*This article is spoiler-free, but it does detail some specifics of the show which might be considered spoilers.*
Netflix dropped its first season of the fantasy epic, The Witcher, December 20th, 2019, and since its release, it has blown up in popularity. I am a huge fan of the Witcher series. I have read the books and played the games, and after watching the first season of the show, I can add that to the list as well.
THE WITCHER | MAIN TRAILER | NETFLIX www.youtube.com
The first season does a good job of sticking pretty close to the short stories of the first and second books, The Last Wish and The Sword of Destiny. The only issue with the show is that it cuts out a lot of the explanation covered by the novels. As your resident Witcher expert, I decided to write up a little cheat sheet for anyone going into the fantasy world without any knowledge of the series. Here are seven things you should know when watching the first season of The Witcher.
The Witcher is based on a book Series by the same name
The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny are the first two books in the series, they are the basis for the first season of the show. i.ebayimg.com
The Witcher is based on a book series by the same name by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The first two books that start off the series are a collection of short stories that help get you acquainted with Geralt and his world of monsters and men. These stories all have a bit of a fairy tale-twinge to them, usually taking on a dark tone and aesthetic. In each one, the titular Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, has to navigate the complicated politics of man, and use his vast knowledge of monsters, to help keep the peace for a few bucks.
The first season takes place out of order
The short stories in the first two books take place out of order - some occur chronologically before stories earlier in the book, and some occur later. The show follows this model and the episodes air chronologically out of order. This way, the story is unfolded before you in such a way where they can explain the fantasy elements, then go back and revisit the same scenes in which you can better understand the plot after learning the rules of the world. In the show, it is not totally clear when certain stories take place, and sometimes only a line of dialog (such as Jaskier's, "how long has it been since I last saw you? Years?" in the episode "Bottled Appetites") is used to help place the story in the timeline.
Silver for monsters, steel for humans
The Witcher 3 OST - Steel for Humans (Extended Version) www.youtube.com
The world of The Witcher is one where there are a lot of rules to how monsters work. It's a major reason why people hire Geralt - his vast knowledge of monster hunting. One of the cardinal rules in The Witcher is the "Silver for Monsters, Steel for Humans" mantra.
Geralt is seen in several scenes carrying multiple swords. This is because in the world of The Witcher, only silver can be used to harm paranormal creatures. When fighting humans, Geralt opts for the more practical steel sword, as it generally has a greater effect on men.
In the first season of The Witcher, there are several scenes where certain characters will shy away, or may even be seen burning at the touch of some metals. Keep an eye out for these scenes as their adversity to silver might clue you in about their backgrounds.
The Law of Surprise
The story of Geralt, Ciri, Yennefer, and many of the other main characters in The Witcher all revolve around the use of destiny and covenant of The Law of Surprise. In the world of The Witcher, The Law of Surprise is heralded as a divine rule that cannot be broken, but it actually is not an original concept. The promise actually comes from Polish folklore.
The Law of Surprise is actually pretty simple: If you save someone's life from a dangerous situation, instead of claiming a payment then, you can invoke The Law of Surprise. When that person returns home, they are obligated to give you something which they did not already know they had. This could be as simple as a bountiful harvest that occurred while that person was out on the road traveling, or maybe something as grand as promising an unborn child the person did not know they were going to have.
The Conjunction of Spheres
The Witcher takes place in a world, previously not unlike our own, but through an event called The Conjunction of Spheres, and changes in a major way. About 1500 years before the events of the first season of the show, a cataclysmic event happened in which many parallel worlds overlapped, opening a rift between them. From those rifts came pouring out monsters of all kinds into our world. During that time, the nature-loving elven people became the most prominent people before humans drove them to the edges of the known world. At the time of the Geralt storyline, monsters are fewer and far between, but they still pose a major natural threat to the world of men.
Witchers are mutants
Geralt's yellow eyes allow him to see in low-light conditions, such as caves, where monsters typically hide. gamespot1.cbsistatic.com
As you might imagine, Witchers are not your average people. Witchers are mutants, changed from average men to monster-hunting machines through a brutal process known as The Trial of Grasses.
The Trial of Grasses is an alchemic and magical ritual in which young boys are subjected to mutagenic compounds and grueling physical trials. The process is dangerous, yielding only 3 successful Witchers out of 10 young boys - those who fail the trials do not survive.
The young Witchers who survive the Trial come out with superhuman abilities. They have cat-like eyes that allow them to see in the dark, accelerated healing and immunity to disease, decelerated aging, snow-white hair, and the ability to cast simple spells through the use of magical signs. They also lose the ability to feel any human emotion, resulting in them being cold, standoffish, and alone.
There are no more Witchers
Due to their physical appearance, gruff personalities, and brutal conversion practices, the people in the world of the show do not like Witchers. Geralt is often seen taking the side roads and back roads traveling from city to city looking for work, partly because he can find monsters off the beaten path, as well as he finds it easier to deal with the elements than the prejudice of people.
Kaer Morhen, the keep where Geralt was turned into a Witcher as a young boy, as depicted in the video game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. vignette.wikia.nocookie.net
Kaer Morhen, where Geralt underwent his training and conversion to Witcher, was largely destroyed before the story begins by fanatics who hated Witchers so much, they sought to end the conversion practices. The battle killed many of the teachers and children at the school, and destroyed many of the tools and resources needed for The Trial of Grasses. Since the destruction of Kaer Morhen, the lineage of Witchers had come to an end. While there once were other schools across the world who create Witchers, many of them had undergone the same fate.
Geralt, the White Wolf, is just as handy with the ladies as he is with a sword ewedit.files.wordpress.com
Geralt is one of the last of his kind, and with the dwindling of the monster threat and the expansion of man, Witchers are no longer needed. The world of The Witcher is filled with twists and turns, and has a number of colorful characters. If you are not into fantasy, this show is probably not for you, but if you read through and you're interested, you can't go wrong with starting the show. Just be sure to read the books and check out the games for the full experience. Happy hunting!