The Witcher is a fantasy Netflix series based on the video game and book franchise created by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich. Henry Cavill stars as the white-haired, golden-eyed monster hunter for the first three seasons. However, following Volume 2 of Season 3 airing later this month, Cavill will leave the series. For The Witcher Season 4, the role of Geralt has been recast with Liam Hemsworth. But can the series survive without Cavill’s performance?
If the question had been raised after the first season instead of for The Witcher Season 4, it would have been a lot easier to answer. In that first chapter of The Witcher saga, Geralt is minimal to the overall plot in a story filled with time manipulation and political intrigue. At this point, the monster hunter is gruff and emotionless for much of the runtime. But Cavill is an imposing figure on screen, and that first look at a live-action Geralt is brilliant. Cavill delivers on the character’s voice and the first signs of battle are breathtaking. As the show has grown and expanded, so did Cavill and Geralt. He has shown vulnerability and heightened rage, gaining the spotlight more often as a witty action star.
Regardless of why Cavill left the role as Geralt, there’s no denying the enthusiasm Cavill brings to the role in every episode prior to his departure in The Witcher Season 4. It’s a labor of love that can be seen in the show. As mentioned before, he grows more comfortable embodying the character as the show progresses, carrying the series with power. As a stoic action star, Cavill is phenomenal. During the fight scenes, especially within the first two seasons, he is on his own without someone to bounce off of. When the show requires him to be emotional and open, Cavill’s Geralt never loses his status or reputation as a killer. There is a subtlety to the performance as well as intense drama.
But all the conversation around Geralt in The Witcher Season 4 avoids the fact that he is but one member of a huge cast of utterly brilliant characters. I’d argue that Ciri is just as much the protagonist of the show as Geralt is. She is wanted by every nation and army. The whole continent is tearing itself apart to try and get to her. Geralt has been her protector and a surrogate father after everyone she loves was slaughtered in Cintra. Freya Allen is exceptional as a girl who went from being protected in a palace to holding unmatched power. She is the character who drives the plot of The Witcher.
Then you have Yennefer, played by the excellent Anya Chalotra. She may be frustrating, frequently making mistakes and unleashing chaos, but she is always fascinating and riveting to watch. She is an example of what Ciri can become, making her the perfect mentor and has been on as much of a journey as Ciri and Geralt. Going from vengeful and pure anger to someone who wants to atone for their sins. Not to mention the bards and mages and rulers and creatures that have made The Witcher one of the best fantasy series. There are whole episodes where Geralt doesn’t much of anything because of everything else going on. The largest battles of the shows, turning points for the world in the series as a whole, don’t feature the Witcher at all.
The greatest difficulty will be to re-establish the connection between the characters. A trinity had been formed between Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer by the beginning of Season 3, and that closeness forms the heart and souls of the season. With Geralt and Yennefer, it is a voracious and intense passion for each other, so forceful that they are both afraid of the cause of it. Initially beginning as raw sexual attraction, their chemistry is more than that. It’s one of the mistakes and progressing over time, constantly hurting one another.
Geralt also has a great friendship with Jaskier, a bard that often tags along with him. Especially in the first series, Geralt struggles to maintain trusting and accepting company on his missions. Jaskier (Joey Batey) and Yennefer are the start of melting that. But it is the bond between Geralt and Ciri that Cavill is crucial for. He is her protector, without question, and doesn’t resent her for it. It becomes an incredibly close and trusting partnership, representing safety in a world full of danger and uncertainty. It will be interesting to see if another actor can recreate those chemistries so seamlessly.
It’s also worth questioning whether another actor will carry the action and the look in general as well as Cavill is able to. An aspect that works in the favour of someone new is how much of Geralt’s design requires costuming. The white hair and the golden eyes are iconic and striking. But that presence that Cavill brings means that those fight scenes without him could be extremely jarring to witness.
Divorcing Cavill from the character of Geralt will be no easy feat. He is the face of the show, and one of the driving forces behind the progression of the franchise as a whole. What he has brought to the role and to the show cannot be understated and he has led it with a distinct presence. His voice is now the voice of Geralt. His legacy will remain intact and unblemished.
But to say that this series would be doomed slightly diminishes the immense acting and writing that the rest of the show involves. This has always been more than a series about one man, or even Ciri herself. There is a whole continent at war, with the tide endlessly ebbing and flowing. Whether it is Cavill under that white wig or not, that magnitude never dwindles. The content within the show has barely scratched the surface of the source material. It would be a shame to cut the entire thing because of whatever politics led to the departure of Cavill. There is a whole universe being crafted through Netflix, with spinoffs already released. He may have been the heart of The Witcher, but Ciri is the soul. It’s not going to be a simple switch. The replacement has to hit the ground running. But the World of The Witcher is more than just Henry Cavill.
The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1 is available on Netflix with Season 4 release date announced for late 2024 or early 2025.