The Witcher showrunner explains the controversial Eskel storyline in Season 2


Now that The Witcher‘s second season has been released on Netflix and fans across the world have binged its eight episodes, the cast and crew behind the fantasy series have begun to discuss the events of season two. In The Witcher: Unlocked, an hour-long special in which series stars Henry Cavill (Geralt), Anya Chalotra (Yennefer), Freya Allan (Ciri) as well as showrunner Lauren Hissrich discussed the shocking twists and turns of Season 2.

Perhaps the most hotly debated plot point in Season 2 involves Geralt’s witcher brother Eskel, played by Basil Eidenbenz. Naturally, there will be spoilers for Season 2 in this article, so if you have yet to watch the second episode of the new season, we suggest you read this article at a later time.

Felicia Day, the Unlocked panel host, addressed the controversial plotline when the showrunner arrived, echoing the question many witcher fans are asking around the world: “Thank you for introducing so many new witchers to the universe only to brutally murder them in Season 2. That was awesome. Why did you do that?”

We just had to make sure that we were really driving home that point, that The Continent is constantly changing, and is there a place for witchers anymore?

“I mean, so much of Season 2 is about the fact that… Is the witcher brotherhood over?” showrunner Lauren Hissrich explained. “I mean, that’s really what Vesemir’s character is dealing with all season, is this emotional sense of: ‘Is this the end of life as we know it for witchers?’ So, of course we had to kill more. We had to make it more painful for him.” At that point, Hissrich turns to Vesemir actor Kim Bodnia and says: “Sorry.”

“We just had to make sure that we were really driving home that point, that the Continent is constantly changing, and is there a place for witchers anymore?”

“Eskel’s death in episode two… It was very traumatic,” Unlocked host Felicia Day said. “Can you explain your decision to kill him off so soon? Because people want to know.”

“Yes,” the showrunner replied. “People definitely want to know. Well, a couple of things. 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.”

Our audience is going to meet Coen and Lambert and Eskel and, you know, John. And who’s going to die?

“And, in all honesty, the very first version of the script that 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 and Lambert and Eskel and, you know, John. And 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 figure out what’s going on with Ciri and to do it fast, because he knows that he’s going to risk losing her and his brothers if he doesn’t. And we really just wanted to motivate that character journey for him.”

If you’re interested in watching the full panel, including two deleted scenes as well as interviews with the cast, head over to The Witcher‘s YouTube channel.

27 comments on “The Witcher showrunner explains the controversial Eskel storyline in Season 2”

    1. There is no getting where she is coming from. She DON’T need to kill off a witcher to shows how desperate they were. Nor do they need to change the monster lore and make leshen out to be some stupid spore like infectious monster. This is utterly stupid,.

  1. They are making the same mistakes GoT’s Dan and Dave made…When you intentionally deviate from the books and the original well-put story just for the sake of shocking effect, you’re gonna create more mess along the way. They killed Eskel, well established character from both the books and the games, just to “propel” Geralt to think faster what to do with Ciri? I am sorry, the show is 90% fantastic, but this is just as bad writing as “Somehow Palpatine has returned”. There are many parts that seem so watered down in order to be consumed easier by the masses, especially in the US.

    1. I mean … Eskel isn’t that big a character? I haven’t played the games, but in the books, he mostly pops up as one of the Witchers helping out with Ciri’s training in Kaer Morhen. He’s a fun character and all, but he’s not exactly instrumental, and he basically never pops up again – offing him doesn’t exactly change much.

      And, yeah, “propelling” characters is pretty important on television. Books can get away with long stretches of very quiet, subtle interactions, because their readers assimilate information in a very different way and have a direct window in the characters’ minds. With a visual medium, you have to structure things more, break things down into clearly articulated moments, because that’s just how actors and the restraints of physical production work. And with a show, you need big moments, cliffhangers, to create any sort of flow, of engagement with the audience – even some of the weirdest, most experimental, least intended-for-the-masses shows I can think of (like, say, “Devs”, or “Legion”) do it. It’s really not “Palpatine has returned “, it’s just the medium pushing the writing in a way that’s fairly natural for the adaptation.

      1. Fairly natural for adaptation? For failed hollywood type adaptation you mean.

        Changing the lore of the monster, making leshen out to be a stupid infectious spore type of monster. Killing off a witcher (who are few to begin with) just to drive home a desperate plot-point that doesn’t even make sense .. nor was it needed in the book to build up the sense of urgency just points to stupid lack of imagination on the part of the scriptwriters.

  2. The controversial thing isn’t that they killed Eskel but rather the many dumb writing decisions, one being that any Witcher would get prostitutes to Kaer Morhen, which is supposed to be hidden from the world.

