This post originally appeared on Gizmodo UK.
Netflix gave us another look at its take on the world of Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher novels yesterday, and it dives deep into the monstrous beings and sinister humans that populate the Continent. It also gave us a rather infamous bathtub. Here’s all the cool throwbacks to both the books and the Witcher games we also spotted.
The trailer opens with three rapid shots that really set the tone for the focus of this series, all from different scenes: a bloody aftermath of a battle (the armour marks these bodies as soldiers of the Kingdom of Cintra, an important location in the series); the violet eye of Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra); and Geralt (Henry Cavill) retrieving his sword from what is presumably the corpse of something rather unpleasant. All of these things will become important later on.
“I’ve heard tales of your kind, Witcher” Yennefer says in voiceover, as we see Geralt wander through town streets clutching a golden pendant. This is something we eventually see in the trailer attached to the hilt of one of Geralt’s swords, and is tied to an event we’ll see explored a bit later on in this trailer that informs a major part of his backstory in the books.
We then cut to what appears to be more of that battle from the opening of the trailer in a series of shots as Geralt slices through some soldiers. It’s hard to tell, but they appear to be wearing the wrinkled, blackened armour of the Nilfgaardian Empire, the tyrannical force that invades the Continent, sparking the events that brings Geralt into the life of young Ciri (Freya Allen).
We cut back to a shot already seen in the first trailer, although this time it’s a stormy night rather than a bleak day. This is the Isle of Thanedd, and more specifically, it’s Aretuza: the school of magic that Yennefer, many other sorcerers, and eventually Ciri herself attend to hone their magical abilities. Humans with the capacity to cast actual magic in the world of The Witcher are a rarity, a gift first taught to the species by elves in the wake of a cosmic event known as the Conjunction of the Spheres, which brought supernatural beings to the world in the process.
Here’s a very fancy shot of Yennefer in an equally fancy gown and mask. While this is the form we’ll see Yennefer in for most of the series, it’s not actually what she looks like. As an extremely powerful sorcerer – she’s known as a “source,” a very rare human born with the natural capacity to cast magic – Yennefer eventually learns how to cast a powerful glamour that hides her true, disfigured appearance (she was born with a spinal curvature exacerbated by abuse at the hands of her father) and presents herself to the world as a perpetually youthful woman.
“You’re a mutant,” Yennefer continues, “created by magic...” as we cut back to Geralt cloaked and riding into the same town we saw him bloodied in earlier. Yenn’s right: While she is a natural-born source of her enhanced abilities, Geralt and Witchers like him are not.
After rigorous training at various schools and academies, Witcher candidates are exposed to series of poisons and potions called mutagens that, if they don’t flat out kill them in the process, transform them, giving them enhanced strength and durability, the ability to channel runic signs into minor invocations, and a sort of sixth sense that lets them detect supernatural creatures. We seemingly get to see a little bit of that process here too, with all the sharp cuts around bottles of murkily coloured concoctions.
“...roaming the Continent,” Yennefer adds, as we cut to Geralt doing exactly that: He’s atop his beloved steed, Roach the Horse, one of the Witcher’s most enduring companions (and, as fans of the games are aware, occasionally slightly buggy to deal with). We also get to see Geralt travelling with someone else – given we only see their back and what is presumably a lute slung over their shoulder, there’s a chance that this is Julian Alfred Pankratz, better known as Jaskier the Minstrel (Joey Batey).
Well, actually, no, not “better known.” Jaskier is the name this character is given in the original Polish versions of the novels (it means “Buttercup”), the source material the show is based on. Fans of The Witcher, especially through CD Projekt Red’s trilogy of video game RPGs, will know Jaskier by a different flowery name: Dandelion. Dandelion is one of Geralt’s closest friends, or the closest he can consider a friend to be, travelling with him on many adventures. His lute, seen here, was gifted to him by an elven warrior named Toruviel after she destroyed his old one during one of these aforementioned adventures he had with Geralt.
Speaking of the games, we’re back in that town again, as we get to see a sight that Witcher players will be intimately familiar with: Geralt, thrusting his hand out and performing an invocation that sees a group of foes pushed back. Unlike magic wielders like Yennefer, Witchers cast minor spells called signs, channelling runic gestures like the three-fingered point Geralt makes here. This sign in particular is a common one called Aard, which creates a minor telekinetic blast that knocks back and stuns Geralt’s foes in combat.
There’s a reason Geralt’s cloaked up here, hiding his white hair – and why these tavern patrons don’t want “his kind” hanging around. By the time the Witcher novels take place, Witchers are a dying breed, largely untrusted by commoners even if they’re still the one of the few forces that can combat the supernatural creatures that roam the Continent. No longer supported by nations sending candidates to their academies, the Witchers are now mainly wandering mercenaries like Geralt, willing to take any job they can for some coin.
