The Problem with The Witcher (TV)

When news that Henry Cavill would be leaving The Witcher by season 4, I had to wonder what had happened to make an actor, who had fought hard for the role of Geralt, quit?

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt video game is still among the best I’ve played. I wrote a review about it a while back, so you can imagine my skepticism when I initially heard a show was in the works. I’ve read all the books too, but that’s a story for another day. Who could possibly fill Geralt’s shoes? Henry Cavill? That pretty boy? Eh…and then I heard his passion for the character and the story.

Okay. I’ll give him a shot.

And he is by far the best part of the show, because there is quite a bit wrong about it.

So forewarning, I had a lot more to say on this subject than I originally thought I would, so this is a doozy, and I think I could have said more, so…settle in.

When the show was in development, creator Lauren Schmidt Hissrich was making the rounds and I remember hearing her say that the writers’ room would be a mix of people who were fans of the games and/or books, and those who may not be familiar in order to add a different perspective.

With Cavill’s departure, tales of what was actually happening behind the scenes started to come to light. The gossip – none of the writers are any level of fan of the original works. Whether it’s true or not is beside the point because watching the show, as a fan, makes it clear that things were amiss.

Season 1 was hard to follow. The time jumps were confusing, as was the whole set up. I liked Season 2 more, but after I wrote about it, which was literally a line about how it was better than the first season, I became more bothered by some of the ideas presented.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Witcher, the story revolves around the relationship between Geralt, a monster slayer from an old order that serves to protect, and Ciri, a princess who is bound to him by destiny through a quirky old world payment system. I was trying to think of a nice way to say this without spoiling too much for those of you still wanting to read, play, or watch. Yennefer, Triss, and Dandelion aka Jaskier are all integral to the story because of their relationships with the other two, and they all have to traverse a land fraught with war, witch hunts, exiled elves hoping to reclaim their lost territory, monsters, and more.

With so much material to draw from in order to create a lush world full of interesting characters and stories, how did the show go wrong?

So, if the writers room is truly filled with people unfamiliar with the world, that would be square one. Not having an understanding of the large stage that The Witcher moves about is a big problem, and it shows. Game of Thrones is still one of the best shows I ever watched, I just ignore that dreadful final season, but those are BIG books, with tons of history and loads of characters to follow but the introduction to that world, the politics, the looming threat, and so much more were presented pretty spectacularly in the first episode.

This is the template The Witcher tv writers should have followed, to some degree. Geralt is at the center of a great deal, or so he should have been presented.

Not understanding the relationships that develop with all these characters is square two. We learn that Ciri is powerful, but that’s not why Geralt is protecting her. In time, they develop a father-daughter relationship, and that detail is Geralt’s primary motivator. Yennefer, who is barren, takes on the maternal role and loves Ciri like her own. Triss becomes her sister. It is these bonds that drive them to action. Yennefer, for all her bluster, wouldn’t do anything to put Ciri in danger, or do anything that would purposefully hurt Geralt, and actions taken in Season 2 of the show go against this basic premise.

In GoT we follow the Stark family as they move about and this is how we learn about relationships, history, and the plot. While we need context for some of The Witcher’s setup, starting so far back, before any of these characters know one another, divides attention away from everything else.

Let’s round the problems to three. Square number three would be in regards to not highlighting the threats, of which there are many, earlier on. There are the immediate threats, like war and witch hunting, but the greater threat is the Wild Hunt. Like the White Walkers, they are coming, and it should have always been on the peripheral because they are a ticking time bomb.

The reason I chose Game of Thrones for the comparison is because it was a massive success. I am not asking The Witcher to be that, but to emulate the delivery of so much information in a better way. Besides, we’re all looking for the next big thing to be addicted to, and unfortunately, given the circumstances, it’s not going to be this. The fantasy trope is widely established, so much of that setup can be sidestepped, but utilizing the characters differently, to impart the happenings of the world at large, should have been better executed.

Some ideas could have been told in flashback, or just mentioned in conversation to lose all that back and forth in Season 1. In the books, there are repeated references to events unseen, and that could have happened for a number of scenes in the show. We don’t need to see everything to understand what happened and how it affected the characters or the world.

I had high hopes for The Witcher. I think a lot of us did. As I’ve learned, it takes so many lucky breaks to get something made, and it’s disappointing when it just doesn’t work. And if it ends up being true that the writers didn’t care for the material, then not only will that upset fans, like me, it makes me question why they bothered. Writers in Hollywood have a tough enough gig, but with so many opportunities now, I would hope that they would at least want to work on something they like. I know that sounds a bit naive, but I write in certain genres, and would not take a job on a show I wouldn’t watch.

I do not watch procedurals, and even something like Lucifer bored me at times. I actually stopped watching it for a while. I don’t like the solve the case by the end of the show setup, so I would despise working on something like that. Personally. It wouldn’t be satisfying, and while I may need the work, need the credit, etc. I don’t want to find myself unhappy doing the thing that brings me joy. I guess we’ll find out if that holds true.

So what do you think of The Witcher? Do you agree or disagree with how it was presented? Do you have any ideas of how you would have done it differently? Share your thoughts below!

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