I've just finished watching season two of The Witcher on Netflix and, contrary to a lot of reviews I've seen, I did not think that it was the second coming.
I liked the season and thought it was marginally better than the first season, which itself I thought was a decent first stab at an adaptation, but I feel that the show is still suffering from some fundamental issues that haven't been addressed to date.
As such, here are the 5 things that I personally think the makers of The Witcher need to do to make season three of the show really take flight.
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1. Show me a map and some place names every now and then
Ok, this is such an easy fix it actually boggles my mind how Netflix hasn't sorted this between season one and season two. Simply let your audience know where we are in the world when we jump to a new location.
Guys, I'm quite familiar with the world that The Witcher is set in as I played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to death, so while I wouldn't consider myself a super fan or expert, I've got a decent level of understanding. And, seriously, I have no idea where we are the majority of time when watching the TV series.
The show has a nasty habit of showing us some CGI city or location with a glamorous swooping intro shot, but then not actually saying where that is and, crucially, where that is in relation to anything else.
Seriously, Game of Thrones nailed this years ago. Every episode not only started with a swoop over the entire map/world where the show was set, but in episodes we'd get mini map intro shots zooming in on, say, Winterfell, before we had a scene set there.
The Witcher is even harder to follow than that, though, as characters open and jump through portals like crazy and, even if I recognise a location I've seen previously, it still doesn't help me actually understand where that is in the world, or how it is in relation to anything else. Am I in Cintra? Nilfgaard? Where is Aretuza? Where did that portal just go?
Seriously, sort it out, as if I don't know where we are half the time a complete The Witcher newbie certainly won't.
2. Hire better script writers and focus on clearer exposition
Which brings me onto what I think is probably actually the thing that lets The Witcher TV series down most – script and specifically script exposition.
Don't get me wrong, there's been some really nice lines over the first couple of seasons of the show, and I've had some laughs and had buy in, too. But whenever the show switches into exposition mode it gets so clumsy and borderline confusing I just have my immersion broken.
For example, I had no idea what was going on in season two with Voleth Meir, and she was a great character (with interesting lore) who could have loads of potential to hold my interest and get me invested. Instead of being invested I was just confused as to what was going on and why I should care, so became detached.
And don't get me started on the show doing politics exposition between the various factions. Seriously, I don't think Game of Thrones was god's gift or anything but seriously that show did this better. Now ancient TV shows like HBO's Rome series did it better.
If I don't know where I am (see last point), who people are and why they are doing what they're doing I'm not emotionally or intellectually invested. Was Nilfgaard's taking of Cintra a good thing? Is Emperor Emhyr var Emreis right to wage war against the North? Why is Nilfgaard expanding its kingdom? What's the deal with the Great Sun and how it connected with elves? What is Tissaia de Vries' role in relation to the leaders of Temeria?
I get that communicating these things isn't easy, but season three really needs to focus on doing this stuff in a more natural way, as characters have either being getting super clunky and clumsy in speech when moving the plot along, or doing it in a way that leads to confusion. It's not as if the show doesn't try, it does it if anything too much, it just doesn't do this well at all.
3. We need more Monster of the Week episodes
And weirdly, while the show is trying desperately to communicate its plot and lore, it's spending too much time doing that to prop up the overarching series macro plot and not doing enough actual story telling in each episode.
Simply put this is fixed with more Monster of the Week episodes, which shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer nailed decades ago. One of the best episodes of season two of The Witcher was its first, entitled A Grain of Truth. In this episode the over-arching plot is carried forward (albeit clumsily) but, crucially, we also get a juicy micro, one-episode story to get stuck into.
This story is well told, well-acted and is really on-brand for The Witcher, with Geralt having to investigate and deal with a monster and how it relates to humans. It has action, comedy and genuine emotion, as well as a well visualised fantasy setting and clear character motives. I understood the developing mini-story from start to finish, too.
This was The Witcher bottled, both from the short stories in the books or the missions from the video games and the TV series seriously needs more of these type of episodes in season three in my opinion. And in these stories we need to see my next improvement for the show, which is detailed in the next point.
4. Show me Geralt doing Witcher things more
Geralt is a Witcher and I want to see him doing more Witcher-y things, not just striding around talking to people. Witchers track down and sniff out beasts and monsters, before working out the best way to dispatch them or neutralise them, prepare for that, and then execute it.
A bit like how in a spy movie you actually want to see the process of spying and not just the climatic result. The Witcher has got better at the climatic final battles in season two over season one, but it still has relegated the craft of being a Witcher to just, neck potion, get stronger, swing sword at monster.
And, look, I love that stuff as much as the next person. Watching Geralt take down the series of beasts and men in season two was really entertaining, but it felt more like he was just a superhero fighter dude that turns on superhero mode instantly to fight, when actually a Witcher is far much more than just a powerful fighter.
You can literally build this into the show in conjunction with my last point about monster of the week. The two work hand in hand so just build more tracking/sleuthing/preparing into episode structure. A few more minutes each episode would be enough to show the craft more and make the show more immersive as a result.
5. Stop saying "destiny"! Seriously!
Seriously, my partner and I got so tired of hearing "destiny" said each and every episode (most of the time multiple times per episode) that we started a drinking game based on it.
Seriously, we get it, you want to culture an epic fantasy narrative. But just relying on saying destiny over and over again feels super lazy. Sort it out!