How The Witcher Can Beat Game of Thrones
With Netflix's The Witcher series launching on December 20 and Game of Thrones having concluded in May 2019, it seems like the right time to compare the two. Can the Witcher inherit the crown of Game of Thrones as the world's most-watched fantasy TV series or will it fail? Let's see why both options are equally possible.
The Witcher must be different from Game of Thrones
The new Netflix series will be based on the original source books written by Polish fantasist Andrzej Sapkowski. The book saga is quite distinct from the subsequent CD Projekt RED video game sequels and even more different from George R. R. Martin's books and HBO's Game of Thrones.
The Witcher books are actually a mix of popular folk tales, romance novels, and Ghostbusters. Geralt of Rivia may try to banish a tortured specter in one scene and have a steamy relation with a beautiful sorceress in the next.
The major difference between Game of Thrones and The Witcher is that Geralt of Rivia is really more of a working-class hero. Many of the stories focus on him interacting with peasants, travelers, and the occasional aristocrat. Geralt isn't a political schemer, he's more akin to a protagonist in a Western - a man drifting from town to town.
This is all great, due to the small reassurance the Western genre has. Disney's The Mandalorian gets a lot of inspiration from spaghetti Westerns, while Red Dead Redemption 2 was one of last year's best selling games. Samurai flicks are also an inspiration. In a way, Geralt of Rivia is sort of like a ronin - a samurai without a master who nevertheless keeps his moral code and protects the innocent.
It would be a big mistake to focus too much on court intrigue. The Witcher series has many kings, spies, power-hungry wizards, and other conniving characters, and there's a lot of political scheming, but the focus of the book series is usually on Geralt of Rivia, Ciri, and their friends. Political intrigue is often treated as an obstacle for them rather than something that should be engaged in.
Don't forget about Amazon's Lord of the Rings
A successful TV series can have a long life. A lot can happen during its run. Game of Thrones took 8 years to finish. The Witcher TV series is already renewed for a second season. However, there's a danger looming over the horizon - Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series. Not only based on the quintessential fantasy universe with a much larger name recognition than The Witcher, The Lord of the Rings is also the most expensive TV show ever made.
That's an intimidating situation for any work of fiction. Can The Witcher make it? It's quite possible for The Witcher to carve its own niche, but there's not enough room at the top. Compare the situation to the fight between the Marvel cinematic universe and the DC cinematic universe. DC only managed to find great success when they started doing things differently than Marvel - by adapting new stories and adopting a much darker tone.
The good news is that The Witcher is already very distinct from Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. The series has a unique sense of humor and inspiration from Slavic mythology and Polish culture. The only problem is that the writers may try and replicate GOT and LOTR, which will only result in a cheap imitation. Oscar Wilde's saying "Be yourself, everyone else is taken" is very much applicable to works of fiction.
The failure of Game of Thrones could work to The Witcher's advantage
Let's be honest - most people weren't impressed by the finale of Game of Thrones and many people outright despised it. The rushed production coupled with the high expectations of fans ended in a PR disaster for HBO's hit show. But this fan disgruntlement can also make The Witcher look better in comparison. People are hungry for a show that can "get it right" so to speak.
The Witcher also has the added advantage of a finished source material. The last book in the main saga came out in 1999. This means the Witcher TV series has five books to adapt, along with three main games to get inspiration from. Most importantly, every source is already concluded, meaning that there won't be the same awkward moment as in Game of Thrones, where things ran smoothly as long as there was good source material to adapt.
We'll see on December 20th
In the end, we'll see how well the Netflix Witcher resonates with audiences, but the show has the potential of filling the vast chasm left by the implosion of Game of Thrones. The only thing it has to do is establish a personality of its own and fight off the upcoming Lord of the Rings. No small feats, but the Witcher saga certainly has enough appeal to overcome both obstacles.