Friday, January 28

Season 2 of ‘The Witcher’ is more epic but loses some of the fun spontaneity of its first part

Those who attended yesterday the official presentation of ‘The Witcher’ (with the presence of Henry Cavill included) in Madrid and were able to see the first chapter of the second season of the series, perhaps they left the Kinépolis cinemas with the wrong impression. The impression that this new season was to follow the episodic and twisted structure of the first season.

In the case of the first batch of episodes, its narrative was a proposal that, on the one hand, gave a few joys. The structure almost of monster-of-the-week would go back to both video games and literary origins, in short stories that were later compiled into books, by Geralt de Rivia. But he brought another burden with him: continuous jumps in time that gave rise to a labyrinthine succession of palace intrigues that, when Geralt was not involved in them, could be somewhat difficult to follow.

And this is how the second season begins, with a practically isolated adventure that suggests that we return by the privileges of the first episodes. The truth is that, significantly, it is the best episode we have ever seen: furious, self-contained, full of good dialogue and humor, with a terrifying monster inherited from the best dark fantasy and the traditional bitter message but with a point of hope on the part of the old Geralt.

But obeying the guidelines that the showrunner Lauren Hissrich promised that they would be executed ahead of season two, ‘The Witcher’ takes a turn after that misleading first chapter, and develops, already with continuity, the two lines of argument that left ready at the end of the first. On the one hand, Geralt and Ciri finding an emotional new relationship as teacher and protégé. On the other, Yennefer trying to survive a compromising situation from minute one.

A more humane and less grumpy Geralt

‘The Witcher’ make the decision this season to narrate the origin of the world in which the action takes place. Broadly speaking, there is talk of the event that made men, monsters and elves end up on the same plane. It is a transcendent issue that affects all the characters, and the series seems to be infected with that importance, and it becomes more serious and thoughtful. For viewers interested in this part of the lore, the animated prequel ‘The Wolf’s Nightmare’ provides a good deal of additional data on the subject.

For some characters, that twist in the series is for the better. Ciri is undoubtedly among those undergoing a more interesting evolution: thanks to Freya Allan’s stupendous performance, she goes from being, in a perfectly credible and emotional way, from a fragile princess in need of Geralt’s protection to a powerful woman capable of fight by his side. Until comic reliefs as Dandelion (Joey Batey) catch this gravity, although the series does not lose its good humor with him, as evidenced by his new and jilted song.

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And of course, Geralt of Rivia is among the characters most deeply affected by this change. Although there are a couple of self-parodic winks (some of them, quite meta, aimed at the confusing plot of the first season), Geralt no longer expresses himself exclusively with grunts, and already from the first episode we see him showing emotions that would have been inconceivable in the first season. Ciri and Yennefer are to blame, but also the subtle and controlled interpretation of Henry Cavill, already definitely much more than a wardrobe.

By the way, ‘The Witcher’ has lost something that made it special and that distanced it from that ‘Game of Thrones’ with which we all compared it. Now it is more conventional, more commercial, more solemn and more tailored, but luckily it still retains enough moments of eccentricity, humor, violence and personality to be a must-see for lovers of the darkest fantasy.