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Ever since HBO’s Game of Thrones went off the air, pop culture has faced down a void of medieval magic and warfare. It’s one that could very well be filled in a big way soon, as Netflix’s The Witcher looks to be a show poised to embrace similar genre elements, but with its own brand of swords, sorcery, and seduction. But could it truly be the heir to the fantasy throne that George R.R. Martin’s famed series left behind?
By taking a look at the various components of both The Witcher and Game of Thrones, we’ll be able to get a better look at how the two series stack up against each other. In those results lies the answer to whether or not Westeros can possibly be overtaken by the world created for the novels that make up author Andrzej Sapkowski’s completed epic, which itself spawned a major video game franchise.
Spells will be cast, fates will be intertwined, and the audience will hopefully be entertained. Now let’s see just how good The Witcher's odds are for becoming the next Game of Thrones.
The Political Intrigue
The Witcher saga has a historical background that centers on a mysterious continental empire that was originally founded by elves, then fought over by dwarves and elves, and ultimately conquered by humans. Over the span of several millennia, the world was forged into the shape that it is seen by time Sapkowski’s series takes place, leading a lush world of discovery and intrigue.
Naturally, with a huge world of creatures and humans duking it out, Game of Thrones comparisons aren’t hard to draw. Similar to the directional rivalry on the legendary HBO series, The Witcher has two warring factions: the Nilfgaard Empire of the south and their opposite number, the Northern Kingdoms.
While the fighting is confined to two major factions of humans, there are still plenty of interesting royals, shady assassins, and magical folk like Henry Cavill’s Geralt to keep things from getting stereotypical. If you’re a fan of Castle Black and the Night’s Watch, you’ll likely love how Geralt and his fellow Witchers play into the story, as their stronghold Kaer Morhen plays a very similar large-scale role in this universe.
The Interesting Characters
Speaking of Geralt, there are quite a few rather interesting parties in The Witcher universe. Henry Cavill’s stunt-heavy lead in particular stands out as one of the strongest witchers in the world, all thanks to some superhuman abilities he’d gained during his training earlier in life. Now a badass monster-hunter in the realm of The Witcher, Geralt is pretty much the (not-bearded-yet) face of the franchise at large.
Of course, with a world as expansive as this, there are plenty of other character types involved to capture everyone's attention. Take the innuendo-loving bards roaming about, such as a character known as Dandelion, and sarcastic sorceresses such as Geralt’s pretty dark soul mate Yennefer of Vengerberg (played by Wanderlust's Anya Chalotra). Not to mention a couple of drunken barons to contest with, as well.
Those archetypes should sound like some of those more memorable characters from Game of Thrones; otherwise, we were probably watched the wrong show for eight seasons. Let’s just hope that Yennefer doesn’t turn out to be Geralt’s aunt in a Jon-and-Dany-esque situation, although The Witcher universe does have some similarly inclined relationships in its overarching world, for those down with such things.
The Mythical Monsters
During the eight years of Game of Thrones history being told on HBO, fans got to see some interesting creatures and monsters, but the series always seemed to fall shy of the mark in terms of properly expanding on those aspects. Thrones' narratives once spoke of sorcery, White Walkers, dragons, and direwolves with great reverence, but it seemed as if those subjects weren’t quite as interesting to the showrunners as the series hit its latter season.
In the saga of The Witcher, however, the world of magical creatures is definitely in play from beginning to end. While humans are on the top of the food chain, there are still entities like ghosts, trolls, and succubae out there to trip up the affairs of all involved. Not to mention that the continent the series takes place on was originally settled by elves, who fought dwarves for it. So you’ve got the basic roll call when it comes to beasties and oddballs in this menagerie.
If that’s not enough for you, did we mention there’s a gigantic swamp spider in The Witcher? The teaser trailer from Netflix sure referenced it, with a sneaky little tease for that creature in at the end. It’s a safe bet that if you’re into mythical monsters making life hard for one another, The Witcher more than has you covered. Speaking of...
