The Witcher franchise truly has become a “valley of plenty”. Just two years after Henry Cavill first tossed that grey mane around like a coin to your Witcher, we’ve already had an anime prequel, and multiple new spinoffs are currently in production too.
Ultimately though, this franchise rests on the impressively broad shoulders of Geralt in the show that started it all. So how does The Witcher fare in season two? Will bards sing of his new exploits for centuries to come, or is this a true nightmare for everyone’s favourite White Wolf?
Thou shall be delighted to hear that season two is a resounding success, one that expands on what we love about this world while also improving everything that held season one back from greatness. Well, almost everything, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Much was made of the filming delays caused by Cavill’s injury, but from watching season two now, you wouldn’t know that anything COVID-related had any impact on this production from behind the scenes.
The battle scenes are just as epic as you’d expect, not to mention all those extra coins the finance team have thrown over to the special effects department.
The Witcher team have outdone themselves here with creatures dragged directly out of their messed-up subconscious, and we truly do mean that as a compliment. Each monster is more grotesque than the last, but crucially, they also feel frighteningly real, thanks to an effective mix of practical effects and improved CGI.
This “bigger is better” approach doesn’t apply to season two as a whole though.
Unlike most fantasy shows, The Witcher has actually chosen to narrow its focus this time around, simplifying each episode with more linear storytelling. This is undoubtedly season two’s biggest strength, one which shows that the creators are clearly listening to the fans and striving for perfection.
That’s not to say the new episodes are overly simple or basic though. Even with those confusing timelines cast aside, the Continent is still teeming with overlapping stories and impressive world-building that brings the books (and games) to life in ways that even the most diehard fans will love.
You really feel that everyone involved is a genuine fan of the source material, and not just in the writers room either. Henry Cavill’s love for The Witcher has been well-documented, so it should come as no surprise to hear that he pushed for more dialogue to better reflect Geralt’s inner voice that we hear so often in the novels.
“This season, I really wanted to make sure that we represented the book’s Geralt more accurately, and that we saw him speak more,” Henry told Total Film. “I pushed really, really hard for that. He’s still Geralt of Rivia, but he’s definitely coming across as more of an intellectual. It’s a hard life, monster hunting… I wouldn’t recommend it.”
But thanks to Henry’s pitch-perfect take on Geralt, we’d happily recommend joining him on a monster hunt or two. It’s a tricky thing, to expand the character’s vocabulary without losing his mystique, but the show strikes a good balance here.
Yes, the grunts are still there, but when Cavill cracks an occasional joke, the dry wit actually enhances his character further without detracting from his imposing presence.
Geralt is also fleshed out more in relation to the characters who surround him. Not only do old companions from his past appear, including Vesmir, his old mentor, but the core of this season now revolves around Geralt’s paternal relationship with Ciri, another character who is vastly improved as well.
No longer a mere damsel in distress, Freya Allan’s character has far more agency this time around, even if she’s still bound by prophecy and the whims of others to at least some degree. As the other key female character, Yennefer also plays a vital role here once again with an arc that takes some surprising turns which fans might not expect.
Both Freya and Anya Chalotra feel more assured and comfortable in their roles now, and Joey Batey is a better bard than ever, Jaskier 2.0 comes complete with at least one new banger guaranteed to fill up all the taverns come nightfall.
So The Witcher is essentially giving us everything we want in season two, aside perhaps for another Geralt bathtub scene. But to be fair, this franchise has always been a valley of plenty when it comes to man-flesh, and season two still has its moments in this regard.
The only issue we have with this new batch of Witcher episodes is that Geralt still isn’t onscreen enough. And that critique doesn’t come from a place of horniness either. Season one suffered in most of the scenes where Cavill was nowhere to be found, and season two does as well, albeit to a lesser extent. That doesn’t mean the rest of the show is badly done, it’s just that the Witcher’s magnetism leaves a noticeable gap when absent.
We really weren’t kidding when we pointed out that this entire franchise rests on Henry’s brawny shoulders, but with a third season already confirmed, there’s plenty of time for the rest of the characters to grow even further in stature and cement The Witcher (and its many spinoffs) as TV’s leading fantasy franchise.