Back on Halloween, Netflix posted a screen test (hair and makeup) for Henry Cavill, the star of the streaming service’s new show, ‘The Witcher.’ The video received mixed reviews from fans of the video games and of the books, written by Andrzej Sapkowski. As Geralt of Rivia, the titular character in the show, fans were maybe expecting a little more out of the screen test. This, of course, was right before the announcement of a bulk of the Witcher casting.
All that needs to be said about it is this – it was a screen test. I’m sure things will look better when the show actually premieres on Netflix, sometime in 2019. The important thing, which few folks have discussed, is the overall casting and what stories we can expect to see in the show.
Get your first look at Henry Cavill in The Witcher! pic.twitter.com/1O2eWS1MkP
— Netflix US (@netflix) October 31, 2018
Yes, there are those complaining about the casting choices. Anya Chalotra is set to play Yennefer, Geralt’s on again, off again love interest. “The age difference between her and Cavill is too great!” fans have screamed. For the record, Chalotra is 22, while Cavill is 35.
The biggest complaints, however, come from the casting of Anna Shaffer as Triss Merigold and Mimi Ndiweni as Fringilla Vigo. Whereas Triss is a fair-skinned redhead in the books and video games, Shaffer is an actress of color. Same goes for Ndiweni, who’s Fringilla is described as having short, black hair, and green eyes. She’s also the second cousin of Anna Henrietta, the Duchess of Toussaint, but I don’t know if we’ll see that in the show.
All of this aside – and, let’s be honest, adding people of color to a mostly monochrome series isn’t a bad thing at all – the real focus should be on the overall casting itself. Since Netflix and showrunner Lauren Schmidt have been very closed lip about what we can expect in the eight episodes of the first season, all fans have had to go on is Schmidt’s insistence that the show will follow the books.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at which characters are set to be in the show and what stories we can expect to see because of it. If you want to be surprised, the following is very spoiler-heavy, so you’ve been warned.
Butcher of Blaviken
Right out of the gate, this is an important story for us to see, and with the casting of Millie Brady as Renfri and Lars Mikkelsen as Stregobor, it definitely looks like we’re going to see it.
You might be aware that Geralt is often called the Butcher of Blaviken, but you might not know why. This story is the origin story of that undeserved moniker. In Sapkowski’s second book of Witcher short stories (which should be read first, but I won’t get into that) there is a short story called ‘The Lesser Evil.’
Geralt has stopped in Blaviken hoping to claim a reward for killing a monster. No one wants it, so the mayor tells him the new sorcerer in town might be interested. (For the record, Geralt has a keen dislike of most sorcerers.) Turns out, the new sorcerer is Stregobor, a sorcerer Geralt knows quite well. Stregobor is in hiding from Renfri, a young woman – and former princess – who is out for revenge after she was tossed out of her kingdom when Stregobor told her stepmother that Renfri was cursed.
Many things happen to Renfri as she grows up – none of them good – but she becomes a total badass in her own right. Stregobor begs Geralt to kill her, which he refuses. In town, Geralt meets Refri and her band of hired thugs. Renfri tells Geralt that if he kills the sorcerer, they would leave the town. Again, Geralt refuses.
I don’t want to give it all away, but suffice it to say things the next day did not go smoothly. You’ll have to either read the short story or wait until the show to find out what happens.
Meeting the Elves
In the books and video games, most non-humans are considered second-class citizens, or worse. This goes doubly so for elves. While some elves and half elves want to live in harmony with humans, a majority want to take vengeance for what they considered to be the taking and raping of their lands by the humans.
Since we know Amit Shah has been cast as Torque, Natasha Culzac as Toruviel, and Tom Canton as Filavandrel, we can safely assume we’re going to see the story ‘The Edge of the World,’ which is another short story in ‘The Last Wish.’
Geralt and Jaskier (played by Joey Batey) stop in Lower Posada looking for work. Turns out, a local elder says there’s some sort of devil in the fields causing mischief. The elder and others in the room beg Geralt not to kill the devil, just scare it off. Of course, all kinds of red flags are raised, especially by Jaskier.
After searching the fields, they run across a sylvan (a mischievous creature that sort of looks like a devil thanks to its horns) who begins to pelt Geralt and Jaskier with iron balls. Hard. Geralt, of course, has had enough. The next day, after he and the sylvan, named Torque, begin to fight, both Jaskier and Geralt are surprisingly knocked unconscious.
