Netflix is expanding The Witcher franchise into a multi-storied universe, but this spinoff strategy ended up playing against The Witcher season 2. While the Witcher games had already established the universe created by Andrzej Sapkowski into a mainstream pop culture franchise, nothing guaranteed that a big-budget The Witcher TV show could work as well as other high-fantasy adaptations, such as the comparable Game of Thrones. Still, The Witcher as an IP had the potential to be Netflix’s own Game of Thrones, and after a strong first season, it became clear that The Witcher indeed had franchise potential. However, The Witcher season 2 showed that creating The Witcher universe will not be that easy.
Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher books may have featured a large, rich world full of characters and settings, but Geralt of Rivia was always the focus of the stories. Be it the short stories or the novels, the world and the characters around Geralt were there to add to the white-haired Witcher’s story – not the other way around. This is something The Witcher season 2 struggled to replicate, as it dedicated a lot of screen time to setting up the world and expanding the Witcher lore at the expense of Geralt’s own character arc. Essentially, The Witcher season 2 appeared to be more focused on setting up spinoffs than telling the best possible story for Geralt.The Witcher season 2 made significant changes to the source material, which not a problem in and of itself. In fact, this is often necessary when it comes to book-to-screen adaptations. However, a lot of what was added in The Witcher season 2, such as focusing more on the mages and the elves (the latter through Francesca), seemed like it was designed to open the doors for potential spinoffs. Prior to the release of season 2, The Witcher showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich confirmed (via THR) that “as soon as season one was a success”, conversations about how to expand the Witcher universe began.
According to Hissrich, there would eventually not be enough room to “engross ourselves in Sapkowski’s tales,” meaning that they would have to find different ways of incorporating pieces of The Witcher’s lore without getting in the way of Geralt’s story. While such an approach makes sense, that balance between the main Geralt story and the rest of the Witcher universe was not fully achieved in The Witcher season 2. Although The Witcher season 2 was based on the Blood of Elves novel and therefore would naturally be more plot-heavy compared to the first season, the episodic nature of The Witcher season 1 ended up working better in hindsight.