The latest Netflix season has longtime fans of The Witcher wondering why a character got the axe, breaking from its source. Now one of the key staff have explained The Witcher character retcon, and why they changed it up.
SPOILER WARNING: If you have not watched The Witcher on Netflix or read the books yet, then you may want to stop reading here.
Now that you’ve been fairly warned, onto the pain train we shall embark. After 1000+ hours in The Witcher games and having read all of Andrzej Sapkowski’s works on the universe, I’d say I’m fairly well-versed in the lore of the characters and quite invested in it all. The games really left a positive mark on me as an avid gamer too.
Fans of the scarred Witcher Eskel were shocked when he was killed off in the show’s second season, as he survived in both he books and the games. Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich was asked why they killed him off, a big departure from the source material.
“In all honesty, the very first version of the script that we wrote, [there] was a brand new witcher that we’d never met before, we’d never heard of, and all of a sudden we were like, ‘Oh, our audience is going to meet Coen and Lambert and Eskel and, you know, John,” Hissrich said.
She added, “Who’s gonna die? John is going to die.’ So we thought about it really hard, and I know that there are fans who love Eskel and feel like, ‘Why would we do that?’ But honestly his death is what changes everything for Geralt and I think it propels Geralt’s need to figure out what’s going on with Ciri and to do it fast, because he knows he’s going to risk losing her and his brothers if he doesn’t.”
I went into watching the Netflix series fully expecting them to take certain liberties and not be 100% faithful to the source material, because that’s just how showbusiness is. Producers on Netflix The Witcher are no different than your typical Hollywood types that love to thumb their noses at faithful fans of franchises and subvert any and all expectations just to get a rise out of them.
But I digress, tangent aside, the decision made to write off one of the integral characters and residents of Kaer Morhen was as confusing as it was jarring. Eskel and Geralt’s dynamic throughout the games and books leads one to believe that Eskel is just as talented a Witcher as Geralt is, albeit Eskel is more hot-headed and doesn’t embody the emotionless Witcher trait.
Eskel being written off by a Leshen “infection” is not only out of character, but is also factually incorrect if you go by the lore and the bestiary for Leshens. Leshens are ancient tree spirit monsters that utilize crows and wolves as minions to do their dirty work and only reveal themselves at opportune moments to seal the deal and end the conflict. They don’t behave like tentacle monsters out of a Japanese hentai either, as portrayed in the Netflix show. Leshens also do not infect people like inferred in Eskel’s plight and eventual demise in the Netflix Witcher show.
The flat-out ignorance of the already established lore just reeks of Game of Thrones or Walking Dead tier lazy and uninspired writing, where killing off previously fleshed out and established characters is widely accepted as normal and clever when, again, it’s not. It’s lazy and unoriginal and ultimately, insufferably boring.
Eskel being done in by a monster that he could’ve defeated alone by himself, is just one of a list of this latest season’s offenses too. Yennefer attempting and failing at kidnapping Ciri to get her magic back, the awful decision to kill Geralt’s horse (Roach), Vezimir trying to trick Ciri into doing the Trial of the Grasses herself to become a Witcher, Ciri desperately wanting to go through with it too (Ciri never wanted to go through with the Witcher mutations in the books and games) are a few grievances that I can recall as I’ve watched the show recently.
However Jaskier, the bard character, did sing another absolute banger of a tune. The song titled “Burn Butcher Burn” seems to been inspired by Geralt leaving him behind on a mountain in the previous season, thus forcing Jaskier to fend for himself for his own good as far as Geralt was concerned. They made up and resumed traveling together so at least one positive thing came out of this season.
So in closing, even with all my complaining, I did enjoy this latest season. The visuals and production was a lot better, there was more monster fights, less boring flashbacks, and more perfect deadpan line delivery by Henry Cavill. Here’s to hoping they don’t decide to kill off another character next season just to spite the fans.
In related news, it seems like Netflix is very happy with overall reception of their adaptation of The Witcher as they’re already planning and producing the initial materials for a potential third season – its script is already nearly done.
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