The last big news out of Netflix’s Geeked Week event was the unveiling of another upcoming online fandom event, specifically directed at fans of The Witcher franchise – WitcherCon, which will take place just around the corner on July 9th, and will finally give viewers of Netflix’s wildly successful The Witcher series and players of CD Projekt Red’s bestselling Witcher video games a shared space in which to interact and enjoy news related to both. I’ll let people with a more comprehensive knowledge of the games guide the conversation surrounding that specific topic, but as a fan of Netflix’s series I believe the first full-length trailer for The Witcher‘s second season is probably being reserved to debut during WitcherCon, and I’m beyond excited to see it.
Today, however, to appease the ravenous fans baying like wolves in their comments (no, not me…well, not just me), Netflix gave us a brief taste of what to expect from season two (which you can watch at the 41:30 mark in the video above), in a twelve-second teaser video focused on the show’s central character, Princess Cirilla of Cintra, better known to fans as Ciri. After fleeing from the burning wreckage of the privileged life in Cintra she had enjoyed as a child, Ciri’s journey in season one ended with her finally meeting Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher with whose destiny hers had been intertwined before her birth. Season two will follow Ciri’s own path to becoming a Witcher, as Geralt brings her back to the ancient citadel of Kaer Morhen, where his mentor/father figure Vesemir will begin training Ciri in the ways of the Witchers, making her the first woman to be inducted into the mysterious order.
The teaser gives us a few split-second glimpses of that training, as Ciri discards the heavy, richly embroidered, Cintran robes she wore for most of season one, and shifts into lightweight, practical, armor for her fight scenes. But when she’s not running obstacle courses or hunting monsters in the woods at night, it seems she’ll be diving deeper into the magical origins of her mysterious powers, including the catastrophic events that happen whenever she unleashes her literally earth-shattering wail. She’ll probably be assisted in this search by the mage Yennefer of Vengerburg, the trendsetting icon whom I choose to believe is also responsible for picking out the luxurious white fur gown Ciri can be seen wearing in the teaser in a couple different shots.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to see either Yennefer or Geralt in this teaser, which is mostly filled with brief flashes of significant (or in any case, haunting) imagery, like a ceremonial dagger resting on a plinth, dancing shadow-puppets, runes etched in stone, a skeletal corpse placed on an altar, and my personal favorite: a mural depicting a man having his leg eaten by a large bird or perhaps a dragon. Fantastical and horrifying monsters are a big reason for the franchise’s popularity, and season two is expected to introduce some particularly iconic beasts from The Witcher books and games into the series, including the forest-dwelling leshy, depicted in the games as a towering humanoid creature with a head modeled after a deer’s skull, and a majestic crown of black antlers. I haven’t ever played the games, but the images alone are unforgettable.
As I said, I think we’ll see much more during WitcherCon, including a full-length trailer, but this little teaser is a nice way to end Geeked Week, which also gave us the Shadow And Bone season two renewal we craved alongside some more miscellaneous reports and reveals. I think Geeked Week’s biggest problem in hindsight was a lack of footage from the shows and films being covered during the event, although I’m actually willing to give The Witcher a pass since it will be getting its very own Comic-Con type extravaganza just a month from now.
But what about you? Was this sampling of season two enough to appease you, or were you left disappointed by the lack of content? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
In all the hype surrounding Amazon’s upcoming The Lord Of The Rings prequel series (hype that, to be honest, Amazon themselves have done little to stir up on their own with official announcements and news, relying on hardcore fans to drive interest for the past several months), it’s hard to remember sometimes that Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema still own the rights to the actual narrative of J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnum opus, The Lord Of The Rings. The situation is messy, and who owns what exactly is still not entirely clear (whether or not Amazon has permission to draw from Unfinished Tales, for instance, is a matter of heated debate in the Tolkien fandom), but Warner Brothers clearly still has enough to create an entire stand-alone feature-length anime focusing on the ancient history of Rohan.
Honestly, this is a startlingly random announcement to spring on us today of all days, without so much as a warning – Danger! Beware Of Hype Overload! Because I don’t know about you, but my hype levels are accelerating at an alarming rate, and show no sign of stopping. It’s been six years since the last film set in Tolkien’s Middle-earth came out, and that film was The Battle Of The Five Armies, so it doesn’t count. With Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings still only dimly visible on the horizon like the far-distant peak of the Meneltarma rising above the waters of Belegaer, it makes sense for Warner Brothers to capitalize on their long delays by giving audiences a taste for what the OG makers of Middle-earth have been up to in the mean-time. Partnering with the Warner Brothers Animation department for the ambitious project, New Line has already picked out a director in anime veteran Kenji Kamiyama, and a pair of writers in Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews, who previously developed Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance. If you remember my feelings on that series, you probably know that their inclusion in this project sends a chill down my spine that I can’t entirely shrug off, but luckily these writers will have help from Philippa Boyens herself.
