After a successful first season on Netflix, The Witcher is just one of many shows that had to go on a production hiatus due to the coronavirus. But with Hollywood clawing its way back to life, the fantasy show may be back on its feet soon, ready to give us the further adventures of Geralt, Yennefer and Ciri in season 2.
“We were shooting in the U.K. and were about six weeks into our season when we shut down,” remembered showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, speaking to The Wrap. “We were literally in the middle of a big sequence we had been preparing for months. But we have a very international crew and it wasn’t just about the health of our crew and our cast, but also getting them back home to their families. So that was at the forefront for us.”
One of the new cast members, Game of Thrones alum Kristofer Hivju, even caught the coronavirus, although thankfully he recovered. “So, of course, we had to follow up with everyone who came into contact with him and let them know what they should do if they start feeling sick,” Hissrich said. “But thank God, knock on wood, we had no other illnesses spiraling off that one.”
At the moment, Hissrich and her team are sharpening scripts, planning safety procedures, and working with companies to determine when and how they can start up again. She says that we’re going to see the impact of all of this onscreen: “[Y]eah, it’s going to impact story. It will have to. But one of the best things about being a writer on set is that I’m there to make those changes as we need them.”
I wonder what the details on that are. Are there certain scenes that perhaps just aren’t doable now that everyone has to observe social distancing? Or maybe it just has to do with scheduling changes.
However that shakes out, Hissrich was happy to tease some of the new stuff we’ll be getting. “Probably my favorite additions for Season 2 are the new witchers,” she said. “Really, in Season 1, we got to know Geralt and he’s our prime example of a witcher. And then there is one other witcher, Remus, who we meet in Episode 103, who quickly dies (laughs). So it was, for us really, about getting Geralt back to his roots and sort of learning where he came from and what his story is and what his sense of family is.”
When I talk about ‘The Witcher,’ I always talk about how these three characters coming together — Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer — they come together as a family. It’s the most important part of the series for me. And when you start to imagine someone’s family, you also need to understand their family of origin. Sometimes that’s a mother and father, sometimes that’s blood relatives. For Geralt, it’s his brothers, it’s the brotherhood of the witchers. So I’m really excited to get back in and meet Vesemir, his father figure, for the first time and all of these men that he was raised with since he was seven years old. And one of the benefits of quarantine is the public has gotten to know these actors a little bit, because they are very present on social media and we’ve been doing bakeoffs and we’ve been doing danceoffs. And I think everyone has really gotten to know these actors a little bit better, too. And it’s exciting, because I think that sort of energy will be coming into Season 2.
She’s right about the bakeoffs:
As for the new witchers, Hissrich is pulling them from the pages of author Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher books. We meet a bunch of them in Blood of Elves. As Hissrich mentioned, Vesemir (Kim Bodnia) is Geralt’s mentor. There’s also Eskel (Thue Rasmussen), Paul Bullion (Lambert) and Coën (Yasen Atour). I’m all for expanding the cast! If The Witcher wants to stick around for awhile, it’ll need a deep bench of characters, and Sapkowski’s books have plenty to choose from.
But of course, the main draw is still the characters we know, like Geralt and Ciri, a professional monster hunter and wayward princess who meet up in the final moments of the first season. “What I think is really fun about Geralt and Ciri is they are the most unexpected family you can imagine,” Hissrich said. “You have a witcher whose sole job is to kill things for money and you have a little girl who is trying to escape her past and it’s like, how do they come together? And to me, one of the most fun things we get to explore in Season 2 now is how they get to change and shift each other.
Coming out of Season 1, you have a pretty good sense of who Ciri is, you have a pretty good sense of who Geralt is. And now we get to throw that all in a blender and see what happens when two people who are completely different have to be forced together in circumstances. And I think it’s really fun. It’s not always pretty. They will argue. They will fight. It will be two strangers coming together for the first time and being told, “Nope, you’re gonna be together forever.” I think that their growth together into being a father and daughter is one of my favorite parts of the series.
So there’s lots of new things to look forward to. Perhaps even better, Hissrich has promised that the show isn’t going to play the same games it did in the first season, where we followed the stories of our three main characters without being told they were taking place in completely different timelines. “Obviously, it was one of the most controversial parts of Season 1 and I didn’t expect it to be as controversial as it was,” Hissrich said. “But it’s something I still stand behind, in terms of storytelling…[The] goal was to get to know each of these characters individually, and the only want to do that was to separate their timelines.”
What’s great though is they have intersected now. So what we’ll see in Season 2 is that all of our characters are existing on the same timeline. What that allows us to do storywise though is to play with time in slightly different ways. We get to do flashbacks, we get to do flash-forwards, we get to actually integrate time in a completely different way that we weren’t able to do in Season 1. Because, if you can imagine, if we were in three different timelines (in Season 1) and then flashed forward or flashed back, we would have been in four or five or six timelines — even I know that’s too much. So I think it will be a lot easier for the audience follow and understand, especially a new audience coming in. But there are still going to be some fun challenges with time.
Okay, I two thoughts about all of that:
- I very much disagree that screwing with the timeline was the only way we could have gotten to know Geralt, Yennefer and Ciri. I’d have much preferred the show just go in chronological order, even if that meant a character like Ciri might have to sit things out for a while. We could still get to know her later in the season, and I wouldn’t be annoyed at the show for making me jump through hoops to follow it.
- It makes me a little nervous that Hissrich still wants to tackle some “fun challenges” with time after her last attempt was such a bust. Staying optimistic…
But at the end of the day, the first season was a big success despite my misgivings about the timelines, so who am I to talk?
The Witcher season 2 will hopefully be out sometime next year!