Adaptations are difficult. It takes ingenuity and attention to detail to translate hundreds of pages of thorough exposition and worldbuilding into a compelling visual spectacle. Whenever a novel becomes a film or a TV series, artistic minds are set on a collision course. That collision of ideas results in different visions of the same characters, topics, and themes; as a result, not all viewers accept the adaptation, however good it may be on its own merits. Netflix’s new Witcher series is no exception to this rule. Like all other television adaptations, the series deviates from the books. In the case of The Witcher, however, many of these changes, in my opinion, are largely unnecessary and do not make for a coherent story.
Like many longtime Witcher fans, I grew up on Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels. Admittedly, trying to distance myself from the characters I’ve grown attached to doesn’t come easily, but I tried to remain objective and open while waiting for the adaptation to finally arrive. By the time the show premiered in late December, I was curious to see how the showrunner and writers would interpret the novels, and was willing to accept the likely omission of the various Slavic elements and themes prominent in the books, as well as the clever literary and linguistic references and wordplay on the part of the author that would inevitably be lost in translation. Despite my scepticism about certain casting choices, I do not mind my opinions being challenged and tested—after all, a successful adaptation offers a unique glance into someone else’s mind. It allows you to access a different vision of the material you think you know and understand. In the case of The Witcher, however, the show challenged and altered the internal logic of the Witcher’s world while not adding great value to the story. As a result, the overall lack of context turns the show into a generic fantasy while ignoring the books’ unique elements and the subtle, but crucial, aspects of Sapkowski’s worldbuilding that set the Witcher saga apart in the first place.