When they wake up, they are tied with rope and surrounded by elves. Toruviel takes great pleasure in torturing Geralt and Jaskier. At one point, Toruviel breaks Jakier’s lute, which sends him into a fit of despair.
Their leader, Filavandrel, arrives and, after much talking, decides they have to kill Geralt and Jaskier. Torque begs for their lives, but is rebuked. Before they are shot by arrows, however, they are stopped by the Queen of the Fields. All of the elves drop their weapons and kneel before her. She communicates to Filavandrel without speaking, telling him to let Geralt and Jaskier go, much to Filavandrel and Toruviel’s chagrin.
For the rest of the story, again, you’re going to have to either read the story or watch the show.
The Law of Surprise
Even though it’s called ‘The Witcher’ series, the fact is the books really are about Ciri, not Geralt, as she is the Child of the Elder Blood. How, though, did Geralt become Ciri’s ‘destiny’ and vice versa? Fortunately, the show’s casting lets us know we’ll see exactly how it happened.
Ciri, played by Freya Allan, is the daughter of Pavetta, who is the daughter of Queen Calanthe (played by Jodhi May), the proud “Lioness of Cintra.” For Pavetta’s 15th birthday, Calanthe called upon Geralt to attend, just in case something was to happen. Geralt is no fool, but Calanthe’s wit and wisdom are as sharp as her tongue.
Since a number of suitors would be at the party, Calanthe made sure Geralt dressed the part of a nobleman and gave him the name Lord Ravix of Fourhorn, just to keep up appearances. Eist Tuirseach, played by Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, of Skellige arrives at the party with a delegation of Skelligers, including a young Crach an Craite, the musician Draig Bon-Dhu, and the druid Mousesack (or Ermion, if you’ve played the games), who is played by Adam Levy.
During the feast, Pavetta comes down from her room and joins her mother at the dais. It’s about this time that an uninvited knight shows up, claiming that he alone has the right to Pavetta’s hand in marriage. Calanthe knew this, which is why she brought in Geralt. For the good of Cintra, it’s important that Pavetta marry someone from Skellige. The knight, Duny, has other plans.
He tells everyone in the room the story of how he saved Calanthe’s husband – who would die later on – and that the king promised Duny anything. Duny invoked the Law of Surprise, in this case, “What you find at home yet don’t expect.” When King Roegner arrived home, he found that Calanthe was pregnant with Pavetta. By all rights, according to Duny, Pavetta’s hand belonged to him before she was even born.
There’s one small problem here, though, as Duny is cursed. While he takes a human form every night, during the day, he looks more like a hedgehog. To protect against people knowing this, he wears a helmet that covers his face. Again, Calanthe knows this, trying to get him to take off his helmet, which he refuses, until the clock strikes midnight.
Calanthe sets it up so the town clock strikes midnight at 11 p.m., thereby tricking Duny into taking off his helmet. As expected, everyone in the room is aghast. Calanthe demands that the Law of Surprise be revoked, and people start to attack Duny. Before this began, Mousesack had been silently communicating with Geralt using crumble on the table.
Everyone is even more surprised, however, when ‘The Force’ (not in a Star Wars way) erupts out of Pavetta, coming close to destroying the tower. Pavetta, it seems, also has the Elder Blood flowing through her.
I’m not going to spoil it, because you really should read the story to find out how everything happened, especially once everything is over and you find out how Ciri became Geralt’s destiny.
Witcher Casting: Missing in Action
We see a good chunk of the cast has been filled, but there are several major characters who either haven’t yet been cast or just haven’t been announced. As mentioned above, Crach, Duny, and Pavetta have not been cast. We also haven’t seen anyone cast as the other witchers – Vesemir, Lambert, or Eskel, although we might not see them in the first season. For what it’s worth, Mark Hamill has gone on record saying he’d love to play Vesemir.
There are, however, other characters who have been cast, such as Royce Pierreson as Istredd, that will lead to other interesting stories, but I’m not going to go into them. For Istredd’s relevance, be sure to read the short story ‘A Shard of Ice,’ in the book ‘Sword of Destiny.’
Hopefully, more casting news will be released when we get closer to the show premiering. Until then, be sure to read the books to get a better understanding of what we’re likely to see in the coming season.