While The Witcher season two isn’t a faithful adaptation of the books that doesn’t meant that it’s bad by any stretch of the imagination.
The critics are raving about The Witcher’s second season, but many fans of the books are absolutely furious! If you haven’t read the books, this might seem shocking to you as the second season of the show has improved on almost every aspect of the first season.
I can understand the anger coming from the book’s fans but only up to a certain point. One of the big issues is the characterisation of a handful of characters, primarily Vesemir, Geralt’s father figure. Vesemir isn’t much like the old codger we see in the books and games but rather a more desperate, angry, and dangerous man.
This would be a bad thing normally, but while Vesemir’s character is different from previous versions, he is consistent with the version presented in the animated film Nightmare of the Wolf. No one had a problem with it then because it didn’t focus on material from the books. But now, THE SHOW IS MAKING ITS OWN CANON AND THAT’S OKAY.
The show still has all the broad brushstrokes of the plot from the books, it just reaches each plot point differently. Geralt still trains Ciri at Kaer Morhen, Yennefer still learns to be motherly, the elves are still tricked into working in Nilfgaard’s interest, and so on.
The Bard's Version
A dear friend of mine mentioned to me that all of the different versions of The Witcher are like differing versions of the same story told by different bards in their own style. That I feel is the most appropriate way to describe the Witcher universe.
Jaskier/Dandelion’s role in each medium is to expound the story and legend of the Witcher and his daughter. It is referenced in the show as well, as Jaskier is the sole reason in season one people become aware of the legend of the “White Wolf”. In the books it is the same, and there he even discusses the use of artistic license when Geralt reprimands him for putting something in his song/memoir that didn’t really happen the same way in reality.
Now I’m not saying the show is perfect, no it has some issues, but they don’t make the show the unredeemable mess that some fans have called it. Some of the writing can be a bit on the nose, but for the most part it is effective. Characterisation for the most part was consistent but sometimes consistency would be dropped in favour of plot, again Vesemir is the main culprit here.
There are dumb moments in there too, like Yennefer and Cahir’s escape from the Brotherhood which was way too simple and easy considering who they were escaping from.
One aspect that I do think the show really dropped the ball on is the father-daughter relationship of Geralt and Ciri. There were scenes Ciri had with side characters, like Lambert, that should have been given to Geralt and I’m often baffled as to why. Their relationship is a core part of the series, and it unfortunately doesn’t quite get there.
What the show really is, and all it seems to be trying to be, is an entertaining fantasy story. It isn’t the greatest show on television, but it isn’t trying to be, it’s trying to be entertaining and it succeeds at that.
Yes, every show is trying to be entertaining but some are actively trying to be more than that. They try to be “important”, something that critics will talk about for years, something influential. The Witcher, as it currently stands, seems to be a reaction to the post-Game of Thrones world of TV we currently find ourselves in as fantasy can’t just be fun anymore – it has to be like Game of Thrones.
The writers are acutely aware of the differences they are making and how fans will likely react. There are several lines of dialogue that directly address the issues with adaptation.
It’s not like the books are the pinnacle of literature anyway. Andrej Sapkowski, the author of the books, said in an interview,
People were quick to point out that Sapkowski is fond of doing things for money… as many people are. But that doesn’t really seem to matter as if the author isn’t upset over the changes to his work, what right do the fans have? To be clear, you can dislike the show but not because it is an unfaithful adaptation (which it only kind of is).
It seems that the showrunners did back themselves into a corner. They went to great lengths on social media to ensure fans they were creating a faithful adaptation only to make some very large changes. I get that, but the changes themselves, for the most part, didn’t make the story any worse and some, like Yennefer losing her powers, made it better.
That might be a hot take, but it was nice to see Yennefer put in such a vulnerable position and grow as a character so early in the story. In the first book, Yennefer mostly stays the same with her growing motherly relationship with Ciri being the sole focus on change for her character. It isn’t until the second book and onwards that Yennefer really gets taken down a peg.
Some Good Stuff
From a production standpoint, the show has used its newfound budget well. The cinematography is far more interesting with certain shots actually drawing my attention to the camera work and framing. It is nowhere near as blandly shot as the first season, it’s far more adventurous.
The effects and costumes have also improved drastically but that is to be expected from a bigger budget. Thankfully, the Nilfgaardian armour doesn’t look like a ball sack anymore but Geralt’s armour does still look a little leather daddy-ish.
The monster designs have also been improved. Nivellan looked way better than I thought he would, and those basilisks at the end were miles above the dragon from the first season. Again, with a bigger budget, things can look better.
The plot is also still very engaging with its many twists and turns. Despite arriving at the same plot points differently, the differences are no less engaging than the books.
If you liked the first season, then you will definitely like the second. It improves on nearly every aspect of the first season and feels far more confident in itself as an adaptation.
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