For more than a year now, readers and gamers have been closely following progress on the live-action adaptation of The Witcher, eager to see how all the ideas and creative choices that showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich revealed during development turned out. Now, after debuting at the Lucca Comics & Games event in Italy, the first full trailer for Netflix's upcoming series has arrived.
There's a lot of action packed into the two minutes of footage. While some of it touches on elements the teaser had already revealed, such as the striga, most of it flaunts different aspects of author Andrzej Sapkowski's fantasy world -- complex characters, magic, monsters, destiny and more. Let's break down the most important parts of the trailer for both longtime fans, giddy with excitement, and newcomers whose interest has hopefully been piqued by the thought of a new, gripping fantasy series.
The Life of a Witcher
As with all good trailers, this one establishes the basics of The Witcher's world in the first few seconds, thanks in part to an accompanying monologue from the sorceress, Yennefer of Vengerberg. We see a chamber of armored corpses, likely victims of the striga; flashes of Henry Cavill's Geralt in action with his steel sword, the sprawling landscapes of the Continent and more -- everything that fills the life of a witcher.
"I've heard tales of your kind, witcher," Yennefer says. "You're a mutant, created by magic, roaming the Continent hunting monsters for a price." The trailer continues to showcase the views of sorceresses, peasants and more on witchers, making clear that, in the eyes of many, witchers are just as monstrous as the beasts they kill.
For a split second, we see Geralt wandering the countryside atop his horse Roach, accompanied by a man dressed in purple, and with a lute strapped to his shoulder. It is the unmistakable outfit and instrument of Geralt's friend, the bard Dandelion, known throughout the Continent for his poems, his music, his philosophies and occasionally exaggerated adventures.
The novels show Dandelion to a be one of the central guiding figures in Geralt's life. Though he can be eccentric at times, he often proves himself to be profoundly insightful, which is usually what Geralt needs. Dandelion is being played by British actor Joey Batey, who has also written music for the show. The character has been notably absent from the show's marketing and it seems that that will continue to be the case until The Witcher is released on Netflix.
A Great Sign
A witcher is highly skilled with blades, but when the sword fails, a witcher is also armed with a limited knowledge of magic in the form of signs. There are several signs, each enabling the witcher to perform a variety of feats. Aard, for example, is a spell that emits a brief but forceful telekinetic blast. Fans have been looking forward to seeing these signs in action and the trailer gives us just that.
We see Geralt facing off against a number of armed thugs. Outnumbered, he holds out three fingers and releases a telekinetic blast that staggers his shielded opponents. Since the series will follow the novels closely, it's likely to be a while before we see the entire range of signs being used, which might disappoint fans who were introduced to The Witcher through the video games.
Seeing as how The Witcher follows a professional monster hunter, audiences can expect to see a small number of monsters. The teaser trailer already teased the striga and insect-like kikimora. This trailer introduces a ghoul-like creature, scavenging the remains of a campsite in the middle of a dark forest. By now, audiences will have seen that there are numerous types of monsters plaguing the Continent, which is exactly why peasants and royalty alike turn to witchers, who are specially trained to handle all kinds of monsters and cursed beings.
It's worth mentioning that, just as these monsters seem to be secondary to the other features of the trailer, the show is not likely to be filled with new types of creatures for each episode. Even in the novels, Geralt seldom encounters monsters. Monsters are exciting, but magical creatures aren't really what The Witcher is about.
The Witcher and the Sorceress
Much like the teaser, the trailer showcases Yennefer and Geralt in the middle of what looks like a medieval orgy. This peculiar event is likely the Beltane Ball from the short story "Something More" in Sword of Destiny, where the witcher and Yen see something of a turning point in their tumultuous relationship. This doesn't appear to be the case in the upcoming series.
It's hinted that this is Yennefer and Geralt's first encounter, which is possibly why Yennefer says, "I thought you'd have fangs, or horns or something." It could be the case that this is just playful teasing. It could also be a sign of how the show might have had to condense this particular relationship in order to fit it into an eight-episode series.
Geralt of Rivia
This time around, fans can get a better look at Henry Cavill as the titular monster hunter, not just in elaborate fight sequences, but as the ponderous stoic that Sapkowski wrote, facing a hostile world. We see him enduring the hatred and fear of the common people in the trailer, and hear him explaining why he doesn't simply use his strengths to kill them, "because then I am what they say I am."
He's a warrior, but there's another side to him that the trailer highlights. Andrzej Sapkowski is known among his readership for his dry sense of humor. It's a quality that he seems to lend to several characters in the Witcher novels. The upcoming Netflix series appears to have captured that perfectly. Henry Cavill delivers sarcastic comments with the kind of deadpan expression that fans would expect from Geralt of Rivia. It certainly helps with world-building, as -- in the novels -- there is a widespread belief on the Continent that witchers feel no emotion.
Evil is Evil...
Showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich has made it clear that the upcoming Netflix series will take nothing from the video games and based solely on the novels. That being said, because the video games also adhere to the myth and history of its world and characters as presented in the novels, it's only natural that they should share some similarities. Fans of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are likely to recognize Geralt's monologue in the trailer.
"Evil is evil," he says. "Lesser. Greater. Middling. It's all the same." This was taken directly from Geralt's speech to the wizard Stregobor in the short story "Lesser Evil" in The Last Wish, a key story in the Witcher saga. A version of it also appears in the "Killing Monsters" trailer for Wild Hunt, which is how a significant portion of the fanbase is sure to recognize it. Upon release of the series, there is no doubt that some fans will start drawing comparisons.
Yennefer of Vengerberg
The sorceress is an integral part of The Witcher, not simply because Andrzej Sapkowski wrote her that way, but because Hissrich has reportedly made an effort to ensure that the importance of her role in the overarching story is not lost. What this means is that book readers are likely to find a few surprises throughout the show, some of which are hinted at in the trailer.
We see Yennefer accompanied by a young woman with a baby, once in a grimy town and again in the middle of a desert, being pursued by soldiers. Actress Isobel Laidler, who appears in this shot, was reported to have been cast as Queen Kalis of Lyria. The character doesn't appear in any of the novels, causing speculation that the upcoming series will feature a storyline involving Yennefer that will explore the sorceress' past. Yen's general character, as well as footage from SDCC and other reports, indicate that this particular story can only end in tragedy.
Last, but not least, we have Ciri -- the powerful child of destiny. A major theme in the novels is how inescapable destiny tends to be. No matter how much Geralt attempts to resist it, as he clearly tries to do in the trailer, he finds that his journey is entwined with Ciri's.
That is almost trivial when compared to the painful struggles that Ciri endures over the course of the novels -- everything from an arranged marriage to being hunted by powerful forces. As the trailer shows us multiple times, she is often forced to endure it all alone. Hissrich has explained that she intends for the series to focus on Ciri just as much as it does Geralt and Yennefer, which makes sense, considering that a large portion of the novel series is told from Ciri's perspective.
The Witcher stars Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, Anya Chalotra as Yennefer of Vengerberg, Freya Allan as Ciri and Joey Batey as Jaskier. The series will be available to stream on Netflix beginning Dec. 20.