Regardless of winning a brilliant run-on Netflix, The Witcher Season 2 failed to recognize Eskel’s character’s potential to become the franchise’s greatest plot twist. When Geralt (Henry Cavill) and Ciri (Freya Allan) reach the old keep of Kaer Morhen in Episode 2, the other Witchers residing there greet the pair with warmth. Most of The Witcher’s fan base is already accustomed to the makes of these members through books or video games.
One such remarkable character is Eskel (Basil Eidenbenz). Eskel’s greeting towards Geralt and Ciri’s arrival is a little scratchy. In fact, his unexplainable hostility towards Ciri is so apparent, it’s almost creepy. His contempt soon turns into moldy and irritable behavior directed at the young princess.
It is surprising because fans recognize the character to be more than a bitter, densehead witcher. However, the show never allows the character to develop beyond his puzzling rage. Soon into the episode, it is revealed that a new type of leshy has taken Eskel as a host. And eventually, Geralt has no choice but to kill him.
The following episode of The Witcher Season 2 reminisces about the true, fraternal bond shared by Geralt and Eskel through sentimental flashbacks. However, fans who are familiar with the character from the books are disappointed with the entire portrayal. The Witcher book series by Andrzej Sapkowski as well as the games created by CD Projekt feature a very different Eskel. Eskel’s character is known to be good-natured and composed, and obviously a flawless monster hunter. Most importantly, the source material depicts a subplot including Eskel that fits perfectly to justify his resentment towards Ciri. And it is none other than the fact that, in the past, Eskel also had a princess child bound to him by the Law of Surprise.
The decision to exclude a major part of Eskel’s past has cost The Witcher Season 2 a massive plot twist. The opportunity would definitely give more weightage to the overall storyline. Not only that, the current narrative diminishes Eskel’s character to portray a false personality as a resentful antagonist. If the creators thought to gain anything by altering Eskel’s backstory like this, the same could have easily been achieved by another new actor appearing with the bunch of Witchers in Season 2 at Kaer Morhen. The show did not have to give up on such a compelling subplot for nothing.
In all of The Witcher’s source material, Geralt and Eskel are portrayed as brothers. In some way, the two also act as necessary factors for their respective character development. Mainly because they both share their destinies of owning children of surprise. Before Geralt and Ciri cross paths with each other, Eskel receives a child of surprise in the form of Princess Deidre. The child of surprise is in exchange for saving Princess Deidre’s father from a werebbubb gang.
Much like Geralt, Eskel is reluctant in accepting his face. But when Deidre needs protection against Sabrina Glevissig, who wants to kill her because she is a princess born under the “Black Sun” and possesses the cursed mutation of obstructing magic around her, she seeks refuge at the old keep of Kaer Morhen.
Eskel is still unsure about how he must act; despite being concerned about the princess’ well-being. But Deidre manages to escape Kaer Morhen after slashing Eskel across the face. If Netflix’s show explored the distasteful relationship between Eskel and his own child of surprise, the narrative would act as an appropriate reason for his bitterness towards Ciri. However, Eskel’s early elimination leaves no scope for the original story of the books to surface.
In addition to this, the backstory would also serve as a crutch to intensify Geralt and Eskel’s relationship. This is while still keeping his fate the same. Because then, the audience would have a chance to familiarize themselves with Eskel before he died. But now, the show leaves an unfathomable sour taste for viewers regarding Eskel’s character. That paired with his stressful and extended death, makes the viewers try and read between the lines.
If the creators believed that introducing this new type of leshy was important for the season, they could have applied the same narrative for a different, less significant Witcher present at Kaer Morhen. Then, Eskel’s character could stick around in The Witcher Season 2. And maybe, as the season advanced, the show could highlight some of his backstory. To explain his essence in Geralt and Ciri’s budding storyline.
With its own two hands, Netflix’s The Witcher ruined the potential for a massive plot twist and interesting character development by killing off Eskel so soon. It is sad because this demonstrates the series’ bigger problem with storytelling. That the show does not believe in slower characterization regarding developing relationships between tertiary characters.
Sometimes, television adaptations do stray from their source materials. But regarding important characters like Eskel, who would definitely be beneficial to the overall narrative and character development, the creators should make sure to preserve them. Because otherwise, the entire story seems careless and hasty. The Witcher Season 2 has an upper hand from its Season 1 counterpart because of having a straight timeline and better continuity. However, the show could still learn some refinements regarding future outings.