After a full year in production, Netflix’s fantasy series The Witcher has finally wrapped filming and is confirmed to be heading our way before the end of the year.
The much-anticipated drama has suffered a tumultuous production cycle, with two complete shutdowns, one on-set injury and other complications caused by new safety measures required to minimise the threat of coronavirus.
However, season two has now completed its gruelling shoot and is entering the post-production stage, which is another lengthy process for a show with so many action sequences and visual effects.
Nevertheless, The Witcher will be back on our screens this year, as promised by Netflix boss Ted Sarandos at the company’s recent investor call.
He said: “What happened in the first part of this year was that a lot of the projects that we’d hoped to come out earlier did get pushed because of the post-production delays and COVID delays.
“We think we’ll get back to a much steadier state in the back half of the year, certainly in Q4 where we have the returning seasons of some of our most popular shows like The Witcher and You and Cobra Kai.”
Check out all the latest news and details – including new cast members, a special behind-the-scenes video and rumours of the Wild Hunt – below.
The Witcher season 2 release date
We finally have a better idea of when the next season of The Witcher will be appearing on Netflix, as the streamer’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos recently confirmed new episodes would be coming in Q4 2021 (via Deadline).
That period technically covers anytime from the start of October to the end of December, but we’d bet on the show returning to a Christmas release slot given it proved so successful the first time around.
Previously, showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich had confirmed the show would return this year in a Reddit AMA: “We don’t yet have a target launch date for season two past 2021. We don’t want to rush the product. That doesn’t benefit anyone.”
The episodes have been a long time coming due to the pandemic, with filming halted for five months between March and August 2020, with another interruption coming in November after a crew member tested positive.
Fortunately, filming has finally completed (more than a year since it first got underway), with the team sharing a picture of Henry Cavill’s last day on set to celebrate.
That's a wrap on Season 2! The White Wolf awaits you back on The Continent. pic.twitter.com/SqrAbeelob— The Witcher (@witchernetflix) April 2, 2021
The Witcher season 2 trailer
There’s no sign of a trailer yet, but when filming finally wrapped on 2nd April 2021, Netflix released a special behind-the-scenes video showing cast and crew celebrating the news.
The Witcher season 2 cast
Unsurprisingly, Superman’s alter ego Henry Cavill will return as Geralt of Rivia, with Freya Allan as the prophesied Princess Ciri. Anya Chalotra will play sorceress and love interest Yennefer and Jodhi May will reappear as Queen Calanthe, with Joey Batey back as fan-favourite bard and sidekick Jaskier (sometimes called Dandelion in the novels).
It was announced by Deadline in February 2020 that Kim Bodnia would play experienced Golden Age Witcher (and Geralt’s father figure) Vesemir, hot off his role as Villanelle’s handler in Killing Eve.
Speaking of the casting, Hissrich said: “I am so thrilled to welcome Kim Bodnia to the cast of The Witcher. I have admired his unique talents in shows like Killing Eve and The Bridge, and cannot wait for him to bring strength, tenacity, and warmth to the character of Vesemir, who is such an integral part of our upcoming season.”
There are also a number of new cast members set to feature in the second season. They include: Yasen Atour (Young Wallander) as Coen, Agnes Bjorn (Monster) as Vereena, Paul Bullion (Peaky Blinders) as Lambert, Aisha Fabienne Ross (The Danish Girl) as Lydia and newcomer Mecia Simson, who will play Francesca.
Another recent addition to the cast is Game of Thrones star Kristofer Hivju, who tested positive for coronavirus after filming on The Witcher shut down, but has since made a full recovery. He will play Nivellen, a cursed animal-like man loosely based on the Beast from Beauty and the Beast (notably, some of the Witcher’s adventures are drawn from fairy tales).
Later in December 2020, several new cast members were announced for the series – including Emily Pollet (Emmerdale), James Eeles (Peaky Blinders), Cayvan Coates and Rebecca Hanssen (Dixi).
Pollet will play a character codenamed Human Mother G and Hannsen stars as Queen Meve of Lyria and Rivia, while the characters played by Coates and Eeles have not yet been revealed.
And if that wasn’t enough, in March 2021 even more key characters were unveiled: Adjoa Andoh will play the role of priestess Nenneke, while Cassie Clare will play powerful sorceress Phillippa Eilhart alongside Outlander’s Graham McTavish as spymaster Dijkstra.
Liz Carr, Kevin Doyle, Simon Callow and Chris Fulton will also join the cast as Fenn, Ba’lian, Codringher and Rience. As if this cast couldn’t get more stuffed already.
Yet there’s still more – Sam Hazedine will play Red Rider leader Eredin, Niamh McCormack is elven sorceress Lara Dorren and veteran actress Ann Firbank will portray elven oracle Ithlinne.
Joseph Payne has been also been cast as Jarre, Ed Birch as Redania’s king Vizimir, Ania Marson as the mysterious Voleth Meir and Emily Byrt as original character Aylne. Phew.
