Anyone who sets out to bring a fantasy series to the small screen, one that draws from a beloved series of books for source material and promises everything from a sword-wielding hero to magic, monsters, and some NSFW love scenes, should probably expect the Game of Thrones comparisons to be made early and often. For the showrunner of Netflix’s The Witcher, which debuted on the streaming service on Friday, she’s acknowledged that such comparisons were inevitable and expected very early in the process of bringing Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s books about monster-hunter Geralt of Rivia to life.
In the wake of the show’s debut, which we reviewed here, showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich has shared her thoughts in at least one new interview about the lessons she learned from Game of Thrones (which had a disastrous final season and legions of angry fans to subsequently deal with). She’s also hit back at critics, like journalists from at least one prominent news outlet who gave the series a terrible score while also admitting they didn’t watch most of it.
As of the time of this writing, illustrating the gap between critics and average viewers, The Witcher currently has a 57% critics score (reflecting 44 reviews) on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the show’s audience score, derived from 6,850 reviews, stands at 92%.
Many people have sweetly written me, upset about the #Witcher reviews. Know this:
Who do I care about? "Professional" critics who watched one episode and skipped ahead? Or REAL fans who watched all eight in one day, and are starting their rewatch?
I am fucking THRILLED.😉❤️
— Lauren S. Hissrich (@LHissrich) December 22, 2019
That said, Hissrich acknowledged in a new interview she learned a lot from Game of Thrones — like, for example, wanting to go the opposite route as Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and not keep her distance from fans.
“I wanted to have a dialogue with the fans,” she tells Variety. “I put myself on Twitter very, very early on and announced who I was, what I was doing, and was met with all sorts of reactions, good and bad, but I stuck around.”
She did it, she continues, because she wants fans to know how much she loves the franchise. Not that having this direct line to her means she’s going to “do everything that fans want” or in the way they think it should be done. It’s more so that she’s doing this to reassure them that she wants to honor this thing they love, because she loves it, too — and in so doing, “I tell myself, we’ll be all good.”
In that same interview, she also reiterates something she likewise told BGR about a month or so ago relative to the Thrones comparisons. That the violence and nudity in her show are always “in service of the story,” as opposed to there for its own sake, and in a gratuitous way. “Personally, it drives me crazy if there is gratuitous violence for the sake of shocking the audience, or if you’re having a conversation over here and two people in the background are just naked,” she says. The larger point being — yes, there are a few obvious similarities between the two shows. But as our review makes clear, it’s definitely easy to enjoy The Witcher in its own right, if you’re so inclined.