Countless legitimate criticisms have been lobbed at Netflix’s The Witcher franchise. Chief among these are its poor writing, characterization, and performances. However, few complaints, coupled with the dismal writing quality, strike home at Netflix more than the criticism of its Witcher adaptation integrity. Season 2 has explicitly been called out for being a horrendous adaptation of Blood of Elves, with some book fans going so far as to claim that it is less than 1% accurate. This criticism seems to offend both Netflix and the showrunner, Lauren Hissrich, as this is always the criticism they call unrealistic. Rumors and reasonable supposition have concluded that Henry Cavill left the series because of this poor Witcher adaptation. In response to these rumors, criticisms, and suppositions, Hissrich has come out in defense of her work, declaring that season 3 will be the closest Witcher adaptation so far. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she said:
“What is so interesting is that Season 3, to me, is the closest thing that we’ve done as a one-to-one adaptation of the books. Obviously, we can’t do every page, but Time of Contempt gave us so many big action events, plot points, defining character moments, huge reveals of a big bad. There’s so much to do that we were able to stick really, really closely with the books.”
Several things in these comments stick out. The second half of this comment implies that Hissrich liked Time of Contempt more than the other books, so she wanted to be more accurate. If accuracy were ever a priority, it would be applied regardless of personal feelings. However, more importantly, she goes back to the age-old counterpoint to adaptation integrity criticisms by claiming that you can’t be 100% accurate. No fan has ever called for 100% accuracy; everybody knows that would be an unreasonable request. With the famed Lord of the Rings trilogy, believed to be some of the most accurate adaptations in history, book readers had to look specifically for what was different than the source material. With The Witcher, readers have to specifically look for what is the same.
Season 2 only adapted a single aspect of Blood of Elves, the fact that Triss went to Kaer Morhen at the beginning. Fans are well within their rights to ask for a more accurate depiction. By debasing their argument with the contradiction that Netflix cannot be 100% accurate, Hissrich attempts to delegitimize the argument entirely. While season 3 might be more accurate, reaching a whole 1% would be a 100% improvement and may seem immense to a talentless showrunner. That’s equivalent to having a track record of regularly driving with a .09 blood alcohol content before getting pulled over with a measly .085. That’s technically less drunk, but it is still drunk driving. This entire comment comes off as cheap begging as a result. Fans of The Witcher books and games are not returning, and meaningless platitudes will do nothing to entice them.
“Geralt’s big turn is about giving up neutrality and doing anything that he has to do to get to Ciri. And to me, it’s the most heroic sendoff that we could have, even though it wasn’t written to be that. Geralt has a new mission in mind when we come back to him in Season 4. He’s a slightly different Geralt than we expected. Now, by the way, that’s an understatement.”
These comments are far more straightforward and shallow. Neutrality was only a minor portion of Geralt’s arc in Time of Contempt. So using it as narrative justification for Henry Cavill’s departure is another cheap and meaningless statement. Geralt has been constantly sidelined in his own show, not allowed the most basic hero moments, so why should season 3 be any different?
In a separate interview with the Polish Gazeta, Hissrich further justified her bastardization of the source material by claiming to have complete approval from the writer of the books, Andrzej Sapkowski. Her comments have been translated from Polish as:
“If he didn’t describe something himself, he let us build our own stories.”
Obviously, if there’s a portion of history the source material doesn’t cover, the show writers are well within their rights to invent stories within that time. No one is contradicting that point. Of course, they will come up with stuff to fill in the gaps. However, to date, they’ve shown no qualms in building their own stories that contradict and destroy what the books cover for Geralt and the lore. So why should it be any different for material that isn’t covered in the books? Acting as if this is somehow a blanket approval to do whatever she wants is another reach in an attempt to justify her decisions and delegitimize authentic criticism from genuine fans. Hyper-focusing on the Witcher adaptation integrity criticism will not make the other numerous issues vanish.
The mishandling of this franchise is on another level entirely. Even without the departure of Henry Cavill, there was a rapidly-approaching expiration date on the viability of Netflix’s Witcher universe. The ineptitude of its showrunner doomed this production before it even began, and it won’t be long until it collapses entirely under the weight of its own incompetence.