Netflix has recently announced they’ll be creating a show based on The Witcher franchise. The Expanse’s Sean Daniel and Jason Brown will be taking on executive production duties and Oscar nominee (as well as BAFTA winner) Tomek Baginski will be directing. This has the people here at Grimdark Magazine super-excited and with good reason since The Witcher franchise may well be the biggest grimdark show since Game of Thrones.
It’s certainly a year for unexpected announcements in gritty fantasy programs being brought to screen with the announced spin-offs for Game of Thrones as well as the fact Eliza Dushku will be playing the role of Lady in an adaptation of The Black Company. Yet, it is the work of Andrjez Sapkowski which has the potential of achieving the most new market penetration.
A large part of this has to do with the success of The Witcher games with over 25 million copies having been sold since the first was released in 2007. The games are, in fact, sequels to Andrjez Sapkowski’s series and pick up the story after its infamous downer ending. The books have also finally been translated and released into English markets by Orbit. From The Last Wish to The Tower of the Swallow, they contain a series of dark gritty stories about monster hunter Geralt and his adopted daughter, Ciri.
But why are we excited about them? What separates The Witcher from others like it? The first and most important thing is it’s just damn good. Geralt’s adventures never would have enraptured readers in Poland and so many gamers if not for the fact they were so compelling. The story of a lone anti-hero in a world full of violence, vice, hypocrisy, and cruelty – Geralt is one of the lone voices of reason and even that is from a cynical mercenary bent. He’ll do anything for his companions and the occasional wounded soul but that is the extent of his charity. He’s explicitly not a hero as every time he tries to change the world, it ends up blowing up badly in his face.
The Witcher is also a much easier series for fans to get into than some of its competitors. Focusing on a single character with a small supporting cast, the novels are stories which almost anyone can jump onto. As amazing as A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones is, they can be overwhelming with the dozens of major Houses and factions which are always competing with one another. The deep personal interactions between characters are praiseworthy with Geralt’s troubled relationship with Yennefer and his daughter having many complex layers that will appeal to a broad audience.
Another appeal is the fact the series is being done by one of the few networks which has shown it’s willing to show dark material in all of its nasty glory. The Marvel Netflix series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist) are easily the grimmest handling of Disney’s otherwise light and funny fair. The Witcher is a series which deals with racial tensions, genocide, human experimentation, sexuality, cycles of revenge, and even failed relationships. The Witchers, themselves, are created by taking children and mutilating them in alchemical rituals with the majority dying–Netflix won’t shy away from that and that’s good.
There’s still some questions fans of the franchise need answered before they can make a complete judgment: who will be playing Geralt, will this be an adaptation of the books or an original universe, and how dark will they go? Nevertheless, I’m cautiously optimistic about this work due to everything we’ve heard so far. But for me? The best of all elements? The fact I won’t have to wait to watch the entire season when it comes out. It will be released all at once.