Geralt of Rivia trades monsters-of-the-week for a long-form story that pushes the show forward in exciting and intriguing ways.
Everyone’s favorite silver-haired, monster-killing hunk is back, and this time you can call him Daddy. After a ponderous first season that took the long way to find its footing, The
Witcher’s second season boasts both a more assured stride and a more ambitious scope. Thankfully dispensing with the non-linear timelines, we catch up with Geralt of Rivia and company right where ‘Much More’ left off. But while season one was a witty, delightfully horny romp, season two takes on a gloomier tone and delves into stories with uncertain outcomes.
Finally claiming his Child of Surprise Ciri (Freya Allen), Geralt (Henry Cavill) takes refuge in the Witcher home base of Kher Moran. Geralt takes his duty to Ciri seriously, and the show hums as the two of them begin carving out space for themselves in each other’s lives, much to the amusement of Geralt’s fellow Witchers. His mentor Vesimir even acts as a stand-in for the grumpy grandpa with a heart of gold.
While Geralt remains as terse as ever, it is touching to see just how strongly the fatherly bond takes hold of him. Found family, after all, was one of the central themes of the first season, with Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) making a home for herself among the mages after her father sold her for four lousy marks.
Though Geralt and Ciri’s father-daughter relationship takes center stage, it barely scratches the surface of all that Season Two has going on. New, previously unheard-of monsters are appearing, and all seem to be drawn to Ciri and her strange magic. Are they connected? And what do these anomalies have to do with the origins of the Witchers?
With the threat of Nilfgard hanging over the Northern Kingdoms, the Mages trying to pick up the pieces after Sodden Hill, and new baddies to contend with, The Witcher is crammed full of so much story that it suffers a bit in trying to keep track of who’s who and what’s what.
While Geralt remains as terse as ever, it is touching to see just how strongly the fatherly bond takes hold of him.
Yennefer, grappling with the consequences from her spectacular fire-wielding, finds herself tempted by a power far more ambiguous than her own, and continues her trend of making some staggering choices to get what she wants. And while the show does check in on what Jaskier (Joey Batey) has been up to since Geralt sent him packing, the audience is thankfully spared an encore of season one’s ‘Toss a Coin’, which started as a certified bop but quickly became overplayed and annoying.
With all of that already on the table, the show also finds time to spend with the Elves, who are facing persecution in the north and second-class citizenry elsewhere. They’re awaiting the birth of the first pure-blooded elf by the sorceress Franchesca (Mecia Simson) and make a risky agreement in the bargain. Their search to reclaim what the humans have otherwise colonized feels all too familiar, and if there are innocent victims to be found in Witcher, they’re the Elves.
And all of this occurs in just the six episodes of season two made available for review. Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich takes a big step sideways from season one’s monster-of-the-week anthology formula, and in doing so tone down a lot of the monster killing action. When the action sequences do hit they don’t disappoint. The season opens with a bottle episode that offers a twisted take on Beauty and The Beast. It’s a strong start (and one of the stronger episodes of the season overall), and subtly lays a lot of groundwork for what’s to come. Viewers who rewatch the first episode after episode five might just catch a few ‘a-ha’ moments they missed the first time around.
Undoubtedly, some viewers will miss the rollicking adventures of the first season–not to mention the wealth of sex scenes, nudity, and Henry-Cavill-in-a-steamy-bath scenes–but the pace of The Witcher season two moves along too briskly for the audience to mourn the lack of sexy hijinks, particularly with Geralt’s libido taking a backseat to his new role as Ciri’s guardian.
Ciri, determined to not make the job too easy for Geralt, passes her time at Kher Moran by diving into dangerous Witcher training, leading to fun training montages and clever deployment of one of the season’s major plot points. If Geralt’s hair wasn’t already white, it certainly would be after he watches Ciri get knocked about all over the obstacle course.
While some fans might take umbrage with the more “family-friendly” tone of season two, others will relish the new lore, the possibilities of where the story will take them, and the ways its myriad plot threads come together. It’s a thrilling season with some truly spectacular creatures and effects, including a tree man and a Baba Yaga-esque witch (one whose appearance both terrifies and intrigues). Perhaps the sophomore season of The Witcher is a bit less fun, but what’s offered in the place of a few jokes is more than a good tradeoff.
The Witcher season two sees Geralt’s hunt resume on December 17th on Netflix.