Home Feature news 'The Witcher' Season 2 is a magical, monstrous upgrade

‘The Witcher’ Season 2 is a magical, monstrous upgrade

After a two-year wait, Geralt of Rivia welcomes The Witcher fans back to the Continent for the second season of Netflix’s hit fantasy series. Season 2 of The Witcher is a continuation of Season 1’s ambitious adaptation that will inevitably draw watchers further into the magical, monstrous intrigue that hooked them all the way back in 2019.

The Witcher picks up in the immediate aftermath of last season’s climactic Battle of Sodden Hill. Geralt (Henry Cavill) is newly responsible for the well-being of his child surprise Ciri (Freya Allan), who is still processing the trauma of losing her home and family to the Nilfgaardian empire. Meanwhile, reports of Yennefer of Vengerberg’s (Anya Chalotra) death are greatly exaggerated. She is alive and a prisoner of Fringilla Vigo (Mimi Ndiweni), the sorceress sworn to Nilfgaard’s mysterious emperor Emhyr. The Black Knight Cahir (Eamon Farren) is also imprisoned, this time by the Brotherhood of Sorcerers. And while all of this is going on, there’s the small issue of strange and ultra-powerful new monsters popping up all over the Continent to cause all kinds of trouble. 

The first few episodes follow the monster-of-the-week format, wherein Geralt teaches Ciri the ropes of his dangerous lifestyle. This made for some of Season 1’s more memorable episodes (Shout out to that incest princess in the spooky castle, am I right?) Once more, these one-off monsters are a highlight of the series. The premier episode features a horror-themed retelling of Beauty and the Beast with guest star Kristofer Hivju (Tormund Giantsbane from Game of Thrones). Another introduces the audience to the Witcher holdfast of Kaer Morhen with an indoor hunt for a body-snatching tree. Once Geralt and Ciri are safe in Kaer Morhen, the plotlines begin to coalesce into an overarching story instead of individual adventures. 


Credit: Susie Allnutt / Netflix

That format makes sense, considering The Witcher Season 1 was based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s short stories, whereas Season 2 is loosely based on his first full Witcher novel Blood of Elves. However, those looking for a direct adaptation of Sapkowski’s novel should be pleasantly surprised at how the show chops and screws the plot into a surprising new remix. Characters like the brilliant Redanian spymaster Sigismund Dijkstra (Graham McTavish), the fire mage Rience (Chris Fulton), and Geralt’s mentor/papa Vesemir (Kim Bodnia) make their debuts in this season. Plus, many others who were secondary characters in Season 1 — like Tissaia de Vries (MyAnna Buring), Triss Merigold (Anna Shaffer), and Vilgefortz (Mahesh Jadu) — have larger roles to play this time around. 

If that sounds like a lot of characters to keep up with, it is. The Witcher Season 2 is packed with new factions, alliances, antagonists, allies, kings, witches, and elves, all of whom have complicated names and even more complicated motivations. At times, the intrigue of who’s backstabbing whom is reminiscent of the good parts of Game of Thrones. At other times, some may find it difficult to keep track of what’s going on. One recommendation would be to watch with subtitles, just to get some of the names straight. Another would be to watch The Witcher without the typical phone/laptop/tablet combo of distractions to help pay closer attention. (No shade, this reviewer made the mistake of texting during one scene and had to rewatch a whole episode). 

Part of the struggle any adaptation, and particularly fantasy adaptations, must overcome is translating the worldbuilding of a series that can take dozens of hours to read into a much shorter timeframe with more visual expression. The Witcher Season 1 got away with its expository sequences because it was most people’s first experience with the Continent and its characters. Season 2’s exposition, while necessary, makes the story drag in some lengthy sections. The ratio is skewed between kinetic scenes, where Geralt gets to kick monster-butt, and scenes where a bunch of people in a room pointedly discuss bloodlines, history, the rules of magic, or the current political situation. And it’s not in favor of the monster butts. 

A man in a red doublet.


Credit: Susie Allnutt / Netflix

Another thing The Witcher Season 2 is missing until far too late in its run is the self-aware humor that made Season 1’s more meta moments more fun. Fan-favorite Jaskier (Joey Batey) of “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher” fame doesn’t appear until several episodes in. The entire season’s vibe shifts when he strums his way back on screen with another Geralt-themed banger. (It’s a breakup song. It whips.) Jaskier’s anachronistic humor brings the best out of every character he interacts with, unveiling Geralt’s soft side, sharpening Yennefer’s insults, and driving everyone else to either drink heavily or punch him in the face. If the series follows Sapkowski’s books into their much darker storylines, it’s going to need Jaskier to keep things fun.

This season of The Witcher learned a lot from Season 1. The timeline is linear. Geralt is a much more emotive and intelligent character. Ciri shakes off the mantle of macguffin. There are significantly fewer gratuitous boob shots, and the show’s stakes are finally clear. Having a high fantasy show this good is a testament to how much television has changed in the last twenty years. The near certainty that The Witcher will continue to be one of Netflix’s tentpole productions is a net good for the genre. The Witcher isn’t afraid to be complicated, weird, violent, funny, magical, and horny in its second season. Who wouldn’t toss a coin to that?

The Witcher Season 2 is now on Netflix.

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