Look, lets call a kikimore a kikimore: I was not happy with Netflix’s first season of The Witcher. It cried out for better dialogue, a bigger budget, and writers with a deeper understanding of the themes of the source material. Nonetheless, from the Blaviken fight to the characterization of Eist and Mousesack, there were some striking moments of exceptional quality last season which equalled and occasionally exceeded the books. Accordingly, while I maintain my curmudgeonly opinion that Netflix’s The Witcher might better be called Netflix’s The Witcher: Directed by Tommy Wiseau, I’ll take this occasion to stop whining, or rather, whine constructively, and offer some substantial suggestions on what I would have changed in season 1 and what I’d leave the same.
1. Ten Episodes, Not Eight
In season 1, Lauren Hissrich set herself the unenviable task of converting almost six hundred pages of prose into 8 hours of television. The product was inconsistent, to put it kindly. While the most controversial aspect of the season was its Dunkirk-inspired timeline, the structure of the season as whole was rushed for time. Ten episodes would’ve allowed us time for more deliberate character development and the ability to adapt crucial short stories like “A Shard of Ice”, and “A Little Sacrifice”, while omitting lesser tales such as “Eternal Fire” and “A Grain of Truth.
2. Retain “The Voice of Reason”
This would’ve saved us a lot of timeline pain. While bilateral time-skipping is a constant in the first Witcher anthology, The Last Wish, the stories in Sword of Destiny are quite linear by comparison. With ten episodes, keeping the Djinn affair in episode five would’ve allowed the writers to dispense with time-skipping halfway through the season by using the Voice of Reason frame story from The Last Wish to anchor the action in a present day narrative. Speaking of present day narratives, lets move on to point three.
3. Omit Ciri Till Episodes 9 and 10
This is a no-brainer. Hissrich’s desire to flesh Ciri out as a character independent of Geralt was a dud that condemned her to an entire season of doing fuck-all nothing. There was almost no source material to supply a scaffolding for her plotlines. In the books, we are told next to nothing about how Ciri survived the months following her escape from Cintra. As with Game of Thrones, when adaptors try to invent entire plotlines to pad a narrative, they generally fail. Why? Because if they were as good as the best-selling authors whose work they were adapting, they would be renowned in their own right. CD Projekt Red was widely successful in creating original Witcher stories, and managed to achieve a highly detailed fidelity to the books while executing compelling plotlines and world-building in their own right. Netflix didn’t.
4. Better Budgetting
The special effects budget should’ve been saved for Borch’s dragon form, Brokilon and the Battle of Sodden Hill. The Battle of Marnadal was chaotic, ridiculous, and most likely quite expensive. It would’ve been better to cut it.
5. Make Brokilon Make Sense
Brokilon is crucial to both Geralt and Ciri’s character arc in the short story “Sword of Destiny”, but totally inert in the show. The themes of man versus nature and human versus nonhuman are cut in favor of some grave platitudes from Eithne about Destiny, and we are denied an adaptation of Ciri and Geralt’s first meeting which prefigures and enriches their second meeting at Yurga’s farm in the books. Ciri’s segway through Brokilon in the show accomplishes nothing on either a character or plot level.