Back in 2011 when the small screen version of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books arrived on HBO, it showcased something unique. It strutted its fantasy elements without compromising its exploration of human nature set in the quasi-medieval background. Contrary to many other such shows, it wasn’t wary of killing off popular characters, as seen repeatedly. Sadly, the at times heart-wrenching epic series will end in 2019, and as of now, there are not many contenders to fill the gap that it will leave behind.
Agreed that HBO is working on several potential prequels, but, none of them will debut until at least before 2020, however, those projects will also have the daunting prospect of being compared to this astonishingly popular and critically loved series. HBO’s sci-fi Western show West World might plug into some extent – it was Martin himself who suggested the show to feature a Westerosworld. However, there is one series being developed which has the ideal elements to become Game of Thrones’ successor. The Witcher from Netflix which is based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy novels and short stories.
Sapkowski’s stories have already inspired some very popular role-playing video games. The stories are focused on Geralt of Rivia, who is one of the ‘Witchers,’ monster slayers whose genes have been chemically and mystically mutated to give them extraordinary speed, strength, and ability to battle the frightening supernatural monsters which roam around the medieval fantasy land called The Continent. However, at times Geralt is drawn into conflicts which are not just issues between common folks and monsters. He battles mighty witches of great beauty, vicious kings, and power hungry queens, apart from cursed princesses and princes.
This description itself might make fans notice some common points between The Witcher and Game of Thrones. It is obvious that both are based on popular fantasy series, and incorporate political conspiracy as well as human nature. However, they have many common themes and traits too. The Witcher stories are famous for delving into the concept of lesser and greater evils, a theme that is seen throughout Game of Thrones, although not as dominantly. Both the stories have a great reliance on magic and monsters, but, they are more focused on the story elements which are grounded in reality. For example, Martin drew inspiration from historical events such as War of the Roses, whereas, Sapkowski’s stories are based on the things done by the Catholic Church in Europe during the Reformation era, as well as the Slavic mythology.
The Witcher first arrived in 1992 with “Sword of Destiny” a compilation of lightly related short stories which highlighted various aspects of Geralt’s world and his occupation. Now, 21 years and eight books later, The Witcher is still growing in popularity, as the English translations are taking time to come out. In fact, its popularity was greatly boosted after the video game series, in particular, the critically acclaimed 2015 sequel The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, which has sold over 10 million copies globally in its first year. The success of the novels and the video games is a great indication of how well a television adaptation might have performed if it was well made and released on a streaming platform as mighty as Netflix.
It must be noted here that Netflix’s upcoming version is not the first time that The Witcher is being made into a live-action show. Earlier Polish director Marek Brodzki had loosely based his movie called The Hexer on these stories. The film released in 2001 featuring Michal Zebrowski as Geralt. Audiences and the writer, Andrzej Sapkowski himself, disliked the film which transgressed too far away from the novels and had an almost illogical plot courtesy poor editing (it was, in fact, an unreleased 13-episode TV series, which was sliced down to a 130 minute movie; the full series released the next year). Although the plot was not difficult to follow, the diversions from the novels were too much to overlook. Geralt had a different backstory, and Vesemir, another Witcher and the mentor of Geralt in the novels, was shown to be just an ordinary druid.
Looking at the little bit of information provided by Netflix’s plans on Witcher, the producers are determined to ensure that these mistakes are not repeated. Sapkowski has been brought on board as the creative consultant for the show. Although we are still not aware of the details such as which of the stories will be adapted for the series, the cast and the release schedule, etc, it is evident that the producers are aiming to stay as close to the novels as possible, lavishing praise on the characters and the world that Sapkowski has spent years on building.
Taking everything into account, there is a good probability that The Witcher will be able to win over the Game of Thrones lovers. There is a good bit of time left to find out the details between now and 2019 when Game of Thrones will end. It might be the right thing, not just for the viewers, who will be more than happy to see more of dark fantasy, but, for the show itself. There is a never seen before world replete with intricate characters, and if it wants to succeed, then it would be a smart thing for the Game of Thrones to go off the air. After all, Game of Thrones is the most successful fantasy show ever, until now that is.