Fast and Furious 9 star Thue Ersted Rasmussen was initially cast as Eskel and even began filming, but had to pull out due to scheduling conflicts after production was delayed due to COVID-19. He was replaced with Victoria actor Basil Eidenbenz.
The Witcher’s fight choreographer Vladimír Furdík, who played the Night King in Game of Thrones, won’t return for season two.
And reports suggest that Dolittle star Carmel Laniado will be joining the cast for season two, playing the supporting role of Violet.
Did coronavirus delay The Witcher on Netflix?
It had been assumed The Witcher would return in late 2020, roughly a year on from the season one premiere, but production was delayed twice by the coronavirus pandemic.
The second shutdown was caused by four crew testing positive for COVID-19 in early November and production was halted so all crew could be tested and safely cleared before filming resumed.
Speaking to The Wrap before the shutdown, showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich explained: “We were shooting in the UK and were about six weeks into our season when we shut down. We were literally in the middle of a big sequence we had been preparing for months.
“But we have a very international crew and it wasn’t just about the health of our crew and our cast, but also getting them back home to their families. So that was at the forefront for us.”
While the suspension was originally intended to last for only two weeks, it ultimately stretched out across five full months.
The Witcher team announced they would return to filming on the 17th August 2020, though Hissrich noted that it’s crucial the cast and crew feel personally comfortable with conditions on set.
I’m dusting off my lute and quill,— The Witcher (@witchernetflix) June 22, 2020
I have some news, some mead to spill:
After all the months we’ve been apart
It’s time for production to restart.
The Witcher and his bard – who’s flawless,
Will reunite on set 17 August.
In addition, with social distancing measures necessary to prevent the spread of the illness, certain scenes involving close proximity or large crowds would have been difficult – or indeed impossible – to pull off safely.
Still, in early August (slightly earlier than originally announced) the crew apparently got back to work, with behind-the-scenes figures showing off the new filming processes on social media.
And later in August, Henry Cavill shared a sneak peek at the new season – posting a behind-the-scenes snap to his Instagram page that showed him getting made up for the role.
He wrote, “No bald cap this year. Just pounds of 2 types of medical tape and some glue…. Removal is a joy. Jacqui and Ailbhe here, though, have the deft touch of angels. Jacqui more so an Angel of Vengeance, but that’s all part of her charm.
“Oh and for those who may be worrying. All of us are COVID cleared and bubbled. We get tested twice a week up here in Kaer Morhen!”
In October 2020, Cavill shared another snap, revealing he was still training for the role, although he had to take time out in December due to a minor leg muscle injury. Filming was planned to continue while he was absent.
However, the delay has claimed one casualty, with Fast and Furious 9 actor Thue Ersted Rasmussen pulling out of the role of Eskel (another Witcher character) due to scheduling conflicts, with Victoria actor Basil Eidenbenz replacing him.
If you’re worried about a long delay, you could listen to Netflix’s official The Witcher behind-the-scenes podcast, in which you can hear members of the cast and crew – including Anya Chalotra’s Yennefer – talk about what went down during filming and what could have been, or read The Witcher books in order.
The Witcher season 2 spoilers and plot
Season one was based on a set of short stories set before the Witcher saga, The Last Wish and The Sword of Destiny, with the next series set to mine more from that material as well as the first mainline instalment, Blood of Elves.
“A lot of what we’ve set up in season one will come into play in season two,” Hissrich told RadioTimes.com. “We will get into some stuff from Blood of Elves. But I also think there are things that we wanted to adapt from The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny that we didn’t have time to do.
“So to be blessed with a season two, and to know that we can go back and revisit some of those things, is really exciting. There will be a big mix of things.”
Blood of Elves sees Geralt take on the protection and training of Freya Allan’s Ciri, but given that some of Ciri’s storyline has already been depicted in season one, it’s unlikely to be a direct adaptation of those events.
She gave tearful goodbyes— The Witcher (@witchernetflix) October 6, 2020
on a most violent night.
Now this child of surprise
is preparing to fight. pic.twitter.com/qVP2wDCQXl
However, new story details have suggested that Ciri will head to Witcher stronghold Kaer Morhen where she may (based on new images, above) take on Witcher-type training, as in the books. In December 2020, Netflix released a series of set images that appear to be of Kaer Morhen, seemingly confirming this news.
One thing we do know is that the series will introduce more Witchers alongside Henry Cavill’s Geralt, including book and game fan-favourites Vesemir, Coen and Lambert.
“Really, in season one, we got to know Geralt and he’s our prime example of a Witcher,” Hissrich said. “And then there is one other Witcher, Remus, who we meet in Episode 103, who quickly dies.
“So it was, for us really, about getting Geralt back to his roots and sort of learning where he came from and what his story is and what his sense of family is.”
