The premiere of Netflix's The Witcher is fast-approaching, and the series has some surprises in store for viewers going in expecting a straight TV version of the video games or the first novel in Andrzej Sapkowski's five-book saga. Instead, the series will kick off with adaptations of stories from Sapkowski's series of shorts from the compilation called The Last Wish, featuring Henry Cavill's Geralt of Rivia and others in the days before the main storyline picks up. According to the showrunner, the short stories provide what viewers will "need to understand" about the leading man.
Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, who created the series as well as works as showrunner and executive producer, spoke with CinemaBlend about The Witcher and its basis in the short story source material. When I asked if there were any events from the books she was bound and determined would make it into the Netflix adaptation, she shared this:
Oh my god, yes, so many! The series opens up on 'The Lesser Evil,' which was my personal favorite story. I didn't choose to start the series with it because it was my favorite, but that just was lucky. When you're choosing a story to sort of kick off an entire series, for me, Geralt really rises to the top in Episode 1. He is our main character, he is the one that we really need to understand. He's our introduction to the world of The Witcher. And he's been a witcher for almost a hundred years by this point, and it's all he knows, it's all he does, and he's very comfortable with that. So what you're looking for when choosing which short story to go with, you're looking for an event that's going to change his journey. You're looking for something that's going to make him question everything that's happened before in his life. And that's why I chose 'The Lesser Evil.'
The Last Wish contains several short stories, and The Witcher will include more beyond "The Lesser Evil" even as it splits the focus between the witcher Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), the sorceress Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), and the princess Ciri (Freya Allan). As readers of The Last Wish know, the short story is the origin of one of Geralt's nicknames and features a memorable appearance from a character with a lasting impact on Geralt. Viewers need to understand Geralt as a witcher and Geralt as the man he becomes after the events of "The Lesser Evil."
Geralt is certainly more than just a mindless monster hunter, despite the fact that the very committed Henry Cavill doing his own stunts means viewers are in for some epic action sequences. By starting with adaptations of some of Andrzej Sapkowski's short stories, The Witcher can develop Geralt's character (as well as Yennefer and Ciri's characters) before diving into the mean of the saga of the five-novel series.
That's not to say that there won't be key changes to the source material, which are always inevitable when it comes to adapting from page to screen. The fantasy saga of The Witcher does have some advantages over Game of Thrones, as there are reasons to compare the two series even if one Witcher actor thinks comparisons aren't necessary. Unlike Game of Thrones, the Witcher source material is complete with a beginning, middle, and end to be adapted as needed.
Even if The Witcher does last for as long as Lauren Schmidt Hissrich hopes, viewers don't really need to worry that it will go off the rails as Game of Thrones arguably did once the show outpaced George R.R. Martin's source material. Hissrich and Co. have the short stories and the five novels to fuel the series for years to come, and The Witcher was renewed for Season 2 before Season 1 even premiered.
The future looks bright for The Witcher, if not necessarily for Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri. The trailer is proof that their journeys won't be easy even in the short story stage of the adaptation, and their lives will likely get even more complicated once the show dives into Andrzej Sapkowski's Blood of Elves as the first of the five Witcher novels.