    1. Agree completely. That is complete nonsense. In the books, Triss narrates how she almost froze to death (and only could keep herself and her horse alive through magic) riding two days from the nearest settlement through a completely uninhabited, frosty wilderness to reach Kear Morhen. I wonder even what the scriptwriters intended with that scene. But that is just one detail in a vast pile of far more significant, and really annoying, in addition to unnecessary, deviations from the story in the books. Why does Istredd get involved? Why is Francesca, one of most powerful mages in that world, having been around for more than 400 years, naive like a school girl? Shouldn’t she be politically skilled and more like Galadriel in LotR? Why is she pregnant anyway? Is the American ideal of motherhood such a big thing that it must enter the adaptation? Why does a significant part of the dialogue consist of the words “f***” and “sh++”? Trying to adapt the text material for an international audience? I am sorry, but this is, again, very poor writing, and an insult to the intelligence of the viewers.

      1. The reason Francesca’s pregnancy is such a big deal is because the fertility rate of Elves is much lower than for humans, and because many of their younger numbers have been killed off in wars. Their population is too small and regenerates too slowly for them to keep up with humans, and so they know that they are doomed unless they can overcome this. The birth of a new Elven child to the king and queen is important both symbolically and also practically.

      2. It is mentioned in BoF by Francesca herself that she is too old to bear children. So apparently the fact that she can’t reproduce isn’t such a big deal in the books, and other Elves apparently still can, even if their fertility rate is lower than that of humans. That means there is no good explanation for Francesca’s pregnancy if one stays close to the books.

      3. Her father is meant to be an Elven Sage. Not some human who beat her and she slit the throat of. WTF is the point of trying to make out that most Elves have human blood nowadays? That’s not from the books. Most of the older Elves are probably pure bloods. And most of the younger elves are dead, having died in rebellions.

        In fact, genetically speaking, most humans have Elven blood.

        As to her character? They’re trying to fit in her entire arc into her elder years and I get that. She was brash, impulsive and aggressive when she was younger and only came to diplomacy after years of struggle against the humans. I still feel that we should currently be seeing her as an active leader of the Brotherhood of Sorcerers all the same. She was supposed to be at Sodden fighting against Nilfgaard.

  3. While Season 2 gets much right in comparison to Season 1, I am not happy with the huge deviations from the books we get to see. I understand that it is an adaptation and changes have to be made, but I think that the writers went too far off course. A transmutated Eskel being killed by Geralt is already a blow to take for any book reader. But the narrative that has been invented for Yennefer is outright against the spirit of the character in the books. Yennefer’s superior magical powers are a defining element of her relations with the other characters. For a book reader, it is completely clear that there can be no such thing like a Bonnie-and-Clyde runaway scene of Yennefer and Jaskier from Rience. On the contrary, Rience makes a quick getaway from Yennefer in a form that lets her conclude that he must have had assistance. Yennefer never regards Jaskier in any form as even close to equal, despite her helping him. The first encounter between Ciri and Yennefer happens without Geralt being even near, and can be characterized as really frosty. Only over time, they start to develop mutual respect and appreciation. I wonder why changes have been made that run so strongly against the characterization of the figures in the books. Very roughly, while episodes 1 to 4 have some noticeable overlap with the books, the rest of Season 2 is largely decoupled from the novels and tells a different story with characters resembling those in the books by name only. My impression is that the major problems of this show still reside in the writing department, and there is little prospect of improvement.

  4. What a bunch of BS.. This show has nothing to do with the books anymore.. I can’t believe all the praise s02 is getting, I like s01 much better – it wasn’t perfect, but it was still The Witcher, not Game of Witchers… Episode 02 made me puke..

    Eskel had just been introduced (by being a total d, not unlike Lambert – both sooo out of character) and then he dies.. So what would have been the difference if John had died instead? I’ll tell you what – people who love the books wouldn’t have been outraged! And to people who hadn’t read the books, it would have been all the same, just another random name to get axed.. It is so disrespectful to the source material to decide to completely remove Eskel from the story!

    I am so immensely disappointed that I don’t know if I will be able to keep watching this show knowing that it just shares some characters with the source material and is doing its brand new story..

  5. Only problem is that newcomers have no idea who Eskel is. He might as well be called John. He barely featured before he died. It was obvious something was going to happen because all the attention he got compared to Lambert.

  6. This is BS reasoning. There is no place for witches be cause they are sying out form not being able to make more and the continent advancing where armed men take care of what little monsters are left, not some interdimensional super leschen infecting and killing all the witches. The book plot was incredibly interesting compared to this amazing writing. Changes aren’t bad unless they are BAD changes, which season 2 made from episode 2 on. The writing is subpar

  7. Question is.. are you making this TV show the way you want it for yourself or do you make it for the fans , the people that really love the books and games?(not saying you don’t)
    If you make it step by step just like the books you can become someone great (or even greater) as Peter Jackson, Nolan and so on.. add something but never never kill the hope and love from the fans like killing the main character. Look what they did to Game of Thrones.. people will continue to hate david benioff and dan weiss they will forever be te worst creators..And i really love Witcher and as everyone else i want it to be perfect.