“Hunting monsters...” Yennefer’s narration continues, as we see Geralt doing exactly that. The creature we see here is a Ghoul: they’re often found in the wake of violence, because they feed on decaying, rotting corpses. So the camp Geralt is wandering through has likely been ransacked, leading to the arrival of a few Ghouls by the time Geralt’s on the scene.
“... for a price,” Yennefer adds, as we’re back in that town with Geralt carving his way through a few armed thugs. Bounties for killing supernatural creatures aren’t the only contracts Geralt will take, so this isn’t an uncommon scene for him. But it all adds up that this scrap and this town is actually a place called Blaviken. In the short story “The Lesser Evil,” collected in the anthology The Last Wish, readers learn why Geralt also has a rather infamous reputation and a sinister nickname: The Butcher of Blaviken.
Tasked with defending a mage named Stregobor from a young princess named Renfri in a morally-grey war of words over who’s right or wrong, or who is, as the story is titled, the lesser evil, Geralt eventually is forced to confront Renfri and her men in Blaviken’s streets in front of the town’s shocked citizens, killing them all. Geralt gets chased out of town, earning him the infamous moniker in the process.
“I’d thought you’d have fangs, or horns, or something,” Yennefer concludes, as we cut back to her in her mask, revealing that she has indeed been talking to Geralt in person all this time. This appears to be taking place at Belleteyn, a May Night festival of fertility that is, well...about people coming together to celebrate fertility. Practically. I’ll leave you to imagine how.
“I had them filed down” is how Geralt counters Yenn’s barb, making this seem like this is their first encounter. While a scene of Geralt and Yennefer attending Belleteyn is seen in the anthology Sword of Destiny, they actually meet in an earlier short story called “The Last Wish,” collected in the anthology of the same name.
Geralt looks on as a train of travellers trek toward a strange, mystical looking rock. It’s hard to really point out here, but it would seem that at least some of the travellers at the back of the caravan are Dwarves, given their heights.
“People call you a monster too,” an unknown woman says, as we see the aftermath of Geralt’s butchery in Blaviken: the disgusted townspeople jeering and hurling rocks at the bloodied mercenary.
“Why not kill them?” the woman asks, as we cut to her speaking to Geralt, who simply responds with “Because then I am what they say I am.” Now that we see the woman, it’s clear that this is the aforementioned Renfri (Emma Appleton), before Geralt is regrettably forced to kill her alongside her men in Blaviken. But, note Renfri’s costume here – specifically the broach on her cloak. It’s the same pendant Geralt was seen carrying through Blaviken earlier, that we know gets attached to his sword at some point. Presumably in order to remember Renfri after their unfortunate battle, he takes it and attaches it to his sword as a reminder of the infamous event.
“All of our choices draw our destinies closer,” Yennefer returns to the narration, as we get a couple of short and sharp shots. The first is a flashback, to a scene we saw a bit more of in the first trailer: Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May), the Lion of Cintra, on the battlefield. Calanthe is Ciri’s grandmother, and the warrior queen who earns her title fighting back against the invasion of the Nilfgaardian Empire. This massive battle is likely the Battle for Marnadal Valley, where Calanthe’s forces were routed by the overwhelming numbers of the Empire’s armies.
The second shot sees Yennefer and Geralt trading stares in a much less “Why hello, I would like to celebrate fertility with you” manner than their earlier encounter. The environment and Geralt’s armour here seem to set this scene as the same one we saw Geralt observing those travellers from afar in earlier. Was Yennefer one of those figures?
Meanwhile, we’re back at another familiar scene from the first trailer: Calanthe, now on her deathbed during the sacking of Cintra’s capital – also named Cintra – warning Ciri to find Geralt at all costs. Given that he’s seemingly there during the sacking, if that shot of him fighting earlier was of him killing Nilfgaard troops, it seems like Ciri will be spending much of her time on the show playing missed connections with our titular hero.
Geralt gets into a showdown and draws his sword with some soldiers – they look like they could be Cintrans, given we get to a flashback later on that sees him crossing swords with a few Cintran soldiers. But there’s always a possibility this is taking place in another region: Temeria, a northern nation in the Continent that plays an important role in the wars against Nilfgaard.
Ciri flees through a forest, presumably from the sacking of Cintra, before encountering the Dryads of Brokilon, breathlessly telling one of them that she has to find Geralt. Ciri is being hunted by a variety of forces at this point, not just the invading Nilfgaardians – because she’s actually a very powerful magic user as well, destined to play a tumultuous role in the fate of the world.
We saw a bit more of the Dryads in the first trailer, but they’re essentially a warrior race of women that call Brokilon their kingdom. They’re very apprehensive of outsiders encroaching on their territory, but Brokilon is also home to toxic waters the Dryads use to transform captives into new Dryads...a fate they might be trying to enact on Ciri as she finds herself fleeing through its woods.
