The Witcher season 2 is much bigger, takes “a lot more chances”

The Witcher - Credit: Katalin Vermes
The Witcher - Credit: Katalin Vermes /

The second season of Netflix’s The Witcher has been in production for a while now, and was one of the many shows that got stalled by the coronavirus. Happily, things are back on track, and showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich promises a new crop of episodes that overshadows what fans fell in love with in season 1. “[T]he renewal gave everyone permission to take a lot more chances, bigger gambles,” she recently told SyFy Wire. “Some of the things we’re working on right now are just beyond comprehension in terms of size and scope. I could not be more excited.”

The first season had elves, dwarves, magic battles, swordfights and a dragon, so the idea of pushing even further is enticing. That said, Hissrich plans to cut back in some areas, too, like getting the episode scripts down to a reasonable length. Before, apparently the team wrote whoppers that they feared would last 90 minutes when filmed:

"Instead of saying, “Hey, maybe an audience is going to want to tune in for 90 minutes,” I thought, “How do we make this process better and more efficient? How do we not overshoot things?” So one of the things is that we shortened the scripts. That’s just about better, tighter storytelling."

The first season of The Witcher received a fair amount of criticism in between the praise — fans famously grumbled about the garbled timelines, in particular. For her part, Hissrich says she doesn’t think you should read criticism, positive or negative (“No one story is going to make some 70 million people happy”), but that she paid attention to “what resonated with audiences, and what didn’t.”

"Did they think that the show referenced its Polish origins enough? How do we make sure that the right folklore is in our storytelling? Did we honor the books in the right way? How can we step away from the books, and make sure we’re building out our show’s characters?"

I’m not 100% sure how you both avoid looking at criticism and take the temperature of what the audience is responding to, but maybe it’ll make sense when I see the new episodes.

Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer will grapple with their decisions in The Witcher season 2

The heart of The Witcher is its characters, especially the trio of Geralt of Rivia, the sorceress Yennefer, and the Princess Ciri, whom Geralt is now taking back to the Witcher’s Keep of Kaer Morhen to train her in the art of monster hunting. It sounds like Hissrich is eager to dive into their journeys. “We have three separate characters who have been living their individual lives, refusing to admit that they need or want anyone else, and you start to see each of them grappling with how their decision making impacts everyone else and thinking about others before themselves,” she said. “That is the biggest shift in Season 2.”

Watching back the first season, Hissrich and her team noticed some things they want to tweak about Ciri’s story in particular. “Wow, Ciri is running away a lot!” she remembered. “It’s something Freya [Allan] and I would laugh about. So looking at Season 2, how do we get this character to stand still? To fight back? Where does she find this tenacity that is so clearly inside her? We need to pay a little more attention to that.”

The show will also get more into the themes of the story. “I cannot give anything away about Season 2, but what I will say is that we’re really focusing on emotional costs,” Hissrich said. “The eels were a great representation of the physical cost of magic, as were the Nilfgaard mages, who were willing to die to create fire.”

"This season, we’re really starting to think about how does magic impact us as humans? What decisions do we make for power? What do we sacrifice? More importantly, how does it hurt the people around us? This is the type of storytelling I’m really excited for because it becomes less about the mystical, magical world, and more about what happens when you start caring about other people."

All that and the production train continues to chug along. The Witcher has announced a lot of new cast members lately, with more popping up seemingly every day.

We don’t know when The Witcher season 2 will officially drop on Netflix, but fingers crossed that it’s sometime this year.

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