If you ever find yourself thinking that you’re under a lot of pressure, spare a thought for The Witcher: Blood Origin. Blood Origin is a new prequel fantasy series to the immensely popular Netflix series The Witcher. When it was first released, The Witcher was Netflix’s biggest property, helped by international devotion to the books and videogames. Another huge draw to The Witcher was Henry Cavill.
Henry Cavill starred in The Witcher as the lead, Geralt of Rivia, coming off the back of his time on the DC movie series as Superman, the spy movie series Mission: Impossible, and the action thriller movie The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Cavill is famously an enormous fan of The Witcher source material, and his dedicated performance as Geralt was lauded as one of the TV series’ biggest highlights.
Then, the news came that he was departing the series after The Witcher season 3, set to be replaced by Liam Hemsworth. Audiences were instantly sceptical. Given that Cavill himself was such a huge part of what had made The Witcher the success that it was, could the world of The Witcher survive without him?
With that question looming overhead, The Witcher: Blood Origin has a lot to prove upon its release on the upcoming Christmas Day. Not only does it have to deal with the innate pressure of being a prequel series (and we know these aren’t always well received by fans) but it also has to show that it’s possible to make a new series of The Witcher that doesn’t even have Geralt in it; let alone Henry Cavill.
Thankfully for fans of this dark fantasy universe, The Witcher: Blood Origin addresses those concerns straight out of the blocks. The four-part mini series, which is set a millennium before the main series, is an entirely new Witcher story which at no point relies on name-recognition for Geralt of Rivia. As far as The Witcher: Blood Origin is concerned, Henry Cavill’s Butcher of Blaviken never even existed. And, the series still manages to feel like a distinctly Witcher-y story, even in his absence.
For the many stars of the new series the loss of Cavill – and the subsequent weight of pressure on The Witcher: Blood Origin – is nothing more than background noise. In a conversation, which The Digital Fix attended, the cast spoke openly about his departure. Lizzie Annis, who plays the celestial sorcerer Zacaré said:
“Blood Origin starts 1200 years before the world of The Witcher, the world that Henry has so brilliantly inhabited over the last few series. It does have its own identity in that sense, and we are exploring a different era of the continent, a different chapter. The piece that we’ve created – as much as it’s intrinsically connected to the world of The Witcher – stands alone in its own right too.”
Similarly, Huw Novelli who stars as the warrior Callan (or Brother Death, as he prefers to be called) provides parallel commentary. “Even despite Henry leaving there was a responsibility [to carry the torch for The Witcher]. Just entering The Witcher world comes with that responsibility… I hope that we can add to it, and add something interesting. Some people might agree with the storyline, some people might not. But we’re offering an answer to questions that are posed throughout The Witcher. We hope people love it, and that we can add our own little bits to Witcher history.”
There’s one man who’s thoughts matter more than almost anyone else, though, and that’s Joey Batey. Batey famously portrays one of Geralt’s closest companions, Jaskier the bard, so Cavill’s loss impacts him more than most. Up until now their performances have fed off of, and into, each other and their growing relationship has been one of the most compelling plotlines in the fantasy series. Now Batey will have to pivot and work with Hemsworth instead, as if no change has happened at all – but he agrees that The Witcher’s ever-changing landscape means that it can withstand the recasting.
When we sat down to talk to him, we asked him about Cavill’s departure, and whether or not it would significantly affect how the series developed in the future. Reflecting on Cavill’s exit, Batey told us “every season, Jaskier and Geralt’s relationship continues and grows and merges in lots of different ways and strengthens.”
Expect Geralt to change, as The Witcher continues to progress then, and for that change to soften to blow of the recasting. On Cavill specifically, Batey continued “So that friendship [between Geralt and Jaskier] is going to be different, even if Henry were playing it.”
That sense of change, which will clearly be an important part of The Witcher in a post-Cavill world, is a major theme of The Witcher: Blood Origin. Just as it is behind the scenes, the in-universe world of The Witcher is in flux with the balance of power shifting and the threat of impending external threats. So, whether it’s ingrained in the stories or the real-life drama, The Witcher is set to be all about evolution and Cavill being replaced by Hemsworth only embodies that, rather than exacerbating it.
Yet still, even before the launch of The Witcher season 3 and Cavill’s final outing as the White Wolf, The Witcher: Blood Origin remains the first chance the series has had to really, truly demonstrate that it can survive without Cavill. And, fans of the world of The Witcher can breathe a sigh of relief because Blood Origin confidently paves the way forward showing that this fantastical world is rich and unique enough to tell a story unrelated to Cavill and Geralt, and do it while retaining the essence of what audiences have loved so far.
The Witcher: Blood Origin will be available on Netflix from December 25.