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Warhammer 40K: Is the Eisenhorn TV Series Doomed to Failure?

Gregor Eisenhorn – On the summoning of the Daemon, Cherubael.

“I fought to retain my grip and to enunciate precisely the words of command and the specific instructions. Like a small sun dawning, the enslaved daemon poured out of the head of the runestaff. Its radiance lit up the dismal shore and cast a long shadow out behind the Titan.” ‘Cherubael?’ I whispered. 


‘Kill it.’

Words can’t quite describe the mix of excitement and concern that shot through my body when the announcement came through that Eisenhorn was getting a live-action television adaptation. Like many other fans of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, I’m a massive fan of the Inquisitor who was once celebrated by his comrades before he turned into a cautionary tale for the fresh recruits into His most holy Ordos.

I’m speaking, of course, about the one and only Gregor Eisenhorn

Gregor has endured one hell of a career. He fulfilled his duty to the Throne on Terra and has gone through very distinct periods in his life, each of which connected to the other and documented in the books Xenos, Malleus, Hereticus, and The Magos. His tales have been supplemented by the audiobooks Thorn and Talon and The Keeler Image. Three additional stories served to further expand the history of his life in Missing in Action, Backcloth For A Crown Additional, and Born Unto Us.

The first thing we need to find out before we can really get worried is at which point in Eisenhorn’s life this series takes place. In his younger years when he was entirely respectable? His mid-life questionable years? His later years when he’s a Rogue Agent working for the Imperium but with very questionable methods?

While fans of The Witcher are getting bothered by the upcoming Netflix series (and rightly so in certain places) fans of 40K are feeling the creeping concern of a potentially botched adaptation. There is, by any reasonable measurement, far more required to pull off a successful Warhammer 40,000 adaptation than a regular fantasy adaptation. So much so that an upcoming official Games Workshop production looks objectively inferior to fan-made labors of love.

Simple clothes are often intricately wrapped with fine details that can serve to enhance the general gothic aesthetic or convey character. From the sprawling hive cities, to the sky rending spires of the Imperial Palace, the locations in the 40K universe have more detail in them per meter than just about any other fictional setting out there. The characters at play are large in personality and even more so in their actions.

Casting for the series will be an extremely difficult task, because these characters are very well established in their appearance. How well established? Well, recently the Black Library has decided to re-release the Ravenor series of books. On the cover of the omnibus, they’ve got some truly awful representations of two characters, Patience Kys and Harlon Nayl, and fans aren’t too happy. Even character-relevant details are wrong.

Patience Kys, for example, is Psychic. She fights with (among other things) a pair of blades that she uses to keep her hair up, and she has been known to kill with these blades when other weapons are taken off her. The blades themselves have the outward appearance of nothing more than fashionable accessories. But on the cover, the blades are out and her hair is still up. Small things like this betray the artist as someone without a great deal of knowledge of the characters.

Let’s not even talk about Harlon… Both characters just look so wrong. Why they didn’t just use the original cover, who knows.

But I digress.

Eisenhorn in his later years.

So when we see lazy official content like that, how are we supposed to believe that the Eisenhorn is in good hands? Well, it’s a faith based equation. If you’ve seen Man in the High Castle, you’ll probably agree that it’s a pretty good series with good production quality. It was brought to life by Big Light Productions and that’s who’s going to be handling the Eisenhorn adaptation. So while they are a competent group, we are going on blind faith that they’ll bring Eisenhorn to the screen in a way that is even vaguely accurate.

We’re talking about a man that has gone from being young, vital, and (by most accounts) extremely attractive, to a crippled wreck of a man who can only walk with the assistance of a mechanical exoskeleton that is hardwired to his body. He has suffered great losses and continues to battle for the Imperium while being hunted by those he protects.

A multi-racial cast is a must given how varied his crew is, from the Amazonian Arianhrod Esw Sweydyr, to the prostitute-turned-untouchable Alizebeth Bequin, Eisenhorn’s crew is a mismatched group of misfits and experts that he has gathered on his journey, and at one point he has hundreds in his employ by way of the Bequin-led Distaff.

Things like this are what bring concerns to many fans, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The memes have already begun to flow.

Now, I’m not going to come out and say that this series is going to be bad, but I am going to come out and say that the creators are going to have an uphill struggle ahead of them. This will either be a big budget production given the care and attention it requires, or it’s going to be a flop. When it comes to 40K, you can’t really afford to half-ass it.

Oh, by the way. There’s an Eisenhorn video game with Gregor being voiced by the magnificent Mark Strong. Don’t play it. Just don’t. It’s a mobile game that came to PC and it’s boring, repetitive and generally just disappointing. It’s just another reason to be wary of the upcoming series really.

If you’re a fan of Gregor and his adventures, share your thoughts on the matter down in the comments and let’s try and get a feel for how everyone feels.

Post Comment

  1. El Bearsidente on August 8, 2019 at 9:46 am said

    I want this to be good.

    But Eisenhorn needs an amazingly charismatic actor with the right voice. And not just him. The warband isn’t hard to cast, but his opponents? Glaw needs an actor on par with Gregor. So does Heldane. Even young Ravenor would need someone who’s really good should he be in this.