  8. It seems like the short stories are presented quite well in terms of original source material, but the saga (blood of elves to lady of the lake) story is just a pathological mess. To bad that most short stories have been told already and the saga will be the main focus now. In my estimation the writers are too inexperienced to deviate from the source material. Why do it? I don’t know, perhaps it is to follow a woke agenda. Perhaps it’s something else. From this point I really don’t care anymore. They f*ed up and it’s no saving it anymore.

  9. I first thought that Voleth Meir is inspired by Gaunter O’Dim or the Three Crones from the Witcher 3 game, going back to Baba Yaga in the Slavic folklore. But the way she managed to get free reminds me quite a bit of the Diablo 4 Cinematic trailer: “By three they come. By three, thy way opens. By three, we call thee home.” Well, taken from the game – just not literally a Witcher game. The three also need to go down a cave.

  10. Ok, then have Coen be the one infected with the Leshen.

    He was in the same class with Eskel and Geralt and we know he dies.

    It would have been just as impactful and you wouldn’t have killed a character that’s still alive in the books at this point.

    These producers are going with the dumbest ideas. Its like watching a show being made by 8th graders.

  11. “Hey guys, yeah we are totally going to stay loyal to the source material.”

    -immediately deviates from source material-

  12. I’m one of the people who defended her after season 1 but after this season I hope someone better replaces her. Her interviews and explanations bother me more than the show itself. Eskel, Yen, Vesemir… I would be more cool with the changes if I’d believe that they are setting things up and they know where they’re going but after all these interviews what I get is that it wasn’t even worse thanks to Cavill. Otherwise in that mess and the destruction of my beloved Yen, Eskel etc we would have some jokes about Roaches death, a romance between Geralt and Triss and some more bs. I hope Anya also had read the books and stopped what happened to Yennefer but I guess we can’t have it all.

  13. People who watch the show only have no idea who any of the other witchers are. So who they killed off doesn’t matter. They purposely used the name Eskel to kill him off.

  14. tbh i dont care about eskel dead if they do it right.

    but they just mess up reasoning all over the place.
    eskel bring a bunch of nobody to secret base.
    wise vesemir who live so long made too many stupid mistake.
    geralt use ciri as a bait. i can go on…

    this why people just wondering you have epic source in your hand why you didnt use it.
    how stupid are you people.

  15. Eskel’s death was only one of the many things that went wrong imo and the one I can accept if everything else was great. But the worst and what I think future seasons must fix is Yennefer’s and Ciri’s relationship and the whole plot with Yen’s betrayal. The biggest problem for me wasn’t even the betrayal itself but the fact that it was unnecessary and its only purpose was to drag the family moments for s3. And there wasn’t a reason for that. Anyway, what happened, happened. I hope LHS saw all the criticism on the internet and she’s going to pay more attention to that dynamic and more time to Geralt & Yen’s relationship. Next book is Time of Contempt, these are must!!!

  16. I think showrunner killed Eskel just so all would complain about that 1 thing and not all other stupid changes she made. She is still lying that season 2 is adaptation of Blood of Elves when 60-80% of season is content invented for the show. Killing Eskel was actually a no issue, irrelevant character in the books. Bigger kill was Jarre (I assume they killed him) and motivation was as stupid as with Eskel-cheap shock value again done badly because in both cases you kill off characters literally minutes after introducing them so viewer just doesn’t care because they have no connection with them. It wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t so poorly written:

    – Francesca having a child was stupid in where they went with it, making her a housewife that does nothing or makes stupid political decisions based on is she a mommy or not. Totally cheapens the character. And what was that with her father, are they implying he was half elf or something? If so how can she have a pure blood baby?
    – Fringilla too much screen time with a broken story arc where you don’t get what they wanted to do with her, and at the end again cheap chock for no point. Same with Cahir, broken arc.
    – Yennefer losing her magic made her useless character for entire season. If they wanted to show her as more then her ability they did quite the opposite. Why didn’t she just kill Cahir? I assume they wanted Cahir on screen. Better road for that would be Lydia freeing him (like Rience) and framing it on Yen. So you have a reason for Yen to be on the run from mages without incriminating herself like an idiot for no reason + a reason for her to find Cahir and find out who set her up.
    – What was the point of Vesemir saying to Eskel you did not know how to kill a Leshy? Seriously, why didn’t he know how to do it? Or him saying he returned so Geralt would help but he never asked for help.
    – Making most Witchers fodder and just bad at killing monsters, and Kaer Morhen a whorehouse. Also all places on the continent are just around the corner.
    – Broken story arc for Vesimir, wanting to give him more and turning him into a creepy old man instead of wise mentor. Most of the time Geralt is mentoring him.
    – Setting up Tissaia as a complete idiot for season 3.

    And the biggest issue, the entire Voleth Meir main plot of the season, that thing is dragging and ruing everything around it. Because of that we don’t have a true Yen and Ciri first meeting and soul of Blood of Elves, a speech Geralt gives to Ciri about the Rose of Shaerrawed is not in the show at all. If the showrunner continues to inject her poor writing into the show it will be completely ruined in season 3.

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