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The scattered ideas of ‘The Witcher’ season two

| Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Makayla Hernandez I The Observer

After two years of waiting through COVID-19 delays and an almost career-ending leg injury suffered by its star, Netflix’s “The Witcher” released its second season. Unlike the decades-long story threads characteristic of the show’s the previous season, though, the new plot is as temporally straightforward as possible, spanning maybe a month. Though many of the story shifts are improvements, the scale is unfortunately lost.

Henry Cavill still shines as the lead, even when sharing the spotlight with the rest of the cast. Even so, his character, Geralt of Rivia, has little to do in the story besides being a father figure, so most of the big moments in this season happen without him. The resulting lack of character growth for Geralt makes this season feel like a build-up to the next one rather than its own experience.

What makes the premise of “The Witcher” unique is the combative dynamic between its titular character and the world in which he exists. How the simple monster hunter finds himself trapped in the warring kingdoms emphasizes how absurd fantasy politics usually are. The problem with Netflix’s version of this dynamic is the way that the audience is forced to sit through the politics without their protagonist, thereby robbing the schemes of the only unique angle they had.

Another issue with season two: every time an episode cuts away to scenes centered around mages or elves, the energy plummets. Even intrigue related to genocide and espionage was not enough to make me care about those characters. Most of the time, the elves and mages stand in a room and whisper about the show’s other (more interesting) characters. In awkwardly trying to interlace the branching stories, the show only further isolates the weaker plotlines. I know that the showrunners intend to build a massive world — one containing an army of characters, each with their own stories — like the rest of the high fantasy shows from competing streaming channels. However, such an attempt has rendered the overall too generic to feel special.

New cast member Kim Bodnia, who plays Vesemir, stands apart from the noise of the clashing subplots. Bodnia’s performance veers off from a direct adaptation of the original books or games, but he does a good job giving the show its own identity. At first, it was weird to see Vesemir with a trucker mustache, but I ended up liking his subplot the most.

When the showrunners pair Vesemir and Geralt onscreen, they are able to flesh out personal backstories for both characters, rather than simply having the characters plan future schemes. The few times the show slows down to sit with a character, it tends to be Vesemir, which I enjoyed, as the character’s struggle to act as a responsible member brings out a fresh inner-conflict the show needs. The character of Vesemir is proof that the show has all the necessary pieces; now, it just needs the time to put them together.

If you are on the fence about starting this show, I recommend you begin with the first episode of season two, as it provides a perfect example of the show’s potential. Presented as a tragic retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” wherein awful people are caught in a forbidden love, the episode constitutes such a strong opener that the rest of the season struggles to match its quality. I trust this show to continue improving in the long run, but until then, this singular episode is just a brief moment of clarity within a muddled story.

The second season of Netflix’s “The Witcher” takes a step in the right direction, but a small one. The biggest upgrade was the monster design, which was always my favorite part of the games, but it still isn’t enough to save the show. If Netflix continues to invest in the series, I see it becoming a must-watch after season 4; anything before is going to involve both course correction and backpedaling.


Title: “The Witcher”

Starring: Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, Kim Bodnia

Director(s): Lauren Schmidt

If you like: “Game of Thrones,” “Lord of the Rings”

Shamrocks: 2 out of 5

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