Peter Jackson, meanwhile, is presumably still too busy navigating the fallout from a bizarre scandal in his personal life involving a vintage aircraft theft to get involved in the new film, although he apparently gives it his blessing. It’s unclear whether the anime will attempt to stay in line with Jackson’s canon anyway, although it seems fairly likely given that New Line is overseeing this project, not Amazon. That being said, the film, currently titled The Lord Of The Rings: The War Of The Rohirrim, will be set a few hundred years before Jackson’s trilogy, so the only area in which it will really be expected to adhere to his canon is in the architecture and design of certain locations.
The War Of The Rohirrim will take place in the kingdom of Rohan during the reign of Rohan’s ninth and arguably its most legendary king, Helm Hammerhand (for comparison, Théoden was the seventeenth king of Rohan, during the time period covered in The Lord Of The Rings). Helm inherited a kingdom very different from the one we saw in the trilogy: mostly due to the fact that Saruman the White had not yet settled in the ring of Isengard, nor consolidated the kingdom’s most ancient enemies into an alliance against the Rohirrim. Helm Hammerhand’s greatest foes were Freca, a powerful tyrant who lived west of Rohan in the region of Dunland, and all of his house. They claimed to be descended from Rohan’s fifth king, although Tolkien’s appendices to The Lord Of The Rings never confirm whether this claim held any weight. Either way, Freca was not very fond of Helm Hammerhand, and sought to gain power in Rohan by means of a politically-motivated marriage between his son, Wulf, and Helm’s daughter.
The marriage proposal fell through (although I won’t be surprised if it’s the central love story in The War Of The Rohirrim anyway) after Helm sucker-punched Freca in the face, killing him, and Wulf seized an opportunity to launch an attack on Rohan while the kingdom’s closest ally, Gondor, was occupied with defending their coastlines against the Corsairs of Umbar. Wulf’s Dunlending army was soon joined by warriors from the lands east of Mordor, and they drove Helm’s armies into the valley where he would fortify the foundations of an ancient Gondorian citadel which became known as Helm’s Deep. Both of Helm’s sons were killed there, but Wulf’s foes never breached the gates of the citadel. That’s an important plot-point in The Lord Of The Rings, so it can’t be altered with too much.
This siege lasted for many months, and coincided with the onslaught of the Long Winter, which left Rohan devastated by famine and blight. Tolkien describes Helm during this time as becoming increasingly dangerous and feral, venturing alone out into the snow to “slay many men with his hands”. Rumors that he had become a cannibal in his madness preceded him and sent his foes scattering whenever they heard the blast of his mighty horn from the walls of the citadel. Even when the cold finally killed him, he was found standing, frozen to death and covered in snow, on the wall. Long after his death, the ghostly echoes of his horn would still sound in the Deep, and his vengeful phantom was believed to rise again whenever Rohan was endangered.
Helm didn’t survive to see the end of the siege on Helm’s Deep, or the day when his brave young nephew Fréaláf ambushed Wulf in the Golden Hall of Meduself and achieved victory over the Dunlendings. But his legacy lived on, inspiring his descendants to great deeds of their own. The anime will have plenty of opportunities to draw parallels to the siege of Helm’s Deep in The Lord Of The Rings, where Helm’s horn marked the turn of the tide against Saruman’s armies of ravenous orcs.
And speaking of Saruman…I know I mentioned earlier that he wasn’t living in Isengard at the start of Helm’s reign, but by its end he had already taken an interest in the affairs of Rohan – assuming he hadn’t already been pulling the strings behind Freca and Wulf’s dissent. At Fréaláf’s coronation ceremony, he first appeared in Rohan and was welcomed by the Rohirrim. And with the Dunlending presence driven from Isengard, he was given free reign over the ancient stronghold and its treasure trove of magical artifacts. This ominous, almost tragic, ending would be the perfect way to tie everything back into The Lord Of The Rings proper.
So yeah, I’m definitely going to keep a close eye on this project. Voice-casting and animation is currently underway, and I’m especially interested to see the style of anime that Warner Brothers goes with, as I think that will be very important: personally, I’d be most excited for something similar to the artwork of Netflix’s Blood Of Zeus and Castlevania anime series’, both of which also come with the violence one would expect from a series following Helm Hammerhand. This could very well end up being the first R-rated Tolkien property, and I don’t know how the fandom will respond to that.
