The Witcher showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich explains why season 2 most devastating death had to happen within the show’s timeline. Based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels and heavily inspired by CD Projekt’s video games, Netflix’s The Witcher dropped its first season in December 2019. Season 1 of the series adapted stories from The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, using three timelines to introduce the mutant Geralt (Henry Cavill), the Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), and the destiny-plagued princess Ciri (Freya Allan). That being said, The Witcher’s first season follows Geralt and his trusty steed, Roach, for approximately 40 years.
In the books and games, Roach, or “Płotka” in Polish, is the name given to all of Geralt’s horses. In the world of video games, Roach has become iconic not just for his relationship with Geralt, but for the steed’s association with certain bugs in CDPR’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The Witcher season 2 dropped on December 17, 2021, and loosely adapts Blood of Elves. For those unfamiliar with the source material, it might come as a surprise to learn that Roach meets his end in episode 6, “Dear Friend.” The horse is fatally injured when Geralt and Ciri are attacked by a giant winged monster, forcing Geralt to put Roach out of her misery.
During an interview with The Wrap, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich explained why Roach had to die in season 2. Additionally, the showrunner/executive producer revealed that the Roaches seen in the show are males, even though the character is a female because Geralt prefers mares. Read what she had to say after being asked why she killed Roach below:
“I know, I know. It’s horrid. A couple of things, one, horses don’t live as long as Witchers. We knew that basically how we told the story in Season 1, how we progressed time, that this [horse], which we call Roach One… Roach One had to have been ending his natural life. So, we realized that we didn’t want him just to disappear off-screen between stories. That if we were going to let go of Roach, we wanted to make him have a hero moment. I’m saying him. So, the reason I do that by the way, is that the horses that we shoot with are all stallions. They’re all males because we tried Henry Cavill on mares for a while, and he is too big to be on a female horse. I have to go back and forth between remembering that Zayas is a male, and Roach is a female.”
“So we wanted to make sure that Roach had a hero moment, but also it was important to us to get to that aspect of the books where Geralt has a lot of Roaches. He’s alive a long time, and the new Roach is also called Roach. That is just his cycle of life. I think that one of the things I love that is so indicative to me of Geralt’s character is just how pure and true his relationship is with these horses, and yet also how he understands that they go on and he needs to choose a new one. That horse then becomes a beacon of true friendship for him. I just think it’s the way that Geralt lives his life.”
Roach’s death presented an opportunity for Cavill to include something from the books the show had decided to leave out. In The Sword of Destiny’s “Something More,” Geralt has a near-death experience at Sodden Hill. After passing out, the Witcher seemingly has a conversation with Death, and the latter talks about a crossing over. In season 2, Geralt quotes (or paraphrases) Death’s monologue, telling Roach, “enjoy your last walk across the meadow and through the mist. Be not afraid of her, for she is your friend.”
The Witcher’s second season looks to Sapkowski’s Blood of Elves, seeing Geralt and Ciri travel to Kaer Morhen. However, season 2 also divulges from its source material in many ways, including Eskel’s death, Yennefer’s arc, that White Flame reveal, Voleth Meir/the Deathless Mother, and the introduction of the Wild Hunt/Wraiths of Mörhogg. Of all those creative decisions, it’s safe to say that showing Roach’s death onscreen is the least controversial. While they could’ve simply shown Geralt with a new horse, Roach’s death further illustrates just how much Geralt’s companions mean to him. In episode 7, “Voleth Meir,” Geralt meets a new steed, continuing the Roach cycle.