Back to that flashback of Geralt, now in courtly regalia, fighting off Cintran soldiers during what looks like a revolt. While the armour is similar to the soldiers we saw him standing off with earlier, it’s more intricately detailed, and the capes here are dark blue rather than white – suggesting those earlier soldiers maybe were indeed Temerians.
We saw a much longer version of this scene play out in the first trailer, implying that the battle breaks out with a bunch of Cintran commoners storm the banquet. Unseen here but revealed there, however, was that this battle also features a friend of Geralt’s named Duny – a prince cursed to look like a strange hedgehog. He’s actually a hugely important character to the overall narrative, for reasons that we can’t really get into without spoiling a whole bunch of ground the show will likely get around to covering in later seasons.
“Don’t judge me,” Geralt warns Roach. Like we said earlier, Geralt has few constant companions more loyal than Roach, so this is an indicator of their weary, loving relationship.
“They say Witchers can’t feel human emotion,” Yennefer says, as we cut to her watching over Geralt as he takes a bath. “What do you believe in?” she jibes. This is likely an adaptation of a scene from “A Shard of Ice” from Sword of Destiny, a short story that delves into Yennefer and Geralt’s relationship that opens with Geralt slaying an octopus-like creature called a Zeugel in some sewers...prompting Yennefer to immediately demand that Geralt clean himself up from all the stink when he returns to the Inn they’re staying the night at.
But the very specific framing of this shot is also a loving nod to fans of the games. Early on in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, gamers are treated to a long, lingering shot of a wet and naked Geralt enjoying a nice long bath in a tub that’s slightly too small for the burly warrior, his feet sticking out as the camera is left to draw your eyes to his attractive physique. Naturally, it became a bit of a meme among fans, even being turned into a statue by Dark Horse at one point.
We asked about whether or not the infamous bathtub would be in the show back at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this year, and, well...you have your answer, don’t you?
A large caravan of travellers makes their way across a dusty road, as we cut to Nilfgaardian soldiers launching a night time attack. “Evil is evil,” Geralt says...
“Lesser...” he carries on, as we see Calanthe on her deathbed again as well as a Nilfgaardian commander drawing their sword. This is actually Cahir (Eamon Farren), or, to give him his ridiculous full name, Cahir Mawr Dyffryn aep Ceallach. An intelligence officer in the Nilfgaardian army, Cahir is one of the people tasked with kidnapping Ciri during the sacking of Cintra. He temporarily succeeds, before she flees (given the snowy forest setting here, that’s likely what we’re seeing here). Cahir is brutally punished for his failure, and eventually defects from Nilfgaard, joining Geralt in his mission to protect Ciri from the Empire’s clutches.
“Greater...” Geralt continues, as we see Ciri flee through an encampment that is being attacked by Nilfgaardians. Is this the ruined, Ghoul-riddled site that Geralt eventually comes across that we saw earlier?
We also get this very brief shot of Adam Levy as Mousesack, known better to fans of the game as the druid Ermion. In the books, as we’ll eventually see in this trailer, Mousesack is largely responsible for bringing Geralt back to Cintra and into the quest to save Ciri, arguing that her fate and Geralt’s own are intertwined.
“Middling...” Geralt’s speech goes on, as we see Ciri fleeing from a Nilfgaardian commander in full armour (perhaps Cahir with a helmet on?) as a massive ravine opens up between them. This might be a dream sequence – we’ve seen Ciri involved in several, in this trailer and the last one. But it could be an example of her untrained magical prowess at work: Ciri is coveted because she has Elder Blood in her veins – she and her family line are descendants of a union between two incredibly powerful mages, an elf named Lara Dorren and Cregennan of Lod shortly after the Conjunction of the Spheres.
“...it’s all the same,” Geralt concludes, as we cut from his speech to a shot of Fringilla Vigo (Mimi Ndiweni) during the sacking of Cintra. A sorceress working for Nilfgaard, we see her using her magical abilities to light a trebuchet on fire during Nilfgaard’s attack on the city.
We then cut to something completely different from everything else we’ve seen in this trailer so far: Pursued by a strange, dark robed figure (who appears to be summoning some kind of crablike creature), Yennefer races along a brightly-lit desert with a fancily dressed unknown woman.
This looks like it could be Isobel Laidler, who plays Queen Kalis of Lyria in the series. While Lyria is a region known in Witcher’s law, Kalis is a newly created character for the show. We’ve seen her in several environments being chased alongside Yennefer like this in both the first trailer and this one; given the seemingly rapid switches in environment, is Yennefer magically teleporting them to different places in an attempt to escape their mysterious pursuer?