Hissrich went on to explain that the ongoing coronavirus crisis may demand changes to the story they had initially planned, due to restrictions placed on television production as a result of the pandemic.
“It’s going to impact story,” she said. “It will have to. But one of the best things about being a writer on set is that I’m there to make those changes as we need them.
“Really, in terms of writing, we just been honing a lot over the last eight weeks. Really digging back into scripts, making some big shifts, especially in the emotional journeys of our characters and making sure that everything we’re writing feels really grounded and true.”
Whatever the case, expect some Witcher monsters, sword-fighting, more on the war with Nilgaard and the elvish insurgence, as well as a likely focus on the prophecies and powers of Princess Ciri.
Netflix has already released a very brief first look at what’s to come, hidden in a montage of creature encounters from the first season.
Set to the unmistakable tune of Bobby Pickett’s Monster Mash, fans should keep an eye out around the 15 second mark, and again at 31 seconds, for two blink-and-you’ll-miss-them new clips.
“In Season 2, we’re really digging in with her character and we’re going to understand her a lot more,” Hissrich told TV Guide. “And yes, that growth that you’re describing, where she starts training, where she actually becomes the character that we know from the books and later from the video games, we will see her become that person. But she doesn’t change on a dime. What we don’t want to do is forget where she came from.
“What’s really fun about Season 2 is that in the books, [after] Geralt and Ciri meet in that moment in Sodden … when we come back in the next book, we’ve actually skipped a lot of time. … Well, we found in writing the show that we didn’t actually want to skip over those first months of them getting to know each other.”
Hissrich has also spoken to Collider about where the series could go beyond the second season, including where it might end.
“It’s a delicate dance because you have to be able to have a conceit of where you’re going,” she said. “Your stories need an end point. They need a direction to aim towards.
“I’m sure, at some point, that I said I could write seven seasons but I’m also sure that I said I could write 20 seasons. I will continue writing this series as long as it makes sense to write this series. That means taking, organically, from the books and allowing story to flow, but then also allowing the story to end when it needs to end.”
So, provided season two sees similar levels of success as the first, there could be a lot more adventures in store for Geralt and his crew. (Click here to read more about the Witcher book to TV differences.)
In December 2020, Netflix offered fans a sneak peek at the script for the first episode of season two, tweeting the very first page, which you can see in full below.
The script introduces us to a new character called Colin Coppercloth, who walks through a small and silent village at night with his family, seemingly looking for lodgings before a violent incident sees his wife go missing and his daughter covered in blood.
Meanwhile, Gerald provides an ominous voiceover, which you can read in full below:
This page from the Witcher Season 2 script shows the next season isn't holding back. pic.twitter.com/O2ucSltlls— Netflix Geeked (@NetflixGeeked) December 22, 2020
Will there be another Witcher timeline in season 2?
Notably, The Witcher will ditch its controversial time-jumping narrative structure in season two, which proved to be confusing to some viewers who were not familiar with the books.
Hissrich told The Wrap: “What we’ll see in season two is that all of our characters are existing on the same timeline. What that allows us to do story-wise though is to play with time in slightly different ways.
“We get to do flashbacks, we get to do flash-forwards, we get to actually integrate time in a completely different way that we weren’t able to do in season one.
“So I think it will be a lot easier for the audience follow and understand, especially a new audience coming in. But there are still going to be some fun challenges with time.
In reference to the criticism of season one, she added: “I do hear that there was an audience out there that was a little like, ‘What the hell is going on? Why don’t I understand this?'”
“I think for those people, season two will be a lot easier to follow. I think Season 2 aligns all of our characters on a similar timeline. We’re playing with time a little bit still, but in a different way, an easier, I think, to swallow away.”
Will the Witcher season 2 reference the video games?
Apparently so! After a subtle nod in season one (via Geralt in a bath tub), Hissrich has hinted that we haven’t seen the last of the video game Easter Eggs.
“We love the games,” Hissrich told TV Guide.
“Obviously what we wanted to do is go back to the source material, not to do an adaptation of an adaptation. But it doesn’t mean that we’re not fans of the games ourselves, that we don’t play them ourselves, and that we know that a huge part of our audience has only heard of The Witcher because of the video games.
So we do want to pay homage to it, to them as often as possible. And also I’ve been to CD Projekt Red. I’ve met all of all of those really talented people there. And what they do is amazing. So, if we can offer them a wink and a nod whenever we can, we will.”
We can hardly wait to see what they’ve got in store. Anyone for Gwent?
The most notable addition from the games, however, look to be the Wild Hunt, otherworldy spectres who appeared in the books but were notably the main antagonists of the third videogame The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Rumours spread after Cassie Clare was cast as Phillippa Eilhart – a key character in the second and third Witcher games – and set photos from filming in Devon seem to show the Wild Hunt themselves in action.
The Witcher is streaming now on Netflix – check out our lists of the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix, or see what else is on with our TV Guide. Visit our Sci-fi hub for all the latest news.