Have you flipped a coin on your Witcher and are watching season 3 volume 2 last week? Because if you did and didn’t like it? According to one of the show’s producers, it’s your fault.
In an interview for a Polish outlet Optional (translated from a fan site Redanian Intelligence and spotted by our friends at PC gamer) Executive producer Tomek Baginski blamed American audiences for the lackluster response to the latest batch of Witcher episodes.
Then in a separate interview for the Polish YouTube channel weightlessness, he blames Season 3’s shortcomings on people watching TikTok and — in a shocking twist — YouTube. Putting aside the fact that taking shots at your audience (or your interviewer) isn’t the best marketing strategy, after reading these interviews, the whole thing seems like a whiny, flawed argument.
The American public is clearly a simple creature
In the interview with Wyborcza, Baginski launched into complaints that parts of the story were simplified because they borrowed from Polish history. And it starts with a valid point. Baginski rightly states that “We Poles see different political events differently because of our history and experience.”
But Baginski then states that Americans are simply incapable of understanding these nuances. They argue that Americans can only understand characters as all good and all bad, not as shades of gray. The reason for this is the seeming American exceptionalism and our view that America is always the good guy.
Look, it’s far from me to say that American exceptionalism doesn’t exist. There is absolutely some validity to this point of view. But the idea that we can’t understand complex signs is simply not true, and there are many recent examples that show this to be the case. Game of Thrones would be the obvious comparison here, a show adapted from a complex series of fantasy books filled with complex characters that display both good and evil in their arcs. Game of Thrones, of course, has done incredibly well with a wide range of audiences until its final season where he ditched those complexities for a fast-paced plot.
But we don’t even have to delve into the realm of fantasy—or go back that far—to find cases of nuance. Inheritance has dominated television for the past few years and is filled with morally complex characters. Same for The last of uswhich, though only one season so far, excelled from start to finish, and whose main characters are certainly complex.
And on the big screen you can go watch Oppenheimer in theaters right now and enjoy a portrayal of not only complex characters, but a complex story as well – and it certainly doesn’t put America in a positive light.
Finally, on a personal note, I’d say one of the best shows I’ve seen in years was one with a story that I largely lacked context for, and I even have a degree in history. That would be it Pachinkoan amazing story about three generations of Koreans and their struggles to adapt to life in Japan.
And while Pachinko may not have been a blockbuster in terms of viewership numbers in America, it was essentially universally acclaimed despite not touching on American history and being almost entirely in two different foreign languages.
The TikTok generation can’t handle complexity is an ironically simple argument
After calling it “painful for us, and for me too,” that American audiences can’t relate to complex characters or grasp unfamiliar concepts, Baginski decided it was time to take a shot at the TikTok generation.
Again, I would point to many of the examples above of recent shows with broad appeal and complexity, proving that younger audiences can actually handle a complex storyline. And it’s not like Euphoria, a show popular with the Gen Z and Millenial crowd that make up much of TikTok and YouTube’s user base, is known for its simplicity.
But why should I, since the interviewer of Baginsky himself so eloquently refutes the arguments of the producer? In the Imponderabilia interview [translated from Polish]Baginski says that “These people grow up on TikTok, YouTube, they jump from video to video,” at which point the interview breaks to remind Baginski that the interviewer is “that kind of guy.”
This throws Baginsky, who, after laughing, says that “Dear children, what you do to yourself makes you less resilient for longer content, for long and complex chains of causes and[d] effect.” To which the interviewer, without missing a beat, replies “What you’re saying is you don’t know how to put on a show, kids [would] I love to watch.” And after watching this segment of the interview, I’m inclined to agree.
Conclusion: Turns out, adaptations are hard
Here’s the thing, the problem that set Baginski on the path to becoming a PR manager’s nightmare was that many fans argued that the story this season was too simplistic. And to that end, I kind of sympathize with the executive producer of The Witcher, as often even great adaptations have to simplify their source material to make things work for TV shows and movies.
But from everything I’ve seen Rotten tomatoes and even our own review of The witcher season 3 volume 2, I think it’s fair to say that Baginski & Co. have bigger problems than simplifying the story—even though they clearly have misconceptions about what their audience actually wants. In our review, our streaming editor Henry T. Casey has his own concerns about the story needing more, saying that “Geralt’s storyline doesn’t seem compelling” and that he wonders where the rest of it went.
Unfortunately for Baginski, while it’s easy to lay the blame at the feet of Americans and youth, it may simply be a case of missed adaptation. And it’s happening – just look at Prime Studio’s Rings of Power TV show.
But if Americans and short videos are the problem, why do people love The Witcher season 2 and they were even more satisfied The witcher season 3 volume 1 from earlier this year than this latest batch of episodes? I guess that’s Baginski’s fault, not the audience’s.