look like they belong on the cover of a heavy metal album.
There is so much potential for this show to be amazing but here’s what worries me. The executive producer, Lauren Hissrich who has worked on Marvels Defenders and Daredevil, is being coy about whether the show is going to be a faithful adaptation of the books.
In general I am not a fan of adaptations. This is partly because adaptations of books I enjoy have generally been crap (I’m looking at you Eragon 2006). But also because I am awful at watching them, I find myself obsessing over where the show skips over or changes something from the book this makes it impossible for me to enjoy it.
There is so much space in a Witcher adaptation for the show to miss what makes both the books and the video games stand out and end up making a cash grabbing Game of Thrones rip off instead.