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Netflix’s The Witcher May Have Been Recast, but Henry Cavill Leaving Signals a Much Bigger Departure

Fans of the TV series The Witcher were surprised earlier this year the show was renewed for Season 4 without the lead actor while Henry Cavill left the role of Geralt of Rivia behind. Liam Hemsworth will be taking over the mantle instead, and executive producer and showrunner Lauren Hissrich hopes the change will bring new energy to the Netflix series.

“What I’m excited about is that we’re growing this franchise and we’re getting new energy and chemistry that we haven’t discovered yet,” she tells IGN. “And to me, that’s part of the fun of television; you don’t know exactly where the adventure is going to end. So it’s something I’m really excited about.”

The strange thing about this for some Witcher fans, though, is that Hissrich and Netflix should knows exactly where the adventure is going to end. Both she and the cast have spoken in the past about their love of Andrzej Sapkwoski’s original Witcher novels, saying that the production team is committed to keeping the story in the eight book series.

The greatest proponent of this philosophy was Cavill himself, who often derailed interviews with nerdy anecdotes from Geralt, Yennefer, Dandelion, and company from the pages of the original Witcher saga. The main concern surrounding his departure, therefore, isn’t the recasting of a protagonist over three seasons, but it could potentially indicate the departure of what makes The Witcher so good in the first place.

The following paragraphs contain spoilers for Netflix’s The Witcher seasons 1 and 2, in addition to minor spoilers from Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher book series.

Now I’m definitely not in favor of religiously sticking to the script. Converting the story scene from the books to scene would make for an awful TV show, and I like how Netflix got to major plot points in a variety of ways. It’s even, dare I say, done some things better than Sapkowski. The crux of Season 3 will see the institution of mages crumble in a bloody battle, for example, but Hissrich and team have already laid out the protagonists and tensions. The versions of the book’s events presented all of these characters at once, requiring me to read the entire section twice to understand what was happening. That said, it’s not until Netflix completely abandons the source material that the show is at its weakest.

The world of The Witcher began as a twisted take on fairy tales: Snow White’s version sees the princess rob and loot with seven gnomes before killing them; the little mermaid here is a snippy political debate between two stubborn parties; and Beauty is killed by the Beast in Sapkowski’s version. It’s the high fantasy of Lord of the Rings with the brutality and grit of Game of Thrones.

So when Netflix introduced its season 2 antagonist as a ghostly witch in the woods who’s just some kind of magic for magic’s sake, or its monolithic plot that seems to be as deep as, “Geralt kills monsters, so let’s make tougher monsters” , I can’t feel like Netflix has completely missed why people love The Witcher. Collaborate with this former producer Beau DeMayo said some writers “actively disliked” and even mocked Sapkowski’s booksand my hopes for an interesting live-action take on this incredible and unique fantasy world have slowly dwindled.

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The same seems to be true of Cavill, who said so in November last year he was absolutely committed to a seven-season run of The Witcher “as long as we can keep telling great stories that honor Sapkowski’s work.” The fact that he chose to leave the show a few months later, after the filming of season 3is quite devastating.

We’ll see the last of Cavill in a white wig when season 3 premieres next summer, but it’ll be a few more years before we get to see where Netflix goes in its supposedly open-ended adventure. Hemsworth will probably do just fine as the new Geralt of Rivia, but I don’t think he’ll do that with a world or story that Witcher fans are excited about.

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer and acting British news editor. He talks about The Witcher all day long.

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