Back in Blavkien, Geralt crosses swords with Renfri – ultimately besting her and leaving her to bleed out after slicing through an artery in her leg.
Another quick cut sends us back to Cintra, as the royal court watches some dancing during a feast. This doesn’t appear to be the flashback scene as we don’t see Geralt in attendance – we can see Ciri and Calanthe though, so it perhaps takes place just before the sacking of Cintra.
“Princess of Cirilla is your destiny,” Mousesack tells Geralt, as we see the two in some dankly-lit corridors and more shots of the Nilfgaardians sacking Cintra.
Elsewhere, we’re treated to the reverse of a shot we saw in the first trailer: Yennefer entering an elaborate ball and dancing with nobility. This is likely taking place at Aretuza, given the mystical looking accoutrements.
“I can’t protect her,” Geralt counters, as we get more shots of him fighting men in what looks like a cave. The lighting here suggests that this is unrelated to any part of the Cintra battle we’ve seen throughout this trailer, so perhaps this is another isolated adventure he goes on.
A few more unconnected shots here – Ciri running through the forest, Mousesack chasing after Geralt in that same corridor we just saw, and Ciri once again, this time with a horse in a swamp.
We also get one very quick shot of MyAnna Buring as the sorceror Tissaia de Vries. We see way more of Tissaia in the first trailer as a crucial character in Yennefer’s backstory – she’s the mage that takes Yenn in at Aretuza, teaching her to hone her magical skills.
It’s hard to tell where Tissaia is here, but the foggy and moody environs tease that this could be the battle of Sodden Hill, a major battle in the first Nilfgaard war that saw Niflgaard routed, but at the cost of many mages. In the books, Tissaia isn’t among them however – but Yennefer does fight in the battle.
“If you dismiss her,” Mousesack continues to warn Geralt, “you will unleash a true calamity upon us all.” Under that narration, we see a few more unconnected shots: Ciri in a hazy red-soaked environment is likely another dream sequence or vision she experiences, and another extended shot of Nilfgaard and Cintran forces clashing at Marnadal Valley.
A blood spattered Yenn and Queen Kalis look on in horror. Kalis is, underneath her wintry cloak, wearing the same gown we saw her in in the desert, lending credence to the idea that Yennefer magically transports herself and the Queen away from whoever their attacker is here.
A few more sharply cut shots: Geralt looking moody, Ciri in tears, another explosion at an unknown battle (not one we’ve seen elsewhere, given the sunlight), and Geralt crossing swords with Renfri at Blaviken.
In even more unconnected shots, we get to glimpse Yennefer collapsing in a grove, Ciri again (this time hiding behind an unknown figure), and then another shot of Yennefer of her overlooking a castle wall – the foggy atmosphere makes it seem like this could be the same Battle of Sodden Hill sequence we speculated about earlier – and then Geralt planting his sword at that same Ghoul-ridden camp from previously in this trailer.
The first Yennefer shot is the most interesting here, given it seems to be part of the teleportation sequence we’ve seen her in with Queen Kalis, given the yellow-flowered grove is unlike any other environment we’ve seen. But note that Kalis isn’t in the grove with her. Does Yennefer lose her to their mysterious pursuer?
The trailer ends with Geralt simply refuting Mousesack’s warning: “I’ll take that chance,” he says, as we cut to him in a swamp drawing his sword out of the body of a creature, with jet black eyes.
This is part of a sequence that actually ended the first trailer, too – it’s Geralt battling a giant, spider-like creature called a Kikimore, an adaptation of the opening of “The Lesser Evil,” presumably, as Geralt looking to cash in on a trophy from the Kikimore is what first brings him to Blaviken. The reason Geralt’s eyes are blackened here is another callout for fans of the games. Witchers prepare for particularly gruelling battles – like, say, battling giant nasty looking insectoid creatures in fetid swamps – by meditating and preparing potions to chug just before combat, enhancing their abilities and regenerative properties.
The problem is that those potions are, kind of like the mutagens that they’re imbued with to become Witchers in the first place, essentially just poison. In the Witcher games, to restrict the amount of potions you can swig before a fight, this idea is represented by a toxicity meter – take on too much, and you start draining health and eventually keel over. High levels of toxicity are represented by, yup, you guessed it: jet black eyes.
While not as explicitly reveal-heavy as our first look at the series, this latest trailer provides some important context for people not quite as already versed in the world of either the Witcher games or the original novels, while still delivering some very fun little moments of fanservice for those who are. If our first look at The Witcher established the world and the powerful women that inhabit it, from Yennefer to Ciri, this trailer realigns itself back to Geralt himself – shining a light on just what earns his titular line of work its infamous reputation while also setting him on a collision course with quite a few of those aforementioned women.
We’ll find out just how calamitous those collisions are for the Continent when The Witcher rides onto Netflix on December 20.