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The Witcher scene that means more than you think

Netflix's adaptation of the travels and travails of the mutated monster-hunter Geralt are based on Andrzej Sapkowski's long-running series of novels and short stories, and not on the popular Witcher video game trilogy. But the CD Projekt Red games are a massive hit across the world, and the Witcher series' writer and showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich knows it. 

That's precisely why, as Hissrich began adapting the high-fantasy world and laying out her season 1 narrative, she was sure to leave some room for an obvious nod or two to those who entered the fabled world through their consoles. While Hissrich pulled several iconic monsters, men, and moments from Sapkowski's expansive novels, she made sure to slip in a bathing scene between lovers Geralt of Rivia and mage Yennefer that had become wildly popular among fans of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The "bathtub Geralt" scene is featured during the game's opening sequence and captures an intimate, bare-all moment between the monster slayer and his on-again-off-again partner Yennefer. By the looks of it, they've both somewhat settled down with Geralt's charge, Princess Ciri.

At San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Hissrich first alluded that some form of the scene would appear on the Netflix show, telling iO9, "There is a bathtub this season. There is a bathtub. I won't tell you who's in the bathtub, but there is a bathtub." Fans then got their first look at the teased bathtub scene in the first trailer for The Witcher before finally having the long-awaited moment delivered on episode 5, "Bottled Appetites."

For those who were new to The Witcher universe when the Netflix series first dropped, the moment might have felt like one among many gratuitous shirtless scenes, but it actually holds a broader significance. 

The Witcher bathtub scene shows a gentler side of Geralt

The "bathtub Geralt" scene opens The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and is somewhat beloved for what it doesn't show, but mostly for what it does: Geralt both in the nude and in a rare, intimate moment with the woman he loves. 

Relaxing in a hot bath within his chamber at the Witcher Academy — known as Kaer Morhen in the game — Geralt is seen with his feet and arms hanging over the sides of a wooden tub. The moment serves as a subtle ode to one of the Witcher's running jokes that men like Geralt rarely bathe. We then see him jolt up and remove a crustacean-like creature from his private parts. It takes only a moment for it to become clear the animal isn't real and is instead a magical prodding delivered by the naked — but strategically positioned — sorceress Yennefer. Geralt promised Ciri he'd train with her, and Yennefer wants him to get on with it, so the moment ends with Geralt begrudgingly exiting the tub, walking over to the mage, and engaging in a passionate kiss before stomping off to meet up with Ciri. 

It's not particularly long and not especially exciting, but it does offer up a different side to the life of Geralt — one where he doesn't have to be all sword-wielding and blood splatter. The scene's a slice-of-life moment that helps flesh out The Witcher games' key characters. 

The moment within the Netflix series is somewhat different, with Geralt and Yennefer mostly teasing one another as the issue around the Djinn (an air genie that causes chaos) looms. The sorceress even joins the monster slayer of Rivia in the steaming hot soak. But like The Witcher 3 sequence, it's mostly about the verbal tit-for-tat Geralt and Yennefer are known for.

"Bathtub Geralt" gained meme status

For all its character, the intimacy of the original bathtub scene didn't secure the Netflix adaptation's nod. When The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released in 2015, there were plenty of fans who didn't like the scene. Its rise in popularity in The Witcher fandom actually came at the hands of a website, which started by occasionally using a screenshot of bathtub Geralt inside of and/or to promote its Witcher stories. But as months and even years went on, its frequency increased, in part to troll fans less interested in ogling Geralt than getting a good look at Yennefer. 

That site was PC Gamer, and it had become so famous for its use of the screenshot that CD Projekt Red sent the site a unique BathTub Geralt statue. Amid the in-joke, the image began to take on a new life. In a 2019 retrospectivePC Gamer writer Jody Macgregor revealed, "At first it was fun attaching the picture to Witcher stories because it's always fun to enrage the kind of dudes who get mad online because they were shown some male flesh yet never have anything to say about video-game art overflowing with women's skin. But then the complaints changed. People stopped being mad at Tub Geralt — they started being mad whenever we published a Witcher-related story without Tub Geralt."

As Vulture describes it, the image then turned into a meme of the Rickrolling variety. Years after Wild Hunt's release, "Bathtub Geralt" was elevated by YouTubers like PewDiePie — whose own bathtub selfie was set in a side-by-side with Geralt's image as part of a "same-energy" meme — and cosplayers like Maul, who recreated the scene years earlier and published it in a Witcher cosplay calendar.

The Witcher showrunner and star Henry Cavill both approve of the memes

In the short time that's followed, Witcher memes have rapidly spread across social sites like Reddit and Twitter, with the tender-slash-erotic Witcher 3 sequence producing a bevy of funny and tantalizing jokes. The scene even went on to be recreated using Witcher star Henry Cavill (at Cavill's request), with entirely new bathtub memes and mash-ups between the show and game versions of "Bathtub Geralt." 

The inclusion of the scene was, for showrunner Hissrich, a very intentional olive branch for video game fans. "It is fun to visually throw a wink and a nod at video game fans, to say, 'We see you too. We know you're here," Hissrich told GamesRadar. "And we want them to be happy with what we're doing as well."

Witcher star Henry Cavill echoed Hissirch's comments ahead of the show's premiere, telling GamesRadar that he'd be happy to see more memes of his own Geralt in a bathtub. "Yes, it'd be awesome to see that meme going around," Cavill said. "If people are enjoying my Geralt, and if I did my job right and presented a lore-accurate Geralt, then I'm happy." 

While it's not clear if we'll get another shot at the scene in a stance closer to Geralt's The Wild Hunt posture on the show's second season, Cavill's bare-chested and peeking knee-cap version will surely suffice in the meantime for oglers and memers alike.