Early in Netflix’s The Witcher, the Nilfgaardian army attacked the outer walls of the Cintrian Kingdom. Queen Calanthe then gathers her troops to defend her homeland. What follows is a key decision by show runner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, in which she explains what viewers will experience for the rest of the season.
(Ed. Note: This post contains spoilers for the first four episodes of The Witcher on Netflix.
Despite its value, Calanthe’s army is overwhelmed by the brutal oppressors, and the queen’s husband, Eist Tuirseach, inhales his last breath. In her last insane fight, Calanthe sends as many Nilfgaardians as possible to meet her creator before falling to the ground, fatally wounded. The Cintra lioness went down and swung like a lioness: protecting her cubs. In this case, to protect Ciri.
Calanthe dies at the end of episode 1 and then returns to the stage in episode 4. At first glance, the killing looks a bit chaotic: the episode is bursting with action and flits between the scenes like a blood-starved Bruxa. But at that moment, The Witcher escapes the shadow of its obvious cultural competitor: Game of Thrones.
Although Game of Thrones was almost unanimously rated by critics and fans as a catastrophic argument, the series was once considered one of the great works of TV pop art. Revered for its bold storytelling and sheer indifference to established tropics, it was a force to be reckoned with – an unwavering defender of the imagination who was determined in a time only Lord of the Rings knew.
However, the Thrones wick burned slowly. This was a strength: the drama relied heavily on tensions spread across the series’ arches, as if too little butter was served over too much bread – at least for the first few seasons. Shows that try to regain the magic (and attention) of thrones may try a similar tactic, maintain tension to the crown, and keep walking at a snail’s pace. The Witcher is not.
Consider Calanth’s battle, death, and reappearance against an important throne vignette: Ned Stark’s beheading toward the end of season one. This shock development, which was unprecedented in today’s era of armor, helped David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ series wrests clichés. He was the main character! How could he die?
The sorcerer will of course make comparisons with the kite show – it took a long time for anyone to see a single trailer. But if the comparison is to be made now, when the opening season is open, Thrones fans should recognize the bravery of this show and the fearlessness of The Witcher to go a step further. By killing Calanthe in the first episode and then reviving her in Episode 4 with the magic of storytelling, Hissrich and her team of authors find a more fulfilling revelation than a shocking death: The Witcher unfolds three primary narrative strands in three different timelines. The result is clarity and exhileration afterwards.
The swords are drawn again when Calanthe shows up a second time and another battle breaks out, taking place in a chic ballroom instead of just outside Cintra’s outer shell. While Geralt of Rivia slaughters her soldiers next to her future husband Eist Tuirseach, Calanthes troops try to overpower the witcher and his Skelligan companions. The fight ends after Pavetta’s intervention – Ciri’s mother – but there is another problem: Geralt must be paid to rescue Duny, Pavetta’s fiancé.
This is how the witcher receives his “child of surprise”, which will later be used in the show. Calanth’s death and reappearance, written as a flashback, are the first threads to set this in motion, the core of The Witcher’s story. And although her premature death competes with the brave script in which Ned Stark lost her head, her character is given far greater importance. Ned’s spirit stands out above the characters in Thrones and often influences his children’s decisions, but Calanth’s backstory provides a clever and necessary representation for The Witchers’ overall narrative. Then the time goes on.
When people come to The Witcher, they stop and say it looks a bit like thrones: the dimly lit corridors, muddy battlefields, lush forests, and intimidating royal castles. But in the Netflix series, the lessons were clearly drawn and built on. Ned Stark changed television. The sorcerer recognized this and revised it according to his own ideas.