‘The Witcher’ star speaks out on Season 2’s shocking death

the witcher season 2
Photo via Netflix

Even though critics have been widely praising the return of Henry Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia, and the viewership numbers have shot through the roof since the latest episodes premiered on December 17, fans of the source material haven’t been won over quite so easily by Season 2 of The Witcher.

A 94% Rotten Tomatoes score would indicate near-universal acclaim, but the user rating is lagging way behind on a surprisingly muted 62%. One of the reasons behind the disappointment is the sweeping changes made to several key characters and plot points from Andrzej Sapkowski’s books, with one in particular being singled out for criticism.

In established Witcher canon, Eskel is one of the most popular figures on the Continent that plays a key part in Ciri’s training, but Basil Eidenbenz ended up getting killed off shortly after being introduced, having been infected by a Leshen. Speaking to The Direct, co-star Paul Bullion addressed the controversy, and it doesn’t sound as though he’s got an issue with it.

“I 100% knew that there’d be fans that wouldn’t be happy about it. He’s a fan favorite. You can see it all in the fan art and the fan fiction involving the Witchers: Eskel, Lambert, and Coen. I think any if you took any of those three Witchers away, excluding Geralt as he’s the lead, it was going to be a shock factor. Me personally as a storyteller, I think if you’re going to do a TV adaptation, I think it’s good to keep the audience guessing. Even if you are a Witcher lore expert, I think it’s great to throw a curveball.

I found out when I read the scripts at the start, and I was going through like, are they going to bring him back magically somehow? I think it’s necessary in TV adaptations to let the audience know that nobody can guess. I think even people that are fans of Eskel, to be affected by it whether you’re filled with sadness or shock, isn’t it great to watch something and be like, ‘I did not see that coming’? If I’m watching something, I love it when something completely sideswipes me out of nowhere. I think it was a brave decision and I 100% back the writers in that.”

When it comes to popular properties that already come with a built-in fanbase, it’s a fine line to tread between being too slavish to the established story beats to the extent predictability sets in, and veering so far away as to become unrecognizable. For the most part, The Witcher has pulled it off, but you’re never going to please everyone.