The Witcher on Netflix: everything you need to know about the TV series

(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix's highly-anticipated The Witcher TV series has finally arrived. The dark fantasy adventure is based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, and the first season is 8 episodes long, with a second season already commissioned. 

The protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, is played by Superman actor Henry Cavill. Geralt is a mutated, supernatural monster hunter, who gets caught between two warring human nations: the Nilfgaardian Empire and Northern Kingdoms. 

The Witcher on Netflix features a fantastical setting – you'll find elves, dwarfs, and an array of incredible monsters – but it’s nevertheless rich with human, relatable stories. Wondering what to expect from the new series and what our first impressions are? Read below and we'll tell you. 

After watching the first episode, we think this is the perfect if you're a fan of Game of Thrones and need another show to fill that void of big-budget dark fantasy.

But don't expect a Game of Thrones copycat, though: the source material very much has its own flavor, and should result in a different-feeling show. We may also have a Game of Thrones prequel show coming anyway to scratch that itch. 

UPDATE: Now that it's finally arrived on Netflix, check out our first impressions of The Witcher and why we think it could be your next fantasy show obsession.

When is The Witcher on Netflix?

The entire first season of The Witcher has already arrived on Netflix. That means all eight episodes have premiered at once. 

The Witcher season 2 is official

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Despite the fact it's just arrived, The Witcher has already been renewed for a second season. Back before it was renewed, showrunner Lauren Hissrich discussed the idea that the show might run for multiple years – so you could see many seasons of The Witcher on Netflix to come.

"We don’t have a second season yet — God willing we will — but right now it’s just about, ‘How do you set up stories that really capture audiences for years at a time?’" Hissrich said at the time. 

"The worst thing we could do is put all of our energies just into season one, and not be thinking about where these characters can grow to.” 

Cut to the chase:

  • What is it? A fantasy drama, based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher will also be familiar to the fans of the massively-popular video game series of the same name.
  • Where can I watch it? The Witcher is set to be a Netflix exclusive.
  • When can I watch it? Now. It premiered on December 20 2019.

The Witcher on Netflix trailers: watch the show's final trailer

If you haven't had chance to watch the first season of The Witcher yet, check out the trailer to whet your appetite.

The Witcher's full official trailer gives you an idea of what the show looks like, too. Take a look below: 

Meanwhile, here's the first trailer for The Witcher that Netflix released. Try not to get too excited:

A shorter teaser was released by Netflix Italy, as seen below. It's only 16 seconds long, and jumps between shots quite fast, but if you want another glimpse of Cavill as Geralt, giant spiders, and some of the medieval fantasy environments, it's 16 seconds of pure Witcher gold. Or silver.

The Witcher TV series: story and episode descriptions

The Witcher TV series will take cues from The Last Wish – a collection of short stories from The Witcher creator, Andrzej Sapkowski. It’s set before the videogames and introduces us to Geralt, his silver sword and some of his monster-hunting escapades. But don’t worry - even if you’ve only played the games, there’s plenty here you’ll recognise.

The following episode titles and descriptions give us a good idea of what's coming:

  • Episode 1: The End's Beginning – A monster slain, a butcher named.
  • Episode 2: Four Marks – We look at a sorceress's early days.
  • Episode 3: Betrayer Moon – A picky eater, a family shamed.
  • Episode 4: Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials – The Law of Surprise is how one repays.
  • Episode 5: Bottled Appetites – A fateful meeting, a bard is maimed.
  • Episode 6: Rare Species – The hunt for a dragon is underway.
  • Episode 7: Before a Fall – A return to before a kingdom is flamed.
  • Episode 8: Much More – The Witcher Family, as you all like to say.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Episode 1 mentions the naming of a butcher, hinting at Geralt’s origins as the Butcher of Blaviken. Episode 2 is about the early days of a sorceress so expect plenty of backstory for Yennefer. Episode 4 mentions the Law of Surprise - an old custom where a man saved by another is expected to offer his saviour a boon. This explains exactly how Ciri and Geralt meet, and hints at the pair’s connection. The bard mentioned in Episode 5 has to be Jaskier (known as Dandelion in the games) while Episode 6 and 7 hint at the fallout of a dragon attack and flashback to before the fateful event. Finally, Episode 8 teases Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer finally coming together – the Witcher family.

There’s a lot packed into these 8 episodes and it looks as though The Witcher season one sets the stage for what could be an epic new fantasy series. Showrunner Lauren Hissrich recently revealed that she has plans for 7 full seasons and with a second already greenlit by Netflix, it looks promising.

The Witcher TV series production design: it looks a little like the games

Design-wise, it’s impossible not to infer some inspiration from the popular Witcher games, although there are some differences. The initial response to the first make-up test of Cavill as Geralt was mixed - specifically, the blond wig made him look more like a Creatine-pumped Legolas than the lithe character we recognize from the CD Projekt Red series. But it makes more sense seeing him in motion in the trailers, and Geralt’s (apparently very uncomfortable) studded mail armor feels like it could be an in- game drop. 

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Witcher TV series cast and crew: Henry Cavill and more

It’s a prestigious production. The showrunner is Daredevil and The Defenders writer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and Cavill brings measured star power to the role of Geralt - a stoic, wary, and refreshingly nuanced hero, exploring a world that struggles to accept him. 

It helps that Cavill is also a massive fan of the series – apparently, he called his agent every day until the role was confirmed (via Vulture).

(Image credit: Netflix)

Series author Andrzej Sapkowski is also on board as creative consultant, and there’s direct creative links to the video games, too: CD Projekt Red's Tomas Baginski – the man behind the stirring cinematics seen at the start of all three titles – is earmarked to direct at least one episode.

In terms of characters, anyone who’s read the book or played the games will recognize plenty of faces. 

(Image credit: Netflix)

Anya Chalotra plays Yennefer of Vengerberg, a fiery, independant sorcerer and longtime paramour of Geralt; Freya Allan plays Ciri, a destiny-touched Witcher whom Geralt takes under his wing; and we’ve even seen Geralt’s faithful horse, Roach. (Or one of the Roaches, at least: Geralt is over 100 years old and gives every horse he has the same name – he’s been through a few.) 

Dandelion, the bard who documents the events of the story and Geralt’s best friend, will also feature, but he’ll be using his name from the books: Jaskier. This Polish word actually refers to the buttercup flower, which feels far too Princess Bride for this moody fantasy setting. 

Is The Witcher going to be Netflix's Game of Thrones?

On balance, there are plenty of reasons to be positive. The series won’t break the curse of terrible video game adaptations, because it isn’t one. Instead, Hissrich can draw on a vast selection of stories from a fully fleshed out fantasy universe. There’s a large, dragon-shaped fantasy gap in our TV schedule right now; The Witcher may be exactly the thing to fill it.

Samuel Roberts

Samuel is a PR Manager at game developer Frontier. Formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor, he's an expert in Marvel, Star Wars, Netflix shows and general streaming stuff. Before his stint at TechRadar, he spent six years at PC Gamer. Samuel is also the co-host of the popular Back Page podcast, in which he details the trials and tribulations of being a games magazine editor – and attempts to justify his impulsive eBay games buying binges.