    And yes, Pontius Glaw’s casting is as vital as Eisenhorn’s, he is the main antagonist of the trilogy.

  2. Carltonbauheimer on August 8, 2019 at 12:28 pm said

    You correctly identified Kara Swole, but then proceeded to describe the character of Patience Kys.

  3. BrigandBoy on August 8, 2019 at 5:59 pm said

    I think they will screw it up. Not because the story can’t be adapted to live action, but because I doubt that they will take the time and spend the money necessary to do the 40k universe justice.

    My main concern isn’t that they stick to the books (though I know they will somehow screw up casting somewhere. It’s netflix, so that’s a given), but rather that they will not know how to convey the correct tone. I mean, dealing with Cerubael alone is like dealing with the devil possessing the girl in the Exorcist, or an old religious horror movie. Psychological, not pure gore.

    And as for the actual gore when the warp breaks through, I bet it will be all CGI rubbish, but it SHOULD be the remake of The Thing with Kurt Russel. But it won’t.

    So I hope it doesn’t suck, but I already know it will.

    • My impression of media companies lately is that they want to create a cheap, sure-fire win. They’ll grab some beloved property, hand it off to some up-and-coming director, complain about the budget being too high, say things like “We’ll fix it in post,” and then release it. If by sheer chance they have a hit on their hands, great. If not, then discard it and move on to the next one. The sad thing is that you can see what happens when you get people involved that actually have a sense of what makes the original IP a success and manage it well (look at Marvel), but I think most high-level management just see IPs as interchangeable sources of potential revenue (“Oh, Whohammer: the Next Generation didn’t do well? Okay. On to Trek War: Revenge of the Serenity. Maybe we should up the marketing budget, see if we can get an influencer on board this time)

  4. jackoftears on August 8, 2019 at 7:12 pm said

    I would like this to be awesome, and they picked the right story in my opinion, as Eisenhorn is more of a cop show than engaging deeply in the ‘only war’ side of the setting. It has, historically, been the best place for new fans to enter the lore and for that reason, I think it could work.

    Could, probably won’t.

    I have very little faith in television and unless they are willing to put the kind of time and effort into this that they put into something like Game of Thrones, I just don’t see it feeling authentic to the setting. Also, the idea that even the ‘good guys’ aren’t very good in 40K may be a hard sell.

    I suspect, the best we’ll achieve, is mediocre. Please, tv land, prove me wrong.

  5. The current track record of adaptations is definitely not good. I will remain cautiously optimistic but hold no expectations.

  6. Toby Longworth did such justice to Eisenhorns voice in the audiobooks I wish he or someone with a voice like his could take Eisenhorns role.

  7. Isn’t the teaser of upcoming GW Angels of Death series was confirmed to be just a quick commercial by one guy on old software that doesn’t indicate how the final project will look like?They only posted article about a first team meeting for script writing process and confirmed they didn’t start the animation phase.

  8. Fuzzybeard3 on August 10, 2019 at 6:52 am said

    There is plenty of doubt especially considering GW’s sketchy record with these kind of adaptations along with poor licensing decisions. So uphill battle is honestly the perfect way to describe this. Along with adaptations in general not having the best record to begin with for those of us who remember the horrors of the early 2000’s.

  9. Randy Kent on August 10, 2019 at 6:48 pm said

    You don’t know how bad I’ve wanted a 40K movie or television series. However, being Netflix, this is going to be an atrocious shitshow of a production with not so subtle propaganda forced into it for good measure.

  10. Initially I was very excited by the idea. I am constantly rereading the Eisenhorn trilogy both in book format and audiobook. I love the characters and so I am inevitably concerned about their accurate portrayal. I am also concerned that in our PC culture the themes of inquisitor based story would be completely unacceptable; torture, interrogation, horror themes? A sanitised story would be worse than nothing at all.

    However, my greatest concern is that this series will be used as a vehicle for social justice nonsense. That Eisenhorn’s story will be twisted to serve the grimdark of today’s identity politics. To be honest I see this as almost inevitable.

    • I understand the concern over the pc stuff but i can’t see how warhammer could ever do it without not being warhammer….picture 2 world eaters discussing freedom of choice and pronouns lol

  11. I think there is hope for this to work,GW looks like they have turned a corner and i think they can make it work,only problem is how graphic can they be.
    good article btw!!!

  12. As a huge warhammer 40k fan that has somehow managed to avoid reading the Eisenhorn books, I’ll be happy as long as everything fits the overall grim darkness of the 41st millenia. Fans of Eisenhorn specifically will likely need more than that and hopefully it can deliver, but I’m keeping my expectations low. That way at least if it’s half decent, I’ll be pleasantly suprised.

    From what little I know of Eisenhorn, Michael Fassbender could take the role, assuming it’s set in Eisenhorns early to mid years.

  13. Mid-life Eisenhorn should be played by Ciaran Hinds.

  14. I’m amazed at the pearl clutching here. The Inquisitor Trinity has gay characters, a wide range of ethnicities, ages and different genders. From Thonius’ effeminate refinement to Patience’s cold, calculated brutality. Kara Swole and the good doctor, Thonius’ male lover and everything in between.

    If you don’t think Abnett has shades of the “SJW” (I pronounce it Ssuhjoow) – you don’t know Abnett.

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