The Brutal Battles
Mythical monsters and interesting human characters are definitely common factors between HBO’s Game of Thrones and Netflix’s The Witcher. But another major factor that links the two is one of the great staples of all fantasy literature: brutal battles that sport really cool names, with even cooler nicknames assigned to characters as a result of their participation. (Super-specific a factor thought it may be.)
Sometimes the nicknames don’t even need a major conflict behind them, just one particularly badassed feat of strength. Protagonist Geralt would know all about that, as he earned the name “The Butcher of Blaviken” simply by taking on a doomed gang that was planning to hold the village of Blaviken hostage. That said, Geralt's was a preemptive move, so the town shunned him as a thug and gave him his new nickname. It's still a cool one, though.
Most importantly, much as Game of Thrones had a war going in its seven kingdoms, there’s a mega-conflict raging between the Nilfgaard Empire and the Northern Kingdoms through the course of The Witcher series. With at least one major war between the opposing factions going down in the past, things feel like they’re leaning towards a new skirmish of that very same sort. One that could undoubtedly inspire several seasons of battles before a resolution is reached.
Can The Witcher Truly Compete With Game Of Thrones?
While there’s certainly an overlap between The Witcher and Game of Thrones on the surface level, it’s these deeper qualities that really draw the parallels between the two brands in great detail. In avoiding spoiler territory, everything we’ve mentioned here only scratches the surface, since there are several books, stories and video games that tell the entire tale of The Witcher for all to experience.
A big difference between these properties is that The Witcher is arguably more popular to mass audiences in its video game incarnation than in the printed word. Also unlike Game of Thrones, The Witcher big-budget series isn’t the title's first adaptation, as there has already been a 2001 film and a 2002 TV adaptation. Fun fact: author Andrzej Sapkowski totally disowned both.
After it's all boiled down, the huge question that Netflix is banking on is, “Can The Witcher compete with Game of Thrones?” For what it's worth, I would reply with a resounding and emphatic "Yes!" The world of The Witcher is similar enough that Game of Thrones' massive fandom should take to it like direwolves to snow, though the streaming series will also embody a weirder and more mystical world than the HBO series before it.
Already in its first look, we saw magical powers, mythical creatures, and kickass action ready to greet fans logging into their Netflix queues on premiere day. And it looks so much more outlandish than we could have ever imagined, too. As such, we’re totally ready to see The Witcher step up to the throne and take its best shot at fantasy TV dominance in a post-Thrones world.
Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time such fantastical expectations were dashed by reality. Game of Thrones, too, had a promising start that wove all the right threads to tell an epic tale, but a lot of that hard work got unceremoniously undercut in the last two abbreviated seasons the show had to offer, leading to one of the most polarizing final TV seasons in the medium's history.
So perhaps it’s better to wish for The Witcher to be a hit in its own right, while scrubbing away all connections to Game of Thrones-sized expectations. It’s something audiences will have to keep a close eye on, as only time will tell how closely those big pictures will match up.
At the very least, The Witcher's chances of being a good TV show are probably better than Game of Thrones’ chances of becoming a good video game. (Telltale knew to shut that disaster down when it had the chance.) Plus, from a video game adaptation perspective, I can absolutely see where fans would be concerned about this medium-crossing adaptation being a scary situation. If everything matche up with how promising the teaser trailer to The Witcher looks, though, then we’re definitely going to put our bet in the win column.
The Witcher doesn’t have a specific release date, though it wouldn’t be that surprising to see Netflix drop their show in December, just about the time HBO will bring the complete Game of Thrones box set onto the market. Nothing like a healthy competition. Not incidentally, Game of Thrones’ complete eight-season run is currently available on all HBO platforms to stream.
In the meantime, do you think The Witcher could take Game of Thrones’ place in pop culture? Cast your vote in the poll below, and don’t forget to explain your answer in the comments below!