The Witcher First Trailer Review
After two years of anxiety, angst, and acrimony, Netflix’s The Witcher stands and delivers.
“I’ve heard tales of your kind, witcher” says Anya Chalottra’s Yennefer of Vengerberg in the opening voiceover of the first full trailer for Netflix’s The Witcher. She’s not alone. Through eight novels and an internationally beloved video game trilogy by Polish studio CD Projekt Red chronicling the life, love, death, and second life of Andrzej Sapkowski’s Geralt of Rivia, The Witcher has spent thirty-three years crescendoing into a powerhouse of High Fantasy to rival George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, to whose (mostly) celebrated HBO adaptation The Witcher will inevitably compared. How fitting then that on the day most associated with monsters in popular culture, The Witcher looks set to fulfill the tremendous and often agonized expectations placed upon it by a fractured fanbase split between partisans of Sapkowski’s novels and their unofficial sequels in CD Projekt Red’s adaptation. In truth however, the stunning trailer released for Season 1 this Halloween has, based on a cursory glance at Twitter, put paid to many of the fears that dogged this adaptation like the shadow of death from the beginning. Gone is the generic music that spoiled the mishmashed teaser in July, as over a haunting score we witness Henry Cavill cut down his enemies with all the graceful swordsmanship for which Geralt is famous. The horrors of war are front in center as we witness the Massacre of Cintra and our first glimpse of the mysterious knight and Nilfgaardian officer Cahir Mawr Dyffryn aep Ceallach (admittedly still dressed in rather substandardly designed armor). A mortally wounded Queen Calanthe sends Ciri out into the world in search of her Destiny, the Lioness of Cintra shedding silent tears as she faces the end. Mimi Ndiweni’s Fringilla Vigo lights a catapult, heralding the beginning of the Massacre or the opening salvo of the legendary Battle of Sodden, a byword in both preexisting versions of The Witcher for carnage and brutality that has yet to be depicted onscreen or page. And Geralt embarks upon a ferocious duel with Emma Appleton’s Princess Renfri of Creyden, a brutal lesson in the lesser of evils that will earn him no hero’s praise, but the disdainful sobriquet “The Butcher of Blaviken”. All in all, an imperfect, but thrilling, foretaste of the series.
Key takeaways and foreshadowing from the trailer.
In one scene we see Yennefer decked out in ballroom attire engaging in a bit of repartee with Geralt as a blurred out orgy progresses in the background. From the dialogue it is clear that this is their first meeting. While many articles have concluded that this is a representation of the Beltane, a spring festival in which Geralt and Yennefer have an erotic rendezvous after many years of separation in Sword of Destiny, I am skeptical. The tone of “The Last Wish” and “Something More” are utterly different, and it would be a strange directorial decision to combine them or omit adapting “The Last Wish” entirely. We know from the casting of a Beau Berrant and Chiredean that “The Last Wish” is likely to be adapted, and furthermore, the orgy is also explanable as one of the “extravagant parties” Yennefer is said to hold at Berrant’s residence in “The Last Wish”. Most likely the showrunners have simply modified elements of Geralt and Yen’s first meeting in “The Last Wish”. This seems to be corroborated by the teaser trailer, in which a rain-soaked Yennefer is seen screaming at Geralt to cast the Aard Sign, suggesting the storm in Rinde conjured up by the Djinn in that story.
Cintra has been stated to fall in episode 102. We see Queen Calantne cutting down Nilfgaardians and Eist Tuirseach facing down an opponent, confirming that the Battle of Marndal is going to be depicted on screen. The Massacre of Cintra is also depicted as Nilfgaardians cut down fleeing civilians and Mimi Ndiweni’s Fringilla Vigo casts a fire spell over a trebuchet battering the walls of Cintra.
Much of the season may be presented in flashback, as clear scenes of Geralt slaying Cintran guards indicate a depiction of “A Question of Price”, which occurs several years prior to the Massacre of Cintra and establishes the link of Destiny between Geralt and Ciri under the Law of Surprise.
Hissrich and Ciri actress Freya Allan indicate Ciri will spend most of season 1 on the run, depicting events that were described in expository form in Blood of Elves. Accordingly, the show has likely adapted Sword of Destiny’s title story to depict Ciri’s first meeting with Geralt in Brokilon as subsequent to the Massacre of Cintra and the conclusion of her arc this season. Expect it to be the finale.
The trailer includes scenes with Yennefer that elaborate on footage shown at San Diego Comic Con. We will definitely see more of Yen’s backstory, including material invented for the show.
The depiction of combat in the trailer dovetails exceptionally well with the books, where the Witcher fighting style is described as a “dance” emphasising finesse and strikes at critical areas over brute force. Geralt often fights one-handed in the trailer, another lore consistency to the novels, where witcher swords are often suggested to be one-handed weapons different from the greatswords depicted in the game trilogy. Geralt casts the Sign of Aard at a group of bandits probably belonging to Renfri in the trailer, and its non-dramatic effects accurately represent the weakness of signs in the books relative to the games.
Images of a huge clash of armies may depict the Battle of Sodden, which, as stated in the review, is a byword for the horrors of war in both the books and games, but has never been directly depicted up to this point.
The trailer was heavy on footage from “The Lesser Evil”, and even included a snippet of iconic dialogue from that story. The second half of the trailer depicts a vicious duel between Geralt and Renfri along with Geralt’s distorted features after imbibing potions to fight the kikimora killed off page in that story. The first half depicts the residents of Blaviken’s attempted stoning of Geralt.
There’s a bathtub yo!
We get an exceptionally brief shot from behind of Joey Batey’s Jaskier (Dandelion). Batey, who is a musician in real life, has been reported to have composed music for the show, presumably some of Jaskier’s ballads.