In Netflix’s The Witcher, an unexpected turn of events sees Henry Cavill’s character Geralt invert a major criticism of his take on Superman . Marking Cavill’s debut as the iconic hero, Man of Steel divided its audience because its version of Superman differed from past incarnations. Similar criticism has been directed toward The Witcher, but instead of being applied to Cavill’s Geralt performance, it is rather applied to another main character, the sorceress Yennefer.
Based on author Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy novels, The Witcher follows the stone-faced monster hunter Geralt as he fights man and beast to protect Ciri, a young girl who comes into the witcher’s care after the death of her family. Word of Ciri’s existence spreads like wildfire as she begins manifesting devastatingly powerful magic, including the ability to open portal gateways called monoliths that lead to other worlds. The greatest shock of season 2 comes when Yennefer, a woman whom Geralt once considered an ally, endangers Ciri’s life. After Yennefer loses her ability to cast magic, she deceives Geralt by attempting to deliver Ciri to Voleth Meir, a vicious demon that offers to restore Yennefer’s power in exchange for the girl.
In the original books, Yennefer becomes Geralt’s lover, as well as a mother figure to Ciri, teaching her to control her magic. Essentially, the three become a family. However, longtime fans are now concerned that Yennefer’s betrayal may make this union unfeasible. This criticism is similar to the position that some fans took with the final battle in Man of Steel, between Superman and Zod. The conflict ends when Superman kills Zod to stop him from attacking a group of innocent bystanders, a decision that upset many fans because they believed it strayed from the hero’s otherwise benevolent spirit. In this sense, The Witcher reverses Man of Steel’s issue – instead of Geralt’s malevolent behavior, it is Yennefer who brings the hurt.
Like Cavill’s Superman, the Netflix version of Yennefer is not entirely negative because it shows her in a state of powerlessness. In the Netflix continuity, Yennefer is forced to consider how much her power means to her and whether she believes it is worth sacrificing another’s well-being. The adaptation has made this aspect of her character especially important since she goes to extreme lengths, even risking her own life, to become more powerful. Yennefer’s self-perception in the show is dictated by her magic, and her struggle with Voleth Meir also tests what she is willing to sacrifice to regain the strength she lost.
Changing Yennefer’s storyline is an interesting concept, but it could also have repercussions in the future, particularly in her relationship with Geralt. In a world where he can easily be betrayed, the list of people he can count on is short, and Yennefer’s actions may have removed her from the list. The sorceress will likely redeem herself by taking Ciri under her wing, but it is expected that Geralt will grow more watchful after the Voleth Meir incident. Netflix’s The Witcher is notably different from its source material, but “different” is always a wild card when it comes to good or bad. Though the adaptation may not precisely mimic the original books, it may yield a compelling new take on the story that fans genuinely enjoy.