Netflix is clearly throwing a lot of weight behind The Witcher, its upcoming fantasy series based on the Andrzej Sapkowski books, which were famously adapted into CD Projekt Red video games. The Witcher has a massive budget, and has already been renewed for a second season despite not airing its first one until a month from now.
The Witcher arrives on December 20, the same day as Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, and while this is something of a Hail Mary, I really, really would love for Netflix to finally learn an important lesson. I am pulling for Netflix to release new episodes of The Witcher weekly, rather than dumping them all at once.
Yes, I am partially saying this for selfish reasons, as on December 19, new Borderlands DLC comes out, the 20th is Rise of Skywalker and there’s probably going to be new Destiny DLC I need to be playing around this time too. And yet I think in the broader picture, we should be looking at another, big flagship streaming series, The Mandalorian.
The Mandalorian was released last week on Disney Plus, airing two episodes for an hour of total footage. In addition to people talking about how good it is (and it is very good), it has already launched at least one iconic meme in the form of the adorable (spoilers ahead) Baby Yoda, whom the Mandalorian is in charge of kidnapping/protecting, though last episode, it was revealed that Baby Yoda is capable of protecting the bounty hunter himself with his burgeoning force powers.
The point is, we have only seen two episodes of The Mandalorian, and even if this is a short season with six, possibly 30 minute or so episodes to come, we are still going to be talking about it as 2020 hits, given how the episodes are spaced out. I just don’t think it would be in the cultural conversation for nearly that long if Disney just dumped out 4-6 hours of Mandalorian episodes last Tuesday and called it a day. Yes, ultimately, the quality of the show wouldn’t change. Baby Yoda would still be a meme. But it would be different, and the discussion would be over more quickly. Now, we can discuss weekly developments and know that viewers are all on the same page, waiting for cliffhangers to resolve rather than everyone just binging the whole thing in one go.
I also think we should flash back to the series that The Witcher is clearly trying to emulate, or at least the role it’s trying to fill for Netflix, Game of Thrones. While the last season or two left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, before that, I absolutely do not think Game of Thrones would have become as dominant as it was had it been just dumping 10 hours of episodes on a random Friday once a year, rather than spacing them out over 2.5 months getting every to talk about the developments of each new episode every week for…eight years.
I know this is a longshot, as Netflix has pretty much like, never done this before. And yet even if this is part of the fundamental appeal of Netflix releases, I think in the face of increasing competition in the streaming space (every Disney+ show is going to be released weekly, which is true of most Hulu, Amazon, CBS, HBO etc. shows), I think it might want to consider it for some of its highest profile offerings like The Witcher.
I know that Netflix shows can still become iconic and buzzed about without this format, Stranger Things comes to mind, and yet as someone who covers this kind of thing for a living, I watch these conversations erupt and die over the course of a single week or even weekend because of the nature of these releases. If The Witcher is dumped out in one day, we are going to be talking about it a whole lot for a single week, and even if we end up raving about it, we will probably not discuss it much for 51 more weeks until season 2 rolls around. This is opposed to there being a fan and critic-led discussion of each episode every week for 2-3 months.
I have made this case before, but Netflix seems set in their ways, and I even get a lot of pushback from fans who want every release there to be bingeable no matter what. But I can’t shake the feeling that many of Netflix’s biggest shows would benefit from a bit of breathing room for their episodes, and I imagine that’s going to be especially true for The Witcher.