The Witcher: Season 2 — A legend, refined
Monsters, mages, and mercenaries — oh my!
With sharpened swords and chiseled abs, Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) returns to slay monsters in The Witcher: Season Two, and with him comes a wealth of narrative and character improvements. After having headed to the forge to iron out the excessively convoluted timeline introduced in Season One, the latest season aims to erase the daze it left on viewers and instead present a more straightforward, linear path, one with just as much (if not more) brutal action and steamy bathtub scenes. It isn't a fix-all by any means, still occasionally stumbling over the incredibly rich source material, but even so, Season Two is a bold step in the right direction.
The monster slayer for hire returns to his home of Kaer Morhen to regroup with his fellow Witchers, heal his wounds, and begin training Ciri (Freya Allan) to harness and understand her extraordinary abilities (if you don't recall, this girl has some serious PIPES). Geralt works with allies both old and new, providing Ciri with all the help she'll need in order to fend off the evil faraway kingdoms eager to get their hands on her. Even so, danger looks everywhere, and no one, not even her closest friends, can be trusted.
Where Season One chose to funnel information and lore down your open gullet, Season Two gives viewers more breathing room. We aren't necessarily spoon fed information (even though it would be helpful at times), but the progression of the season is a whole lot more digestible this time around. Characters experience clear and balanced growth, and new threads are organically introduced by way of slow-burn dialogue and visual aids. Still though, it's easy to feel lost, especially when it comes to the political feuds between kingdoms and the reasons for why racial tensions are so high across The Continent. Chances are, if you're like me, your finger will hover over the rewind button, always ready when you inevitably miss crucial details.
And this leads into my one true problem with the season: the sheer scope. It crams so much into these eight episodes that it leaves little room to process everything. And while a majority of it is paced well and understandable, other points are just too dense to follow. Part of that is because of the disconnect between the two main arcs: the first consisting of Ciri growing into her powers with the help of Geralt and Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), while the other is a sluggish game of politics. Characters' motivations might tie the core of these two arcs together, but the episode-to-episode plots don't mesh in a way that feels like one single story quite yet. This, unfortunately, causes the otherwise straightforward plot to veer and muddy itself at the hands of less-interesting political jargon. This is especially the case in the final three episodes of the season, which I would argue are the weakest of the lot.
That said, when the plots aren't fighting for your attention, the season is truly awe-inspiring. The first two episodes alone are profoundly rich in character growth and visual production value, and additionally, newcomers Vessamir (Kim Bodnia) and Francesca (Mecia Simson) inject harsh new stakes into the series that will surely blossom in future seasons. This isn't even to account for their performances, which, when combined with the already stellar talents of the core cast, are exceptionally emotive. And it's because of these refinements that Season Two is still able to stand upright even when it occasionally loses its footing.
- Final Thoughts -
The Witcher: Season Two is a jaw-dropping improvement over its first season, and sets up the series for an exciting continuation in Season Three. While it still staggers in the methods it uses to relay lore and other background information, Season Two is immensely captivating from start to finish and well worth your time.
(The Witcher image courtesy of Polygon.)