Netflix’s The Witcher may not always be fighting and gore, but when it is, it does it well. Case in point: the very first episode, which includes the iconic Butcher of Blaviken sequence from the source material. Even so, to see it in action is another thing entirely. But how did the folks behind the show go about cobbling it together? What went into the fight’s design? Showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich explains how they shot the sequence, and what the biggest challenge of getting it right was.
Major spoilers for the first season of Netflix’s The Witcher follow. You’ve been warned.
The first episode of the show basically pits two “evils” against each other, requiring Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) to choose between them. Despite initially claiming he just wouldn’t choose between the mage Stregobor and the potential mutant Renfri, Geralt ends up fighting Renfri and all her men, slaying every single one of them. It’s a wild watch, and features some impressive choreography.
“When writing it and when shooting it, we broke it up into two different sequences,” Hissrich says. “The first one we called the brigand fights; the second one we called the Renfri fight. And what we wanted to do was showcase two different sides of Geralt.”
“So Geralt in the brigand fight, I think that has to probably be about 30 seconds on screen,” she continues, “and he brutally murders several people in quick succession without thinking twice about it, and you get to sort of showcase the skills of Geralt, and that he is trained to be a killing machine — that’s what he’s trained to do.”
“Then we flip that on its head, and when I was talking to Wade Eastwood and Wolfgang Stegemann, who choreographed that fight, obviously said to them in the second half, Geralt doesn’t want to kill Renfri,” she adds. “So we’re taking out here and now, and we’re putting him in a defensive stance in a fight. And I don’t think that that’s often done. And what I wanted to show is that Geralt can be a killing machine, but he doesn’t have to be, and a lot of times, throughout the fight, there’s actually some dialogue that we took out of that fight, because it slowed it down, and we just didn’t need it. Everything was really on screen. But the idea is he’s saying, ‘We don’t have to do this. We don’t need to do this. Let’s talk. Let’s figure this out.’ And it’s Renfri who’s pushing back to say, ‘Nope, we’re doing this now. One of us isn’t coming out of this alive.'”
Here’s how Netflix describes the series:
“Based on the best-selling fantasy series, The Witcher is an epic tale of fate and family. Geralt of Rivia, a solitary monster hunter, struggles to find his place in a world where people often prove more wicked than beasts. But when destiny hurtles him toward a powerful sorceress, and a young princess with a dangerous secret, the three must learn to navigate the increasingly volatile Continent together.”
The first eight-episode season of Netflix’s The Witcher is available to stream on the platform now. It has already been renewed for a second season. Lauren S. Hissrich serves as showrunner. It stars Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, Anya Chalotra as Yennefer, and Freya Allan as Ciri. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the latest and greatest adaptation right here.