What Sets ‘The Witcher’ Apart From ‘Game of Thrones’?

Even before The Witcher premiered on Netflix, the Game of Thrones comparisons started. Though the comparisons make sense as both are fantasy shows, The Witcher needs to stand on its own. But does it? What makes The Witcher different from the popular HBO show?

Though Game of Thrones comparisons are somewhat inevitable with The Witcher, they are two different shows. Though both feature fully-realized fantasy worlds and epic journeys, there are differences as well. However, how successful the Netflix series is at setting itself apart depends on what it is exactly that makes the two shows different.

How are ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Witcher’ similar?

Anya Chalotra, Henry Cavill, and Freya Allan of 'The Witcher'
Anya Chalotra, Henry Cavill and Freya Allan at the premiere of The Witcher (Wiedzmin) in Poland | Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Netflix

As is mentioned above, both are fantasy shows. Both feature fantasy worlds and have their characters go on epic journeys. Both are adaptations of fantasy books. While Game of Thrones adapted George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Witcher adapts Andrzej Sapkowski’s books about Geralt of Rivia.

Both stories feature a lot of violence and nudity. However, the way each show approaches these topics might be a bit different. More on that later. Both stories also feature morally gray characters, which might account for some of the comparisons as well.

What helps ‘The Witcher’ rise above the ‘Game of Thrones’ comparisons?

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The Continent awaits.

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According to showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, in an interview with Variety, “the comedy is what separates Witcher from a lot of other fantasy material like Game of Thrones.” Hissrich goes on to state that the comedy element of the show “comes from an organic place.” The author of the books, “Andrzej Sapkowski is Polish, and he [told Hissrich] a lot about what it was like to grow up in Poland at a time when their country was being constantly taken over by other countries.” During this time, people in Poland “still [had] to get up every day and put one foot in front of the other and continue on with [their lives].”

How did they do it? According to Hissrich, Sapkowski told her “How do people deal with tragedy? They laugh.” Hissrich states that “Bringing that aspect into a fantasy show is really fresh and had never really been done before.”

How else does ‘The Witcher’ differentiate itself from the popular HBO show?

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I’m not a good man. I’m a Witcher.

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Game of Thrones comparisons are bound to happen with The Witcher, especially as both are in the fantasy genre. Yet according to the Variety interview with showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, there might be something else that differentiates the two shows. According to Hissrich, when including violence or nudity, she asked herself “Does this further story?”

This fits with what she told Entertainment Weekly about how “it was important to [her] that any violence or sex drives the story and is not there just for shock value.” Hissrich believes that “audiences are really savvy and know when we’re doing stuff to just shock them versus [doing] stuff that really drives the story.” She told Variety that “it drives [her] 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.”

Hissrich adds that she “[needs] to understand why they’re naked and ‘What does that say about the characters?'” She “[hopes] in every situation the audience thinks [she gets] it.” This is somewhat different from Game of Thrones, which became known for its exposition during sex scenes and intensely shocking violence. This difference also sets The Witcher apart from its predecessor.