TV: The Witcher (Season 2)

At long last, The Witchers second season has dropped, and I inhaled it in a few intense sessions. Definitely less complex than its predecessor, it’s still a lush, rewarding continuation of the saga. Set in an elaborate secondary world, The Witcher is an epic fantasy adventure following the exploits of Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), one of a handful of powerful “witchers” in the world, his job to deploy magic and combat skills against the monsters that terrorize the Continent. Season one was an elaborate, multi-threaded introduction to Geralt, as well as two other characters central to his journey: Princess Ciri of Cintra (Freya Allen), a magical child he is duty-bound to protect, and Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), a powerful mage and conflicted love interest.

Unlike the first season—a convoluted triple origin story bringing this unique family together—season two is considerably more linear, but that doesn’t make it feel any less robust and immersive. Having finally been united after an epic battle at Sodden, Geralt and Ciri journey to the stronghold of the witchers at Kaer Morhen. Geralt’s primary aim is to protect Ciri and train her to survive, but it quickly becomes clear things won’t be that simple once word of Ciri’s survival gets out, drawing the attention of various ambitious world powers. For one thing, Ciri’s claim to the throne of Cintra makes her a tempting political pawn. But rumors of her vast magical potential would also make her a devastating weapon in the ongoing geopolitical conflict. One of the many people vying for Ciri’s power, as it develops, is Yennefer, whose epic defense of Sodden burned away her magic entirely—and she’s convinced Ciri is the key to restoring it.

Evidently, the writers of The Witcher’s second season were less restricted by source material than in the inaugural year; it shows, making for a much more coherent, straight-forward story. Rather than the first season’s blend of episodic monsters-of-the-week and dizzying atemporal logistics, the second seasons provides a more conventional season arc. This is not at all a bad thing, because the world is still politically complex, and there’s scads of fantasy invention and gorgeous, otherworldly scenery on display. The episodes deploy the characters in entertaining new combinations, and further flesh out the broader conflict between Nilfgaard and the North. This includes more screen-time for the scheming villainy of Fringilla (Mimî M. Khayisa) in a subplot involving her cynical alliance with the imperiled elves, led by Francesca (Mecia Simson). More importantly, it’s a pleasure to see Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer onscreen together more often this season, working in concert, along with other allies such as the bard Jaskier (Joey Batey), the sorceress Triss (Anna Shaffer), and the leader of the witchers, Vesemir (Kim Bodnia). The season’s eight episodes zip past addictively, a gripping continuation of a lavish, memorable epic fantasy.

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