Netflix’s The Witcher effortlessly made it to the list of one of 2019’s largest TV hits, despite being released in the final weeks of the year. Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Geralt of Rivia in the show is nothing short of stunning, but for many of us this was not our first encounter with the monster slayer for hire and his stomping-ground: The Continent.
The tales of Geralt’s adventures were first introduced in the works of Polish fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski. However, it was the video games inspired by Sapkowski’s novels that made Witcher a global phenomenon. CD Projekt Red’s virtual retelling of the story spawned an incredibly successful series with the latest entry, The Witcher 3, selling more than 20 million copies alone.
Coming from the same source material, it’s obvious that the Witcher Netflix adaptation shares a lot of similarities with the games. But in comparison to the RPG, the scriptwriters for the show have been more loyal to the books. The show was also brave enough to take a few detours on its own to make some unique additions that were not previously seen in any other Witcher media. Thus, gamers would get to see a different recreation of The Continent and its inhabitants in the 8-episode Witcher Netflix saga.
Based on my experience, I would say anybody who enjoyed playing the games would love to see the show. The essence of The Witcher franchise remains the same, the storytelling is exquisitely paced, and the action scenes are brilliantly choreographed. However, if you are still curious to find out what surprises the show-runners have in store before you toss your coin to The Witcher, have a read. I will only mention a few key differences, so that you can unearth a few differences on your own when you watch the show. Trust me, there’s a lot more left unsaid here, so go on and watch the show after you are done reading this.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Netflix’s The Witcher and CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher games.
1. The Bard Has a Different Name
Dandelion, the bard, is one of the most popular characters in The Witcher series. With his witty remarks and melodious ballads, we have known Dandelion as the liveliest presence in the dark and gritty world of The Witcher. The bard has been a fan favorite on the small screen too as he dressed up in his emblematic purple costume and provided a much needed sense of comic relief from the constant bloodshed with his buoyant personality.
The name Dandelion is nowhere to be found in the show, though. As I mentioned earlier, the Netflix show has been more faithful to the books than its RPG counterpart. The bard, played by Julian Alfred Pankratz, takes the name of Jaskier in the series as per the name originally used in the novels. But, the game creators chose to give the jolly bard a different name. Hence, Dandelion was born.
2. The Show Has More Racially Inclusive Characters
The Witcher games had their fair share of controversy despite their phenomenal success as an RPG entries. The most common accusation the creators faced was of whitewashing the characters. The lack of diversity has been staggering in the games, with the main characters being dominantly white. The show has notably addressed that issue by putting together a racially diverse cast.
The show has re-imagined many characters with a darker skin tone. Fringilla Vigo, for example, is played by British-Zimbabwean actress Mimi Ndiweni whereas the game’s interpretation of the Nilfgaardian enchantress was more akin to a Caucasian woman.
3. Yennefer’s Backstory
Video game fans were left in awe when the teaser trailer for Netflix’s The Witcher dropped at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con. The footage revealed Yennefer of Vengerberg as a deformed, hunchbacked woman- a total contrast to the luscious sorceress we are used to seeing in the games. She does transform into her familiar gorgeous self at some point in the show, but not before we get to see the entire metamorphosis.
We know the games didn’t focus much on Yennefer’s past, but the book’s approach to revealing her history has been vague as well. This is where the show excels in its own right- before Yennefer met Geralt in the show, we knew all about her nightmarish childhood and days in Aretuza. Unlike the novels, no stones were left unturned in revealing Yennefer’s eventful bygone days.
4. Change in Triss’s Appearance, Character, and Romantic Involvement with Geralt
Triss Merigold is one of Geralt’s love interests in the game. Personally speaking, I was never a fan of the Geralt-Triss-Yennefer’s love triangle, so imagine my delight when I found out Geralt is only romantically invested in Yennefer in the show. I don’t know what they have in store for the second season, but there was no romantic tension between the two in the show’s first installment.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the show has shaken up some of the racial representations in the show, and Triss Merigold happens to be one of those characters. You won’t be seeing a fire-locked mage as you are accustomed to seeing in the games. Nor will you get to see her pale skin tone and bluish eyes. The show re-imagines Triss with brown eyes, black hair, and tanned skin.
I’ve also noticed changes in Triss’s behavior. With what I have seen in the limited screentime given to her, Triss seemed to be way more rational than the impetuous enchantress we have seen in the games.
5. Yennefer Didn’t Know Geralt’s Wish
In the episode entitled ‘Bottled Appetites,’ Geralt discovers a djinn, and it grants him three wishes. However, he uses up two of them by accident as he wished Jaskier to shut up and blow up a prison guard.
The first wish resulted in a near-death experience for Jaskier, and Geralt went to Yennefer asking her to cure his friend. While Yennefer did save Jeskier’s life, she risked her own by trying to contain the djinn and then using it to regain her fertility.
Geralt makes his third wish and sets the djinn free as Yennefer was struggling for her life, trying to become the djinn’s new vessel. In the game, Geralt wishes for a future with Yennefer, and she is well aware of it. She even goes on to track down the djinn so that she could undo Geralt’s final wish. In doing so she wants to find out for sure what she and Geralt has is genuine and not induced by magic.
But in the TV show, Yennefer had no idea what Geralt’s third wish to the djinn was. In fact, nobody does. It was kept a total secret to the audience as well. Will Yennefer find out what Geralt’s wish was in the next season? We will have to wait and find out.