But what say you? Does The War Of The Rohirrim sound appealing to you, and would you look forward to more anime based on The Lord Of The Rings? It’s a “yes” and a resounding “yes!” from me, by the way. Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
Netflix missed a golden opportunity today. They could have announced the casting for the character of Wylan Van Eck in their adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow And Bone while Wylan’s name was one of the top five trends on Twitter; but they didn’t, which is really a shame. However, I intend to use this moment to my advantage, to churn out a breakdown of the character’s backstory for everyone who saw the name trending earlier and was left perplexed about who Wylan is, and why fans of Bardugo’s fantasy novels are so obsessed with him. I’m gonna try to do this without spoiling anything too major about Wylan for the general audience, because I don’t imagine many fans who have read the Six Of Crows duology will need a refresher on a character who ranks among other Grishaverse fan-favorites like Nikolai Lantsov and Genya Safin.
Wylan Van Eck is introduced in Six Of Crows, Bardugo’s fourth fantasy novel set in the fictional world of the Grishaverse, and the book which kicks off her widely-loved and critically-acclaimed Six Of Crows duology. But while Netflix’s Shadow And Bone pulls inspiration, elements, and characters, from the duology in its adaptation of Bardugo’s earlier Grisha trilogy, Wylan was conspicuously absent from the show’s first season. Luckily, he is “a hundred percent” going to appear in season two, according to Shadow And Bone‘s showrunner, and fans are eager to find out who will be playing him in live-action, completing the line-up of “crows” currently comprised of Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, Kit Young, Danielle Galligan, and Calahan Skogman.
Wylan is the only one of the book’s six protagonists who was presumably both born and raised in the city of Ketterdam, although his experiences with the city were pleasant enough at first: he was not hardened from an early age by the rough-and-tumble environment of Ketterdam’s notoriously seedy Barrel district, but was instead brought up amongst the stately mansions of the city’s Financial District, where he lived with his father and young stepmother, attending lavish parties in foreign lands and receiving a classical education until an…unfortunate incident, which takes place several months before the events of the book and leaves Wylan homeless and on the run in the midst of the Barrel, surrounded by people who want him dead.
To survive, Wylan assumes a false name and puts his skill with chemistry to good use, creating explosive devices for Ketterdam’s rival street gangs. He declares himself a “demolitions expert” because of this, although Kaz remarks that he is only “passable” at demo. He becomes involved in the plot of Six Of Crows unintentionally, when Kaz takes a dangerous but highly profitable job from Wylan’s father, the wealthy merchant Jan Van Eck, and decides to use Wylan as leverage over Van Eck to make sure he gets his money when all is said and done. Kaz, of course, was not long deterred by Wylan’s little business with the false name, and had come to the conclusion before any of his fellow gang-members that the young boy was none other than Van Eck’s son – and the heir to the old man’s vast trading empire.
Wylan initially comes across as a bit of a pampered character, no thanks to his angelic, even cherub-like appearance, and holier-than-thou indignation at the other Crows’ violent deeds. He shares very few details about his past, or about what drove him to seek a life of crime in the Barrel even though he comes from a background of such privilege and prestige, even though his father continues to send letters to the boarding house where Wylan went missing, asking him to come home. But he earns his keep on the crew, thanks to his resourceful attitude and first-hand knowledge of the Fjerdan Ice Court – the heavily-fortified palace and prison which the Crows must infiltrate to free a Shu scientist by the name of Bo Yul-Bayur, whose skills are coveted by Ketterdam’s Merchant Council.
Along the way, the shy and introspective baby gay cinnamon-roll-who-could-actually-kill-you Wylan becomes close with the charismatic bisexual sharpshooter Jesper Fahey – and as their relationship grows more intimate with each trial they face, they open up to each other more. The dynamic between them is truly heartwarming, because of how Wylan’s desire to be accepted by the other Crows pushes him to become more violent, and how Jesper instinctively reacts by trying to protect Wylan from his darkest impulses. Jesper is capable of doing some pretty terrible things on his own, but he’s a good person at heart, and he genuinely wants to help Wylan become a better person than he believes he could ever be. I’m not crying, you’re crying. Just kidding, I am definitely crying. Their ship name is “Wesper”, and I can’t wait to see how Netflix builds this relationship from the ground up.
There’s been some doubt as to whether Shadow And Bone season two will adapt the events of Six Of Crows, since the first season left off roughly around the same point where the book begins, but this is one area where you can see the potential upside of holding off on that for another season or two: giving Wylan and Jesper a little more time to get to know each other, to start off as rivals but slowly begin to begrudgingly admire each other’s talents. The obvious drawback is that the mysteries regarding Wylan’s backstory might be much harder to maintain, even for general audiences. But seeing that backstory played out in real-time could be more compelling than trying to preserve surprises in the books which can easily be spoiled for anyone at this point, thanks to Google.
