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Spoilers ahead for Season 1 of Netflix's The Witcher.
Netflix got into the fantasy saga game with the premiere of The Witcher, based on a series of novels and short stories by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski and starring characters already popular with gamers (and also Henry Cavill). The series is a fantasy of unprecedented scale for the streamer, and there's a reason why early comparisons were to Game of Thrones rather than to Stranger Things or Daredevil. The Witcher showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich spoke with CinemaBlend and shared how releasing on Netflix shaped the storytelling in Season 1 differently than if it had aired on a weekly basis, a la Game of Thrones.
When I asked Lauren Schmidt Hissrich what streaming offered an epic fantasy saga like The Witcher that might not be possible with a traditional broadcast release, she said this:
I would say that the opportunity to write for binge-watchers. What I love about Netflix is that you can binge-watch. I'm sure that we will have people that will stay up all night and watch all eight episodes because that's what they want to do. That's not personally how I watch my television. I'll watch a couple hours a night and I'll take a break the next night and then I'll come back. Netflix gives you the opportunity to watch television the way that you want to watch television.
As somebody who marathoned through the episodes of The Witcher as soon as they were available to me, I can definitely appreciate Lauren Schmidt Hissrich's support of binge-watchers! The highly-anticipated eight episodes of The Witcher Season 1 released at the end of 2019 (and just in time for the holidays, if following the adventures of a monster hunter, complicated sorceress, and increasingly brutal fugitive princess is how you want to celebrate the season).
While binge-watching may not be how Lauren Schmidt Hissrich prefers to consume her own television, the option of binge-watching meant that she and the Witcher team could approach this series for Netflix differently than any platform that doesn't release full seasons at once. Other streaming services, such as Disney+ and Hulu, generally release new episodes weekly rather than en masse, like Netflix and Amazon, which is getting into the fantasy genre itself with a Lord of the Rings series.
The Witcher storytelling was shaped throughout Season 1 by virtue of its Netflix release, as Lauren Schmidt Hissrich went on to explain:
As a storyteller though, what I love is that I have eight hours to tell all the stories that I want to tell. And I don't have to spend any of that eight hours reminding audiences what they saw the prior episode, or what they saw earlier in the season, or last season. I can be very smart about that storytelling and use basically all the time that I have to push story forward as opposed to looking back on story we already did. So to me, just as a writer, I love the opportunity because I feel like I can fit that much more story in every episode.
In some ways, The Witcher Season 1 feels almost like an eight-hour movie rather than an eight-episode TV show that would be produced for a broadcast TV release. Characters don't drop the same exposition at the beginning of every episode. Although the timeline twistiness can get a bit confusing at times, when decades are passing for Yennefer (particularly following her intense physical transformation) while years pass for Geralt while only hours have passed for the unfortunate Ciri, the fast pace and development has already set up a potentially fantastic second season.
The Witcher has already been renewed for Season 2, although reports about when filming plans to begin aren't too encouraging for new episodes coming any time soon. You can always watch and rewatch the eight episodes of Season 1 streaming on Netflix, or check out the short stories and novels of Andrzej Sapkowski focusing on Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri. For more of what's in store on the small screen in the not-too-distant future, check out our 2020 Netflix premiere schedule.