The Witcher is back and I cannot express how much joy it brings me to return to the Continent. Many thanks to Netflix for providing me with six of the eight episodes of season 2. This review will be spoiler-free but be warned, minor spoilers for season 1 will appear.
Chaos in all its forms and meanings is the running theme of the second season of The Witcher. The Battle of Sodden has brought victory to the North against Nilfgaard, thanks to Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) tapping into fire magic, but the relief from victory is brief. Many lives were lost, the mages are in the midst of a power crisis, Yennefer has suffered greatly, and much more is yet to fall into place regarding the Nilfgaardans and why they have taken Cintra. Elsewhere, Ciri (Freya Allan) and Geralt (Henry Cavill) are finally united, but Ciri’s journey has just begun. Dangerous forces are out to get her and Geralt must learn as much as he can to prevent the worst from happening to his Child Surprise. To say that things are chaotic for our heroes is an understatement.
If you enjoyed season 1 for the careful worldbuilding and character development, then you will enjoy season 2 as well. While the first season set up the character arcs of our main trio, placing them in situations that challenged them and forced them to change and grow, the second season furthers that development with new challenges. Yennefer has built herself up to be a powerful mage that needs no one but finds herself humbled by new circumstances. Ciri is seemingly safe with Geralt but unknown truths and fear cloud her judgment. In addition, her coming-of-age is made complicated by her desire for revenge. Geralt, on the other hand, is steadfast in his character development, acting as our fantasy detective trying to piece together the truth about what’s happening with the Continent and how it relates to Ciri.
These characters and subsequently the worldbuilding are all well realized. The most notable thing is that when there are moments of exposition, the writing doesn’t just have Character A telling Character B facts and nothing more. So much of the dialogue is layered to reveal truths about the characters or have characters actually engaging with each other and with the knowledge that is being spoken.
Old and new faces emerge as leading characters in this season with Fringilla (Mimi Ndiweni) taking on a more active role and Mecia Simson joining the cast as the Elven leader, Francesca. These two alongside Yennefer make up the most compelling character-driven plot in the show. These three women who are motivated by their own needs and desires struggle to obtain or maintain power. Yennefer, in survival mode, is nearly feral with her cunning mind as sharp as her tongue. Now in a difficult position, Yennefer is forced to reckon with her worst nightmare, asking for help. Fringilla is compromised due to the Nilfgaardians’ defeat but must step into her power where she learns the value of being your own boss. Francesca remains to be a wildcard for the show but she offers a new perspective that was set up in the prior season, the perspective of the persecuted Elves. The three women are intrinsically (and magically) linked as their bid for power impacts each other as well as the world. For a series that is largely assumed to be led by the titular character, the show has shifted into something more interesting by expanding the narrative beyond Geralt. Sorry, Geralt, but the world really is run by women.
Part of the fun of The Witcher is the large-scale chess match that is unfolding before our eyes. There are many pawns pushed around to be sacrificed. Geralt is our honest and brooding knight. But there is no king on the board as the board is largely made up of queens. Fantasy is a genre that is easy to love, but for many women, it is hard to say that the genre has loved us back. The Witcher, thanks to showrunner and creator Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, is making it a point to rectify that by creating three-dimensional and complicated heroines and villainesses.
While the writing is on point, setting up a compelling game with all of our favourite characters in precarious situations, the show must also be visually compelling. Thankfully it is, with a few minor hiccups. The costumes are still as wonderful as ever. The production design is also rather impressive, with a few new locales adding layers to what we already know and have seen of the continent so far. One minor complaint though, the action scenes, while nicely staged, are hard to see at times. The CGI is also a little off in some scenes but those moments are very far and few between. The look and feel of the show haven’t changed much since the previous season, but there has been a significant expansion. The world feels more real and lived in, and that has a lot to do with great production locations and designs.
Season 2 of The Witcher delivers on everything you could want. It is packed with great action, suspense, magic, drama, and laughter. Also, we cannot forget the melodic sounds of Geralt’s grunts and groans. Oh, and Jaskier’s singing is good too. However, the heart of this show is its characters. Ciri is building up to become an iconic fantasy heroine. Yennefer is a brilliantly realized character, partly because Anya Chalotra is truly a spectacular actress, and the writing for her is just so compelling. Fringilla is getting a bit of the spotlight and Mimi Ndiweni delivers with her performance. I cannot wait to see how Fringilla continues to develop and where she will end up. Plus, there are so many more notable characters and performances that show complexity and intrigue.
There is just so much packed into The Witcher that it is hard to isolate what makes the show so interesting to watch, but ultimately, it is the passion and drive from the creative team that shines the brightest. You see it most through the characters and fantasy such as this cannot thrive with dull characters. The Witcher has no dull character, just a bunch of baddies.
The Witcher Season 2 will premiere on Netflix on December 17