As for how Wylan will change from book to screen, I think there’s no doubt he’ll be aged up significantly – and for hardcore Wylan fans, that will probably be the biggest shock. In the books, he’s sixteen when we first meet him, but pretty much everyone else in the Grishaverse takes one look at him and mistakes him for a twelve-year old: like, to the point where I thought he was a twelve-year old the first time I read Six Of Crows. He’s memorably described by Kaz as resembling “a silk-eared puppy”, something that sticks with the reader. But in the show, he’ll likely be around the same age as the other Crows – i.e. in his early to mid-twenties – which might have interesting ramifications for his character arc. Book readers will know what I’m talking about, the rest of you will hopefully be sufficiently tantalized by the hints I’m dropping that you’ll go check out the books.
In Shadow And Bone‘s second season, the thing I’m most excited to see from Wylan are the nuances of his character that I can’t begin to explain here without entering major spoiler territory. There’s so much more going on beneath the surface than you realize at first, and he grows on you with each reread. I can’t wait for new fans to meet this amazing character and fall in love with him just as deeply as longtime Grishaverse geeks have, and I hope this post gets you a little more hyped for his inclusion in Shadow And Bone season two.
But what are your feelings on the character, and who’s your fan-cast? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
I appreciate that after forcing the entire Grishaverse fandom to wait on an official renewal of Shadow And Bone for over a month, Netflix finally dropped the hotly-anticipated announcement into the opening minutes of their Geeked Week fandom event as a sweet surprise for fans. Well, I say “surprise”, but let’s be honest, this was pretty much the worst kept secret at the streaming service. As Netflix confirmed today alongside the renewal, Shadow And Bone‘s first season was viewed by more than 55 million households in its first 28 days, making it a huge hit for the studio. Obviously, all those times I left the show playing in the background so it would boost streaming numbers actually worked.
There’s not much official information about Shadow And Bone‘s second season just yet, apart from confirmation that it will be eight episodes in length like the first (still too short, if you ask me, but whatever), and that the writer’s room has wrapped, with showrunner Eric Heisserer presiding (hurrah, I guess). Grishaverse author Leigh Bardugo will continue to be involved in her capacity as consultant and executive producer. And all of the main cast will return, including Jessie Mei Li, Freddy Carter, Ben Barnes, Amita Suman, Archie Renaux, and Kit Young, while Danielle Galligan and Calahan Skogman have been upgraded to series regulars in preparation for their greatly expanded roles next season. All good stuff.
But the reason Shadow And Bone exploded into the trending section of Twitter after the official announcement was because fans of Bardugo’s novels (including myself) are hyped for a bunch of new characters who will be joining the second season, if the show follows the books: Wylan Van Eck, the surprisingly formidable wayward son of a wealthy merchant who specializes in demolition while sustaining an adorable romance with the series’ resident bicon, Jesper Fahey; Nikolai Lantsov, the charismatic younger prince of Ravka who has his eyes set on the crown and an alliance with the Sun Summoner herself; and Tolya and Tamar, secretive twin mercenaries from Shu Han in league with a pirate. All of these characters come with their own fans, and Wylan in particular is extremely popular: as evidenced by the fact that he is still trending on Twitter as of this writing.
Obviously, these and other major casting announcements can be expected in the near future – given that Geeked Week will continue for a few more days, and that day three is devoted specifically to fantasy, we might even get some new information then. But this reveal on its own is very exciting, and allows me to continue wildly theorizing and speculating about season two, with the assurance that season two is actually happening. There’s no word yet on when season two will begin filming or potentially debut on Netflix, although there’s no reason why, with the scripts already completed, it couldn’t go into production soon and be ready for release by the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023.
But while we wait, you can expect me to keep covering the show extensively (I may or may not be in the process of writing an entire breakdown of the top ten Six Of Crows scenes in Shadow And Bone‘s first season…), as well as pushing the show’s production team to address and fix mistakes made on the first season. I haven’t forgotten that someone behind-the-scenes (most likely the show’s stunt coordinator, based on what I’ve learned about the casting process) signed off on a white stunt double being hired for Amita Suman and then painted brown to match the Desi actress’ skin color. Eric Heisserer, who claims he was completely unaware of this, apologized on a Reddit forum to fans and to Suman: whether you accept his apology or not is up to you, but there’s clearly much more work to be done making sure the show’s inclusive messages are applied behind-the-scenes as well.
But what are you most excited to see when Shadow And Bone returns? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!