Friday, July 19, 2024

5 Reasons Netflix’s Witcher Prequel Can Work, and 5 Reasons It Won’t

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For anyone doubting the success The Witcher brought to Netflix, the announcement of a prequel series subtitled Blood Origin should quell those doubts. We know very little right now. The series will be set during the Conjunction of Spheres, the crisis which forms the world of the Continent. It will show the origins of the first witcher. The prequel will be a six-episode miniseries.

As a Witcher fan, I’m curious and excited. Whatever my reservations about the first season of The Witcher, it was an enjoyable show with potential, and the world of The Witcher is ripe with potential prequels and side stories that I’d love to see put on screen. There are many reasons this prequel can work. However, I think there are many reasons for concern.

5 Reasons It Can Work

The Setting

For those unaware or uncertain of what the Conjunction of Spheres is, it was a cataclysmic event in which multiple realms smashed together, leaving numerous races and species trapped on a new planet. Originally, elves, dwarves, and gnomes were the only species inhabiting the world of The Witcher. Humans and many of the monsters of the series arrived with the Conjunction. It was after this event that humans began to overtake the Elder races, leading to the status quo we see in Geralt of Rivia’s time. Magic also arrived with the Conjunction, introducing an entirely new chaotic force into the world.

Setting the series around the time of the Conjunction can answer a lot of questions about the world of The Witcher, while also creating a vibrant background to tell a story upon. There is so much potential in this violent new clash of people forced together. Even if we generally know what will eventually happen, we still know so little about how the Conjunction played out. It is a setting ripe with potential. Six episodes doesn’t leave a lot of time to explore this setting, but it certainly shouldn’t be difficult to find six episodes worth of content.

The Elder Races

Most of what we see in The Witcher is a pale imitation of the society the world was built upon. The cities are built atop elven cities. We see glimpses of greater magic and technology throughout the world. The elves and dwarves we see now live different, harder lives that are subordinate to humans. Elves had the ability to come to the world of The Witcher before the Conjunction, and the Wild Hunt are elves from another dimension who can project ethereal images of themselves into the world.

There are so many questions about the ancient world which existed before humans, and one of the best things Blood Origin could do is show us what that this world was like. We can also, hopefully, see a different design motif for the world. We have seen glimpses of a different elven society in Ciri’s time in the world of the Aen Elle, the elves who form the Wild Hunt. It is a drastically different setting from the Western fantasy feel of the modern Witcher world and I hope this prequel reflects that.

The Monsters

For all the focus monsters get in The Witcher, their decline often goes understated. After all, the reason why Witchers are in decline is because monsters are also in decline. By the time of Geralt, Witchers are not needed the way they were when the Conjunction first occurred, and monsters had newly arrived. They just do not exist in the numbers or variety that they used to.

Like with the elves, this is another opportunity for this prequel to show us a different world, one with more imagination and originality than what we see now. Considering the series is meant to show the origin of the first witcher, that implies a world that needs witchers. Should mean plenty of fantastic beasts running rampant.

A Lack of Humans

To put it simply, humans in The Witcher suck. They are horrible people who oppress everyone and everything. I’m not here to claim that elves and dwarves are so different or innocent, but at least they should have a different society that isn’t just watching humans being awful to each other. This ties back to the chance to see a different society, but hopefully we can get a world where humans don’t have the power to oppress anyone and elves and dwarves lead a different, more cooperative life.

Or at least, again, we can get something besides western European white people being jerks to everyone in a fantasy story.

The Freedom and Potential

The Witcher has a huge, vibrant world filled with a great deal of people, places, and creatures we have never seen. This would be especially true of a prequel. This is a setting we know so little about, yet has a strong enough foundation to base some really great stories on. There is a certain freedom in moving away from adaptation and basing new stories within an established world. With the worldbuilding already done, a creator can instead focus on developing great stories, characters, and conflicts within the previously established world.

This prequel could give us a view of the world of The Witcher unlike anything we’ve ever seen. There is a tremendous amount of potential there, especially if Blood Origin goes for a vividly different picture of a world that drove people to require witchers and did not have many, if any, humans.

5 Reasons It Won’t Work

The Lore Inconsistencies

It is not a good sign when the announcement of a new show is already contradicting known lore. If this series is meant to take place 1,200 years before the current series, then it should not be able to show the first witcher. Witchers were not supposed to have been created until around 300-400 years before the current timeline.

This may seem like a small thing, or something easily overlooked if, say, the witchers were created but not an order for another few hundred years or something. It is still disheartening when the announcement gets the basic backstory wrong. Hopefully they find a way to make it work, but I’m immediately skeptical.

The Witcher

With Geralt’s exploding popularity as a result of the Witcher games and show, people now have a set image of what kind of witcher they like. The people creating any Witcher content have a set image of what kind of witcher everyone wants. And so I fully expect that whoever this first witcher ends up being, he will be a poor clone of Geralt. That’s what the people want.

I hope I’m wrong, but do not be surprised if this witcher is a grumpy, unapproachable, stoic jerk without half of Henry Cavill’s charm. Being Geralt and imitating Geralt are two very different things.

The Lack of Familiar Characters

I’m going to say something here that some Witcher fans might find controversial, and that also contradicts some of my reasons for excitement; it is not the world of The Witcher that makes it special or interesting. It’s the characters. At its heart, The Witcher is your usual fantasy world with an abundance of monsters. What makes it work so well is the cast.

The characters are why the first season of the show was so popular. People took to Geralt, Yennefer, Ciri, Jaskier, Calanthe, and all the rest. Just like with the books and games, it is the characters that make the whole thing work. Without them, you’re left with a fantasy world just like 10,000 others. I find it hard to imagine a spinoff show can make people care about its characters as much as we care about the main cast.

The Budget

One thing I think most people agree on about The Witcher’s first season is that, despite a big budget, the use of that budget was inconsistent. For every great fight scene, you had a poor one. For every striga, you had a golden dragon. Bringing the world of The Witcher to life is a challenge, and that challenge is only going to increase by visiting a time when elves, dwarves, and monsters ruled the day, with far fewer humans to be found.

I think we all remember the elves from the first season.

Now perhaps they have learned from the challenges of the first season and will do better in the upcoming second season, as well as this miniseries. I expect one of two things to happen. Either they will try and meet the demand of this earlier timeline and we will get more golden dragons, or they’ll have to downscale and we won’t get the full effect of an ancient world packed with non-human creatures.

The Oversaturation

I fully understand why Netflix is moving full steam ahead with so much new Witcher content. The first season was a hit and they want to strike while the iron is hot. You saturate the market with as much content as you can.

The problem comes with the risk of pushing out so much content. The chances of much of it being any good, at least in my experience, just is not high. The love and inspiration begins to evaporate once a company starts pumping projects out to take advantage of popularity. Combined with the uneven odds of any spinoff being as good as the original, and it is just best to approach with skepticism. Especially when Netflix’s original content is so hit or miss.

We won’t know how this turns out for some time. At the very least we will see season 2 of The Witcher, and my opinions on Blood Origin can change quite a bit if season 2 improves on season 1 the way I hope it does. Expectations will also change as more info comes out. Until then, I’d suggest we all keep our expectations tempered.

Images Courtesy of Netflix

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