Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for The Witcher Season 2.
Throughout its long run of two seasons, Netflix’s The Witcher series constantly turns a blind eye to a major screenwriting rule, “show, don’t tell”. And it appears as if this neglect is harming the show. Ever since the beginning of The Witcher Season 1, the show has tried verbalizing its many declarations. While this was done in an attempt to simplify the show’s intricate storyline and characters, it turned out to be a heavy oversight.
Across the show’s many episodes, we see Geralt, Yennefer, and other significant characters indulging in descriptive monologues and conversation. The characters elaborate on a certain backstory or explain how a particular concept works. Sometimes, they are simply shedding light on major Witcher-verse events. However, the portrayal is hard to swallow. As it is not how people speak to each other.
Had the series been adapted to a slower buildup, this comprehension would reveal itself eventually. The show could have used its several episodes and incorporated visual flashbacks. But instead, it chooses to use uncultivated conversations that are beyond one’s belief.
Henry Cavill reprises his role as Geralt of Rivia in Netflix’s The Witcher Season 2 along with Freya Allan and Anya Chalotra. The second chapter reveals many plot developments. All these new concepts require a sweeping amount of description. The show reveals that Princess Ciri possesses Elder Blood. While the Witchers believed that their kind could no longer be created again, Ciri’s Elder Blood proved otherwise.
In addition to this, Season 2 delves deeper into the plot. These include the oppression of the Elven race. As well as an expansion in the overall narrative of the quarter-elf sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg. Her story follows the events of Sodden, where she loses her magical abilities after accessing the forbidden fire magic in Season 1 finale.
Just like its first installment, The Witcher Season 2 consistently holds on to the imbalanced exposition of the lore. Every time a scene requires an explanation, the character in the frame will talk at length about it in an unemotional manner. This approach turns a cold shoulder to the oldest screenwriting rule in the book: “show, don’t tell”.
Usually, the advice that goes around for writers of TV shows and movies is that they should make subtle revelations using actions and expressive emotions. This allows the audience to connect with the character’s inner self. The main idea behind the concept is to drive the audience towards the conclusion and not serve it to them on a silver platter.
While The Witcher manages to sometimes convey the message, it often wastes the potential by outright stating the obvious conclusion made by the audience. For instance, in The Witcher Season 2, Episode 2, the Elven sorceress Francesca Findabair is introduced without so much as a brief backstory. But the show spends a substantial amount of time revealing the Elven history. And it is done in a boorish way.
The Witcher should have made a clever approach to storytelling by using a different method. And yet, it chooses to indulge in lengthy monologues. Using visual flashbacks has long been proven to be fruitful in portraying history. For instance, the show uses flashbacks to show the past relationship between Geralt and his friend and fellow Witcher, Eskel. The effectiveness of this flashback intensified when Geralt was forced to kill his friend when he was infected by a Leshy.
With the help of this scene, The Witcher demonstrated the concept of showing a backstory without the need for a character verbally explaining to Ciri why Geralt and Eskel were so close. Through the scene, the audience connected to Geralt on a personal level. More so because the audience had the privilege of witnessing their friendship, however briefly. Instead of simply knowing it.
While The Witcher lacks in its storytelling, it also disappoints with its large lot of characters. The show uses a scattered ensemble, where none of the characters are allowed the time needed for them to develop. Meaning, sometimes their presence on screen comes off as dull and surfaced. It is true that the series gives us some great characters.
Take, for example, Ciri, Dara, Jaskier, and Geralt of Rivia himself. These are faces that the viewers have gradually grown fond of. However, the new season adds a bunch of characters and fits them into a certain time slot. Which not only makes them suffer in development, but it also draws the focus from major Season 1 characters whose narratives need a proper buildup. Rather than fleshing out one particular story, the series delves into several plots at the same time. Thus, leaving a cluttered exposition and elaborate dialogues.
As a result, the audience barely knows any character in depth other than Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer. Ultimately, the writers feel the need to incorporate an endless verbal backstory to explain to the audience how exactly a new face fits in the universe of The Witcher. And this approach is not at all systematic or fruitful.
Keeping the poor delivery aside, The Witcher Season 2 manages to offer immersive action sequences. It also develops deeper into an incredible fantastical universe of magic and monsters. But if the show intends to go further and create eight seasons, it is important for the writers to look into this screenwriting problem. Especially if the show wants to aim as high as HBO’s fantasy contemporary, Game of Thrones.
A cluttered explanation of history is the last thing the franchise needs under its belt. The approach makes some of the least interesting shows in elaborating significant details about a lore and its character backstories. Thus, The Witcher must find a way to avoid making such mistakes in the upcoming seasons.