With the recent release of Netflix’s Making The Witcher, the recently renamed Blog of the White Wolf is here to save you all from those terrible mass-produced clickbait articles in which “HUGE changes are coming to the Witcher Season 2 based on unconfirmed rumors that someone MIGHT have farted on set” (*cough…Valnet properties…*cough). That’s not how we do things here, based on confirmed rumors that TBOTWW is not staffed nor managed by idiots. Instead, filed under the category of “Witcher coverage that isn’t nebulous spoilers or an idiotic puff piece”, The Blog of the White Wolf brings you a laid-back and relatively short piece on major themes from the Making documentary and what they tell us about the show. Accordingly, here’s “Five Highlights from Making The Witcher”.
1. Diversity and Topicality
The Witcher has always been an explicitly antiracist and, if somewhat inconsistently, feminist franchise. This carried over into both the casting of the show and its finished product, so its no surprise that multiple references in the Making documentary by Showrunner Lauren Hissrich and writers Beau DeMayo and Declan De Barra referenced issues of diversity, female empowerment, and The Witcher’s relation to current events explicitly. DeMayo, writer of S1E3, “Betrayer Moon”, and one of two writers of color on staff, specifically described diversity in the writer’s room as an asset to writing the lore of the Continent, whose conflict between humans and the Elder Races post-Conjunction he later likened to a refugee situation. “It’s really just a refugee situation. All these creatures and beings from another universe got dumped on this Continent thats not theirs, as refugees, andd the humans were the ones who were barbaric enough, war hungry enough, and also co-opted magic from the Elder Races to actually take the Continent over and push the elves out of their lands.” De Barra, writer of S1E4, “Of Banquets, Bastards, and Burials” later related this to current events, saying: “The Witcher stories, I mean, it touches on everything we’re dealing with now: the fallout of colonialism; class disparity with the haves and the have-nots; indigenous cultures getting fucked over; racism; sexism; the world gone mad; people having power that shouldn’t have power; people rising up. Constant flux. This world is an ocean and a tempest, and that’s what The Witcher is.”
2. Destiny, Explained
Hissrich gave us some insight into what “Destiny” means in the context of the Witcher, framing it in a very Witcher game trilogy type of way as “the product of choices you make”. I’m not terribly convinced the actual script supports this, but then that may simply reflect the tension between Destiny and free will inherent in the Witcher books, where the exact demarcation of either is no more clear. Something that could be inferred in fairness from Hissrich’s words, both here and in the Inside the Episodes segment of S1E1, “The End’s Beginning” (which will be part of the subject of a later piece), is that the product of these choices is often totally unforeseeable, and with a tendency to open new choices and ask new questions even as the previous ones are resolved. “You made a choice. And you’ll never know if it’s the right one.” Deep thoughts for a Friday.
3. The Witcher’s Gone Global
Okay, lets talk worldbuilding. According to Production Designer Andrew Laws, “In many ways, the Witcher world has a very European basis, and we felt, discussing this very early on, that we wanted to grow that world with influences from lots of other places, lots of other cultural references.” This led the production team to take multiple influences from Eastern, Middle Eastern, and South Asian architecture in order to “give the Continent a sense of scale” and make it more variable by region. This also led the team to draw an informal distinction between magical and non-magical architecture, with the Tower of the Gull and Aretuza meant to look less real than, say, the city of Cintra and the castle of Sodden Hill. Immediately after this segment in the documentary, Costume Designer Tim Aslam discusses his use of Gothic and modern high fashion influences on designing the continental wardrobe. Any mention of the Nilfgaardian furrowed trashbag/veiny dick armor is conspicuously absent.
4. The Actors Journey
Commentary on and from the actors was uniformly enthusiastic and complimentary. If anyone is nursing a burning vendetta on the set, nowhere was that in evidence. From Myanna (Tissaia) regarding Anya (Yennefer): “Anya has brought a depth to the role of Yennefer that is extraordinary. I think fans and newcomers to the story will absolutely fall in love with her.” Yep.
Of particular note are the scenes which linger on Anya and Joey’s description of their characters. Anya’s segment I will gloss over, as her tremendous talent has been discussed at length a number of times in the past. She’s the best actor on the show, and brings an unmatched maturity and conviction to her role even when her writers do not. Less conspicuous until now has been the fact that Joey Batey seems positively floored to have been given the chance to play Jaskier. No, seriously. His description of being cast on the show falls into the emotional range of “the love of my life accepted my proposal two hours ago, I am so happy I can barely speak, holy shit, please God, don’t take this away from me!” Or, to reference “The Last Wish”, “you’ve condemned yourself to me.” Or…uh, just listen to this: https://youtu.be/DbyrOBVDtR4
That’s Joey Batey’s soul right now. Touching.
5. The Writers’ Room
Sneha Koorse (whose “Bottled Appetites” I trashed mercilessly here: https://thepathwitcher.blog/2020/01/03/the-witchers-fifth-episode-is-unforgivably-bad-s1e5-review-bottled-appetites/#more-582 ) described the outlines of the writers’ process, in which the group collectively agrees the broad outlines of the seasonal narrative then separate to write individual episodes. De Barra, as usual, comes across as pumped up during this segment, and retells the thrill and difficulty he faced in coming up with a concise explanation of the Law of Surprise in dialogue that didn’t sound like idiotic bullshit an actor would facepalm. One wishes there had been a bit more time given to this subject, as the dialogue of season one was frequently (in this writer’s opinion) disappointing. To be fair, there is not exactly any philosophy of writing dialogue that will ensure good dialogue. It’s a talent and a skill like any other.
My major takeaway from all of this was recognizing that most people on the set seem genuinely enthusiastic in and deeply committed to their work. In the final assessment, the actual end product of Season 1 was mixed at best, with some genuinely wonderful highs and some conspicuously atrocious lows (#eelgate2019). One wishes that post-release interviews had been incorporated into the footage, as it would have been interesting and potentially reassuring to see how the writers responded to criticism, constructive or otherwise, of their far from flawless first season. Certainly the show has considerable potential to improve, and considerable potential to do otherwise.