Does ‘The Witcher’ Season 2 Follow the Books? Yes, and No
Watching The Witcher on Netflix kicked off a new obsession for me. I played the game, read the books, and eagerly awaited season 2 to premier on Netflix. Now, after having binged watched the whole thing, I have good news. The second season is great! In fact, it is just as good as the first season, if not even better!
But does The Witcher season 2 follow the books? Kind of. Generally speaking, it is based on the plot of The Blood of Elves – the first novel in the Witcher series. However, much has changed in the screen adaptation.
Netflix Brings the Characters Back Together
The Witcher show works best when the main cast is together, bantering, in the case of Jaskier and Geralt, or falling in love, in the case of Yennefer and Geralt. The only problem is that most of the first book of the series, Blood of Elves, features the main characters as being totally separated from one another.
The show remedies that, allowing the main characters to once again rejoin each other much more quickly than the books allowed for. Of course, some creative liberties were needed with the source material in order to make this happen. But the end result is much appreciated – more onscreen time for ALL the characters, and more time seeing them interact with one another.
Ciri is Less Annoying Than She is in the Books
The really strong point of Netflix’s Witcher is that they seem to pull from elements fans loved about the games and books. One of those elements that were incorporated from the game and into the show version of the Witcher universe is Ciri. In the games, Ciri is pretty cool. She’s tough, but still kind and pretty much just a regular girl. However, in the books, Ciri is pretty annoying, uncool, and kind of a weird impish troll person. At least how she acts. The Ciri in the show is much more like the video game Ciri, if perhaps a bit more regal.
We’ll forgive her for that. She did just stop being a princess recently.
There Are Way More Monsters in The Witcher Season 2 vs the Books
If you haven’t read the books, you might think that the Witcher universe is all about…well…Witchering. That being, killing monsters. In the books, however, monsters are dying out. With humans more and more becoming the dominant species on the continent, monsters are being pushed to the fringes of the world. That being the case, Witchers are not really the most in demand of professionals. That’s the reason Geralt is always on the down in out from a money perspective in the books.
In the show (as well as in the games), there are plenty of monsters to be battled. That makes sense. After all, gamers need a distraction while crossing the continent, and it would be pretty boring to have no monsters to battle. In the same way, having plenty of monsters for Geralt to fight on screen makes for good television.
The Deathless Mother is New to the Witcher Universe
On that note, one of the biggest monsters revealed in Season 2 of the Witcher is the Deathless Mother, or Voleth Meir. Plot wise, this is also a large departure from the books. The books don’t feature this monster nor is it a major driving force for the story. Ciri also doesn’t get possessed by a monster and kill Witchers.
To me, it seemed that the Deathless Mother was very similar to the Ladies of the Wood that play a vital role in The Witcher 3 video game. Others have pointed out that the basilisk legs on which her house rests is a direct reference to Slavic folklore creature, Baba Yaga.
Yennefer Doesn’t Lose Her Magic
As stated above, Yennefer is absent for the majority of the Blood of Elves. She also doesn’t lose her magic, or decide to betray Ciri to get it back. What the show does get right from the books, however, is the bond that develops between Ciri and Yennefer. Yennefer’s ultimate sacrifice in the show’s finale illustrates how strong the new bond between herself and Ciri has become.
The Wild Hunt and Hopping In Between Worlds
In the books, we don’t see The Wild Hunt or see Ciri portal between worlds until much later. The Wild Hunt is a major antagonist in the Witcher 3 video game, and plays a significant role in the final Witcher novel. Perhaps the show will feature them and their leader, Eredin, more prominently in the seasons to come.
Eskel Doesn’t Die
Hands down the most surprising thing to come out of season 2 still has fans talking. Eskell, the Witcher, dies after getting infected by a Leshy and turning into a monster.
This doesn’t happen in either the books or the video games. As for why they killed Eskel? From a symbolic standpoint, Eskel’s death mirrors the event that will happen at the end of the season – that being Ciri’s possession by another monster. By showing Geralt’s willingness to kill Eskel and his unwillingness to kill Ciri, we are able to discern just how important Ciri is to him. More than a brother. Really just about more important than anything.
At the same time, by killing off a relatively major character from the books, the writers are sending us a clear message: in their version of the world, nobody is safe.
What, Then, Did The Show Get from the Books?
The general plot is still from the books. Geralt does find Ciri, and he does seek an education in magic for her. Additionally, Triss does come to Kaer Morhen to help Ciri, and a mysterious mage does attempt to kidnap Ciri. And, of course, Ciri is the child of destiny/prophecy.
Ultimately, I think the changes the show makes to the story are good changes. I like that the main cast gets more screen time together than they were allowed in the book, and I like that there are more monsters for Geralt to kill.
Netflix Made Positive Changes to the Show Since the First Season
Additionally, some of the changes made to existing elements of the show from season 1 to season 2 were wise. For example, Geralt uses much more magic, casting Witcher signs that will be familiar to fans of the video games. The show also makes some positive edits to mimic the game, such as in regards to overhauling Ciri’s appearance, and changing Triss’s hair to red. After all, the video game is as well loved as the books, and the show is pretty much an adaptation of both sources. Might as well do them both justice!
Lastly, an important update made to the leading character is that he actually talks more this season. Known for his grunting and reticence in season one, Caville felt it important to add more layers to our favorite monster hunter. Not only does this help make Geralt more believable as a hero, it also makes him a more closer adaptation to the books. Books Geralt is relatively free with his thoughts, and very much imparts his philosophies and world view onto Ciri, such as when he tells her about the importance of remaining neutral.