The Witcher season 2 is different from season 1, but in a good way

The Witcher Season 2 - Courtesy of Netflix/Jay Maidment
The Witcher Season 2 - Courtesy of Netflix/Jay Maidment /

The first season of Netflix’s The Witcher ended in a full circle moment: Geralt and Ciri finally found each other, despite Geralt resisting the prophetic pull. Season 2 deals with the consequences of that moment. The characters look inwards, look for home, for safety, for the next right thing as they forge new relationships and repair old ones.

Fans of Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher novels will recognize many storylines this season, but might be confused by some plot points. Like the first season, this season alters timelines, draws inspiration from various books and novellas, and sometimes diverts from canon events. “We always start with the books,” says showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, “this season we pulled our main themes from Andrzej Sapkowski’s Blood of Elves — and then build our own creative interpretation. We’ve built a lot of additional plotlines this season, but the heart of the story is the same.”

The scope of the show broadens and we follow more characters closely, and their woes become our own. At the core of The Witcher is the story of the princess, the mage and the monster hunter with intertwined destinies. Their stories are essential to the fate of the Continent, but this time we get closer looks at other kingdoms, and at the elves and their struggles. In Lauren Schmidt Hissrich’s own words, “Last season was about building the promise of a family between three characters who we got to know very well individually, and this season is about trying to bring them together.”

The Witcher season 2 gets off to an emotional start

Season 2 picks up right where season 1 left off: in the aftermath of the battle of Sodden. Geralt and Ciri look for Yennefer — the latter doesn’t have a clue who Yen is — and, upon believing her dead, start journeying to Kaer Morhen, the witchers’ keep. “The loss of Yennefer is a great blow for Geralt, and it’s something which he buries deep,” says Henry Cavill, who plays Geralt. “But he’s also a man of action, a wise man, and so his focus is Ciri. He has to push his grief down and to one side, because that’s not what this is about anymore.”

Destiny is a funny thing: Geralt always knew he had to find Princess Cirilla, but what exactly should he do with her then? Unsure how to answer that question, he takes her to the safest location he knows, the only place he can call home. Being a protector is his full-time job, but getting to know someone really isn’t his area of expertise. And it does not help that neither of them are willing to share much about their past.

Freya Allan, who plays Ciri, admits: “Ciri feels that if she doesn’t vocalize what’s going on inside her, she can pretend everything is normal.” Ciri is reluctant to open up, holding secrets about her powers close. Not that we can blame her, given that Geralt is a complete stranger who speaks in commands and grunts. In his defense, the witcher is used to a life of solitude and monster killing. Throughout the season, we see him accept and embrace his responsibility to Ciri, who goes from being a cosmic joke played by destiny to his own child. That realization comes slowly and with some help from the person who was a father to him, the ancient witcher Vesemir.

Ciri gains confidence in The Witcher season 2

Geralt will have to make a choice: to protect Ciri or to let her protect herself. And there’s a third option that makes his blood boil: to endanger her so she can protect others. Unfortunately, Ciri may need protection not just from monsters and foreign monarchs, but the mysterious powers within her.

For her part, the princess soon finds her footing among Geralt’s witcher brothers and is ready to make choices for herself. There’s a new quiet strength in Ciri, a delicate fierceness that was not there last season when she was forced to run for her life, a decidedness to face whatever comes her way without losing her candor and good nature. She knows when to be pensive and when to take action. She carries herself like a queen in everything she does, determined in the face of the unknown, in the face of loss and lies, all of this despite her young age, despite being scared and misunderstood.

Yennefer is as fierce as ever in The Witcher season 2

Ciri’s storyline has a lot in common with Yennefer’s last season. But the mage circumstances have completely changed. Now Nilfgaard’s prisoner and Fringilla’s captive, she could be broken, but she never loses her resolve. Perhaps it’s because she knows Fringilla better than she knows herself. In actor Anya Chalotra’s words, “[Yennefer] isn’t scared at all because she feels like she can manipulate Fringilla. She knows her well and can access her weakest points because she’s grown up with her.”

Apart from her former schoolmate, Yen has a few interesting companions throughout the season, each of whom bring out a different side of her and changing her mission, which was refreshing to see.

Yen never stops fighting for her survival. Will she piece back together her fractured sense of community? Will she choose herself over everyone or will she learn to trust again? Much of what happens to Yennefer is so spoilery I cannot even hint at it. So I will let Anya say this: “I think her ultimate goal is to find a true bond in life, an unconditional love.” That is certainly what has been driving Yen, although she convinced herself she was after power, power that could give her everything, power that would make her matter, power that could fill the void inside. For a very long time, she lacked both purpose and love. Then she found love and seemed to lose it. “Geralt is Yennefer’s weakness,” Anya admits, “and vice versa.”

Geralt is also someone else’s weakness, someone we sadly don’t see again until a few episodes in. Jaskier, the Continent’s most charming bard, is also a changed man. He makes his season 2 debut with a new look and a new bop which will be stuck in your brain almost as permanently as “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher.” He is still my favorite character, and I cannot wait to be able to reveal more about his journey this season. Actor Joey Bates teases: “He is trying to do some good.”

Now, keep in mind that, at the time this review is being written, I only have access to six of the eight episodes from the upcoming season, and I’m not allowed to give much away. But I wanted to tease a few things.

To start, we see a few events from Fringilla Vigo’s perspective, which I found…interesting, certainly worthy of further analysis. We also get to see another villain’s point of view, although I can’t say which.

On a different note, I love how Triss Merigold fits effortlessly into the plot; the show makes choices that take the character away from the books, but they’re very successful. I also appreciated Vesemir and his dynamics with Geralt, Ciri and with others. Nivellen, played by Game of Thrones alum Kristofer Hivju, reveals a much more complex backstory than I was ready for in the first episode. Elf Francesca Findabair is my favorite of several newcomers to the cast.

Season 2 of The Witcher is tonally different than its predecessor. It has a more straightforward structure, and I promise there will be no headaches caused by multiple timelines running concurrently. One of its main themes, perhaps the one I appreciated the most, is: what makes a monster? Nature? Destiny? Intentions?

Find out on December 17, when the eight-episode new season of The Witcher will be available on Netflix globally. If you are having trouble making sense of the plot or some character’s choices, we’ll be reviewing the episodes, complete with spoilers, as soon as the season is out.

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