The first season The Witcher on Netflix was met with roundabout acclaim and love, and season 2 is certain to mostly continue this trend. Building on the hugely popular games and books, Henry Cavill’s Geralt remains a fascinating protagonist at the heart of a thoroughly engaging story. The sophomore season continues to build out the world in exciting ways, most importantly with the introduction of his mentor Vesemir and Geralt’s Witcher brothers Eskel, Lambert, and Coën. Season 2 of The Witcher picks up with Geralt traveling to Kaer Morhen, the ancestral home of the Witchers, as he looks to train his newly acquired daughter of surprise Ciri. Meanwhile, following the Battle of Sodden, Yennefer is thought dead by Geralt, but in actual fact is being taken south as a Nilfgaardian prisoner. Following the more fragmented narrative of season 1, this installment presents a far more linear tale told over a far shorter time frame.
Off the bat, one of the great strengths of the show’s sophomore outing is the core relationship between Ciri and Geralt. Fans of the books and games spent the initial season anxiously awaiting the introduction of the parental relationship between the two which sits at the core of The Witcher. The performances by Henry Cavill and Freya Allan as Geralt and Ciri respectively are brilliant, and the energy of the series is at its highest and most engaging anytime they are on screen. The stakes feel that bit higher too with someone outside of Yennefer that Geralt truly cares for being introduced. It sets up the show’s long-term future in their parental relationship, and is a true driving force throughout.
The secondary major plotline revolves around Yennefer following her capture at the end of the Battle of Sodden. While little can be revealed around her arc this season without spoiling, Anya Chalotra continues to dominate every scene she is in. Further to this, she shares several moments with a surprise recurring character from season 1, and the two have an electric chemistry that rivals that of hers and Geralt’s.
However, just as before, season 2 of The Witcher is in no way entirely without faults. The acting is subject to massive dips in quality. Whether through writing, poor direction, or simply the wrong actors being cast for their roles, there are a select few characters whose appearance draws groans by the latter stages of the 6 episodes provided by Netflix. Triss, specifically, is the victim of absolutely woeful writing, especially in her scenes with Geralt. The show looks to bring across the love triangle of Geralt, Yennefer, and Triss from the source material, but every scene of this nature with her and Geralt is utterly, utterly painful. The writing of one scene, in particular, managed to marry Star Wars prequel levels of stilted romantic dialogue with Netflix Christmas rom-com level of corny cliches.
Another issue with this season is a paradoxical one, as it comes out of one of the strengths of these new episodes. The move away from non-linear storytelling is a beneficial one. The plot carries more momentum, the clarity of the time period allows us to focus on the themes and interactions more clearly, and it makes the series far more accessible to the average consumer. The move, unfortunately, goes too far in the other direction. Elements of the show are over-explained to the extreme, repeated beyond belief, and one particular moment had me banging my head off the wall at what felt like the 17th line explaining what a “monolith” was.
The constant flux of quality in the series is such a peculiar one and is demonstrated in the monsters of season 2, a vital part of any Witcher show. The first 2-3 episodes are the most compelling, with beautifully creepy monsters who play core parts in the story. The effects are top class, and the way they play into the thematic elements of the greater plot is stellar. The marginally worse latter episodes unsurprisingly feature less compelling monsters who feature less into the thematic elements at large. When The Witcher is at its absolute best, it is undeniably the greatest fantasy adventure on our screens at the moment. At its worst, it can be a really poor fulfillment of its endless potential.
Season 2 of The Witcher is overall a fantastic outing of television, and a solid installment in Netflix’s ongoing franchise. The core dynamics are great fun and will have you engaged and caring about this world, and some of the character work is exceptional as well. Where the frustration lies is in the aforementioned pure potential of this show. If these grating issues are resolved moving forward, this could be battling it out to be named as the best current program on television (with the obvious exclusion of Succession). Instead, it is an exceptionally fun but undeniably flawed show that sits far back from the top of the pile.