Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Witcher Season 2
The Witcher Season 2 recently premiered on Netflix. Following its successful run, The Witcher showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich revealed how a significant death in Episode 2 was supposedly written for a different, much less beloved character. The Witcher series is adapted from books and short stories written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The show first made its debut on Netflix in 2019.
And immediately after its release, the show turned into Netflix’s most-streamed first seasons in the history of fantasy television. The Witcher Season 1 was primarily based on The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny stories. Whereas Season 2 explores Blood of Elves. In the source material, this is the point where Geralt (Henry Cavill), Ciri (Freya Allan), and Yennefer’s (Anya Chalotra) stories begin.
Episode 2 of The Witcher Season 2 takes Geralt and Ciri to an important place in The Witcher universe. It is none other than the old keep of Kaer Morhen, which is also Geralt’s childhood home. It is there that they meet with other Witchers like the elder Vesemir (Kim Bodnia) and fellow monster hunters, including Lambert (Paul Bullion), Coën (Yasen Atour), and Eskel (Basil Eidenbenz).
These characters were prominently present at Kaer Morhen throughout the books and video games. But The Witcher Season 2 changed Yennefer’s arc by introducing a new demon, the Deathless Mother. Similarly, the Netflix show made some other modifications to the original material. However, the most appealing of these was the fate of Eskel. Episode 2 saw Eskel turning into a monster, which led the other Witchers to kill him in the halls of Kaer Morhen. And the audiences never really got acquainted with him.
In a casual conversation at The Witcher Unlocked, held by The Witcher Netflix on YouTube, showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich opened up on the topic. Hissrich explained that earlier was John’s death instead of Eskel’s death in Episode 2. Not only that, the showrunner was asked to justify this alteration. And tell the fans why she decided to kill Eskel’s character this early in the show, mainly because he was an essential character for the fans of the books and games. Here is how Hissrich responded to the questions:
“Well, we knew we had to kill someone in that episode. We knew that we wanted a monster to enter Kaer Morhen and have something to do with Ciri, and both Geralt and Vesemir and the brothers realize that bringing this girl into their Witcher keep is going to fundamentally change things. And in all honesty, the very first version of the script we wrote was a brand new Witcher that we’d never met before, we’d never heard of, and all of a sudden, we were like, Oh. Our audience is going to meet Coen, Lambert, Eskel, and John. Who’s going to die? John is going to die. So, we thought about it really hard,
and I know that there are fans who love Eskel and who feel like, why would we do that? But honestly, his death is what changes everything for Geralt, and I think it propels Geralt’s need to find out what’s going on with Ciri and to do it fast because he knows that he knows he’s gonna risk losing her and his brothers if he doesn’t.”
Not only did The Witcher Season 2 revise the fate of Eskel by killing him off in the second episode itself, but the show also changed aspects of his overall personality. In the books, Eskel is good-humoured and friendly. But in the front, his nature is disgruntled and aggressive. What is sadder is that his screen time with Ciri was relatively short. And his relationship dynamic with Geralt is touched on, but only briefly. In contrast, in the books, Eskel is significantly present in Ciri’s upbringing and the outside narrative.
In the Netflix show, Eskel is merely a prop to uncover mutated monsters and the existence of monoliths. It is true that Eskel’s death largely impacted Geralt and Vesemir. In a way, it drove them into mad motivation. However, killing off a different, less beloved character could have also provided the same provocation. The portrayal of Eskel’s character appears just like that to the readers: completely unusual.
In Sapkwoski’s books, Lambert and Eskel take on the duty of training Ciri. In the book Blood of Elves, when Geralt and Ciri first reach the old fortress of Kaer Morhen, Eskel is doubtful and hesitant towards the arrangement. But he soon tames his fears and accepts Ciri. More so because of his sentimental past with Geralt and his history with Child of Surprise.
Not only that, Eskel’s entire involvement enriches the whole experience at Kaer Morhen. The Netflix adaptation boasts of its retirement on the source material. So to kill off Eskel this early in the new season was shocking. In turn, the show also dressed up Yennefer and Ciri’s mother-daughter dynamic. Undoubtedly enough, fans of the books and games would prefer seeing John turn into a monstrous tree.
The Witcher Season one and two are now streaming exclusively on Netflix.