The Witcher, a Netflix-produced adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels following the story of Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), has finally returned to the streaming platform for its second season. Fans have been chomping at the bit while lockdowns and cast injuries halted production of Season 2 multiple times. As one of those fans that got lucky enough to see the first three episodes a little early, I do believe The Witcher Season 2 will be well worth the wait. Although production for this season was exceptionally complicated, I saw no decline in quality. The VFX, costumes, set design, prop design, and the like were all just as well crafted – if not better – than in The Witcher Season 1.
New characters, locations, and monsters are introduced, one of note being Nivellen (Kristofer Hivju) and his beautiful, but cluttered, Gothic manor. His character design is likely to remind many of a certain Disney adaptation that centers a man cursed to be exceptionally hairy. Despite being an old friend of Geralt’s, Nivellen seems to be hiding something, or someone, from him and Ciri (Freya Allan). A tale as old as time, and just as bittersweet.
While Geralt and Ciri untangle the mystery surrounding their furry host, Tissaia (MyAnna Buring) and the surviving mages have their own world of troubles. There is unrest and distrust between them, as the sting of betrayal at Sodden is still fresh and Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) is still missing. The political landscape for mages is poised for a reshuffling and it remains unclear who will come out on top.
When we do catch up with Yennefer, she’s at first captured by Fringilla (Mimî M. Khayisa) before being subsequently captured by the Elves. Previously incredibly confident in herself and her abilities, she must now rely on forging alliances with those she had viewed as enemies. Filavandrel (Tom Canton) makes another appearance but he’s is no longer the King of Elves. Instead, a new character represents a new future for the Elven people in the world of The Witcher.
Fans of other adaptations of The Witcher will be delighted with finally getting to see the Witcher keep, Kaer Morhen, in live-action. Geralt and Ciri finally reach the fortress in Episode Two and are greeted by the senior Witcher, and Geralt’s mentor, Vesemir (Kim Bodnia). The keep looks incredibly similar to how it did in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, and eagle-eyed fans are sure to find all manner of easter eggs littered about. If you have not seen the animated movie, The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf (also produced by Netflix), I do recommend watching it as a few references to that story are made. It’s certainly not essential for understanding the TV series, but having the additional context enhanced my viewing experience.
The acting this season has thus far been phenomenal for every character, but Anya Chalotra as Yennefer is the stand-out for me. This season seems to be about presenting her character with very new challenges and environments, and the complexity of Yennefer’s emotions are really felt in Chalotra’s acting. Special mention must be made to Kristofer Hivju as Nivellen, Agnes Born as Vereena, and the FX team on The Witcher for expertly employing practical effects and CGI in a way that still allows the actors to be unencumbered in their performance. The creatures felt exceptionally human in their performance and realistic in their designs.
The Witcher Season 2 is off to an exceptional start and is pulling an excellent balancing act between the personal turmoil of the main cast and complicated, large-scale conflict. The visual direction does not shy away from its whimsical roots, and the world-building continues to be incredibly nuanced. Two years was a long time to wait, but I’m certainly glad the team put in the work and time necessary to come back just as strong, if not stronger, than Season One of The Witcher.