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Can The Witcher Survive Without Henry Cavill?

If you're a fan of Netflix's "The Witcher," you've already seen the news. Liam Hemsworth will take over the role of Geralt from Henry Cavill in Season 4, for reasons that may or may not have something to do with the latter's recently revitalized career as the DCEU's Superman.

"The Witcher" casting director Sophie Holland has no doubt cast the best available replacement for Cavill, and "The Hunger Games" veteran Hemsworth certainly has the looks and chops to portray the stoic, powerful Geralt of Rivia. However, Cavill owns the role so thoroughly that many fans have been reflexively hitting the eject button after the recast news, which is a pretty clear portent of doom for a franchise that's named after its main character's day job. To use an analogy that befits Cavill, every live-action version of Superman is going to be compared to Christopher Reeve sooner or later. Likewise, Hemsworth now faces the seemingly insurmountable task of carrying his beloved predecessor's silver wig with adequate gruff and grace.

Recasts like this have been pulled off before — just ask the James Bond franchise. The difference here is that if Hemsworth turns out to be a George Lazenby, it seems unlikely that the viewers — or Netflix, for that matter — will give "The Witcher" another chance.

But could the show pull it off, anyway? Could "The Witcher" survive without Henry Cavill? The answer might just be yes, but only if the show keeps the following things in mind. 

Let Hemsworth deal with the Wild Hunt

Probably the biggest thing that favors "The Witcher's" Hemsworth era is the vast wealth of stories the show has hitherto left untapped. There are still tons of plotlines that can really grab the fans' attention. Going by sheer cultural significance alone, this means the show is almost honor-bound to soften the blow of recasting by diving headfirst in "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt" pool.

The show has already revealed that the titular Wild Hunt plays a role in things to come. Season 2 prominently features Voleth Meir (Ania Marson), who turns out to be a dark elf affiliated with the Wild Hunt. The Hunt itself also makes a brief, but suitably ominous appearance in the season finale. As such, it should be just a matter of time before Eredin Bréacc Glas and his crew come calling for Ciri.

Here's a crucial question about the show's survival, though. When will the Wild Hunt start making moves? Introducing the otherworldly antagonists could easily keep the show going for a good few seasons, and given the fact that Cavill is leaving after the next season, the most effective time for the Wild Hunt's proper introduction would be in the Season 3 finale. This would provide an irresistible cliffhanger that could bring fans back next season, Cavill or no Cavill.

Henry Cavill originally committed to "The Witcher" for seven seasons, and since the Nilfgaardian storyline will likely swallow a whole bunch of Season 3 hours, the Wild Hunt could indeed chill out for the majority of the season, only to make its charge at the optimal moment for Hemsworth to tag in for Season 4. However, get the timing wrong, and there's the risk that a notable portion of viewers will clock out with Cavill.

Other characters will make or break The Witcher Season 4

The good news is that the rest of "The Witcher's" cast doesn't seem to be going anywhere, and much of that cast is very, very good. Apart from remaining main characters Ciri (Freya Allan) and Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra), the likes of Cahir (Eamon Farren), Triss Merigold (Anna Shaffer) and, of course, Jaskier (Joey Batey) have all grown into their own over the two seasons. They – as well as many other characters – have proved that they can absolutely carry a scene. So, even if we assume the worst and think that Hemsworth will either fail or be abandoned by the fans, there are still plenty of other reasons to tune in for the show during his era.

But what if "The Witcher" drops the ball with one or more of these characters? What if someone like Ciri or even Vesemir (Kim Bodnia) also has to be recast, and fans hate that as well? What if the writers try to overcompensate by suddenly pushing supporting characters front and center, only for them to annoy people to death via overexposure and feeble attempts to replicate the success of "Toss A Coin to Your Witcher?" (Sorry, Jaskier.) 

In many fans' minds, such misguided decisions would likely just add to the annoying background noise of the Cavill recasting. With enough mistakes, it's only a matter of time before that noise reaches a critical threshold — and the fan will watch no more. 

The Witcher will survive if it relies on its strengths, but perish if it overreaches

Like it or not, it seems that Season 4 will definitely be a watershed moment for "The Witcher." If the show can manage its sprawling cast of characters, introduce cool enough plotlines, and handle the transition from Cavill to Hemsworth with grace, it has conquered a challenge that puts Geralt's worst in-universe enemies to shame, and is effectively as invincible as long as Netflix's algorithms smile on it. If not ... well, at least it was fun while it lasted. 

The thing to remember here is that "The Witcher" has all the tools to make the change work. Really, assuming that Hemsworth will be as competent as there's every right to believe he'll be, all the show needs to do is ... to keep doing what it's been doing all along.

However. When the pressure is mounting and the biggest star of the show is leaving, many people might suddenly have suggestions on how to tinker with the premise, or put overt focus on certain characters. Perhaps new, non-canon characters that decidedly shouldn't be introduced will be introduced anyway. Maybe there will be a temptation to take unnecessary liberties with some storylines from the source material, or needless shortcuts with others. 

There's no reason to believe that "The Witcher" will fall in such a trap, and besides, jumping the shark is pretty hard to do in a high fantasy setting where such an act would mark just another Tuesday. Still, if "The Witcher" can't resist tinkering with what works — either to take attention away from the recasting, or in an honest attempt to provide fire support for the new lead — the show just might be in serious trouble.