Approaching Netflix’s version of The Witcher, Henry Cavill was adamant about wanting audiences to know what kind of magic his character is capable of. Cavill plays Geralt of Rivia a “Witcher,” or mutated monster hunter with superhuman strength (among other things). Those familiar with the character know that he originates from a collection of fantasy novels and short stories written by Andrzej Sapkowski. That source material has been used to create the immensely popular video game series of the same name. All of those titles take place on an unnamed Earth, the bulk of the action occurring on a landmass known as the Continent.
Magic on the Continent presents itself in many different forms; for example, magic can come from a powerful source (usually a mage) or be the result of a sign. Signs are simple magic spells employed by Witchers, who don’t necessarily know too much about magical formulas – all they require is concentration and a hand gesture. A common sign is that of the Aard sign (a telekinetic shove of sorts). This is shown in Netflix’s The Witcher; however, the number of different signs Cavill’s Geralt uses isn’t as varied as in some of the written works or RPG titles (so far).
Fans have praised Cavill’s performance as Geralt. From his voice, hair, and eyes to his demeanor, Cavill’s Witcher appears to be the perfect crossbreed between what people know on the page and in the games. In an interview with GQ, Cavil, who is an avid gamer, discussed wanting to include as many of Geralt’s signs as possible in the show. “I really wanted to push that in there, because for me the audience must know he can do these things. It mattered to me because it’s all part of being a Witcher.”
There have been reports that The Witcher’s premiere season had a budget of around $15 million or more per episode; the creators were pretty much given free rein to show what they wanted despite CGI costs. Geralt’s use of signs does help establish the character as a worthy opponent; however, his magical inventory pales in comparison to the type of power we see Yennefer use in later episodes. While some fans (and even Cavill) may be disappointed that the first season didn’t show Geralt use signs all the time, it’s probably for the best. The showrunners’ have expressed a desire in the past to present not only Geralt’s but the Continent’s magic to audiences in a grounded way. We do see Geralt drink a wide variety of (toxic) potions to enhance his body or benefit him in some other way.
While the depiction of Geralt himself aligns with what fans picture a Witcher to be thanks to the video games, the show’s narrative is more focused on the books. Its inclination to slowly establish its three core characters and the world (via different timelines) serves as a foundation for its tactful display of magic. The Witcher could have easily gone overboard with magically-induced death and destruction but that might’ve felt cheap. The Witcher’s world is one where magic has a cost; by taking a toll on its users (shown by things like Geralt’s tortuous past or his toxic potions) it’s not an easy solution to every problem. In later seasons, Cavill’s Geralt may be seen using more signs, some even enforced by spells but there will certainly be a cost and not just one that pertains to budget.
More: Netflix’s The Witcher Season 1 Ending Explained: What’s Next For Geralt