Creating a booming season for one of Netflix’s most famous original films (even one of its most popular fantasy series) is indeed similar to attempting to catch lightning in a bottle for the second time. At the time that Season 1 of The Witcher debuted in the same period two years ago, there was a widespread feeling of uncertainty surrounding its release. Adaptations of video games (even though The Witcher is also based on a collection of short tales by Andrzej Sapkowski) have a hard-luck prestige for being so-bad-they’re-almost-good, humorously bad. And Henry Cavill‘s first character images as Geralt of Rivia didn’t gain much trust (not until he tried a different silver wig seemingly more appropriate). It was uncertain if the actor, a self-professed games lover, would be capable to direct that same focused attention into properly portraying the titular Witcher in the series – yet the first season, although replete with a sort of fantasy cliches, was undoubtedly carried by excellent character work. In fact, the characters were separated into three distinct timelines, a story aspect that didn’t get clear until the season was close to the end, didn’t make it any simpler for audiences to follow. Season 2, which will be available on Netflix on December 17, appears to either learn from its predecessor’s mistakes or be prepared to gently take a jab at itself and its once-taciturn White Wolf, who is likely to become more three-dimensional.
Where the first season ended, right after the utter and total devastation at the Sodden Hill Battle, does the second pick up. That’s also where the compelling firefight between the powerful witch and Geralt’s on-off lover Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra), who apparently devoted herself in the process after conducting too much power, and the invading Nilfgaardian army. At least, that’s what Geralt is informed when he arrives on the scene following the fight, now his new charge Princess Cirilla (Freya Allan), whose life is formally entrusted to his protection, joined with him. With Yen assumed to be dead, Geralt carries his sorrow and also his latest obligation and chooses to accompany Ciri to Kaer Morhen, his boyhood home where his witcher training began.
That move from the show brings us closer to its most sentimental plotline — that’s how the relationship between Geralt and Ciri grows rapidly as well as his initial reluctance to be a true mentor to her — but it also works to the show’s overall benefit, because Cavill and Allan are by far the most intriguing characters of this season. Even though The Witcher decides to remind us that the show’s Continent exists further than the Kaer Morhen walls and that there are still larger forces at work with their sights set on Ciri, nothing can be more entertaining than witnessing the father-daughter dynamic happening between two characters that we spent a long-waiting season ( in several timelines) on one day their life paths will cross over each other.
Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia is immensely more pleasant this time for a number of reasons. It’s quantifiably accurate when the actor has previously stated that the Witcher has more opportunities to speak this season, and Cavill also seems to be more at ease with his position in general. It shows not only in Geralt’s return to Kaer Morhen, kind of like the lost son, where he determines the final game with his mentor Vesemir (played as the exhausted embodiment by Killing Eve’s Kim Bodnia) with a similarity that speaks throughout history but also in his willingness to be unmercifully beaten by his young Child Surprise. Given how dramatic the show can be, both in terms of plot and visuals, it’s wonderful to have scenes of laughter between Geralt and Ciri or Geralt and Vesemir to prove to us that even an epic fantasy sequence isn’t necessarily so bleak all of the time.
In contrast, other characters, like Yennefer, sadly haven’t fared as well, especially in regards to storyline pleasantness. A spoiler unnecessarily has to say that she has actually survived Sodden Hill, and her power eventually turned the table in favor of the mages and the remains of the Northern Kingdoms, but it appears that there may be some more severe impacts for her caused by such an overwhelming array of power channeled. This season, she travels a long road, first with foes and later with odd friends, but always with a clear goal bear in mind, and Chalotra’s acting masterfully embraces all of the nuances of Yennefer’s character as her trip gets her step closer to her most ingrained goal.
Likewise, we reunite with the former sidekick Jaskier (Joey Batey) of Geralt, who has long hair and an unshaven face as he serves a new hit single that might be not as catchy as “Toss a Coin,” but still thrives in being what can precisely be defined as a so angsty break-up rock ballad composed with a particular witcher in mind. One townsperson notes his daughter is a major lover of his music but one song in particular, in a short but unforgettable moment. “Took me to the fourth verse to understand there were different timelines,” he says, expressing an idea that may be accompanied by its own wink at the audience. However, it also embodies what appears to be the show’s new perspective as a whole.
When The Witcher Season 1 started airing, it had a lot to prove to both longstanding fans and newcomers while it ultimately only achieved in throwing too much narrative spaghetti at the wall to find out what would stick after all. Season 2, on the other hand, has finally settled into its progress and obtained a finer sense of what is effective while discarding more of what isn’t. However, there are still periodic time-jump forwards that weren’t announced beforehand or surprise character intros requiring more concentration than any distracting background. But the greatest strong point of this fantasy show sequel as well as the thing that had me coming back for all six episodes is the found family Geralt and Ciri brings when they settle into comfort and believe in each other, along with the effectiveness of how the duo Cavill and Allan’s roles play which contributed significantly to the value of forming a franchise around in long term.
The Witcher Season 2 is available on December 17 on Netflix.