/ 11 August 2023

The Witcher: Meek ending for Cavill

The Witcher (1)
Of swords and snow: A scene from the new season of Netflix’s fantasy drama television series ‘The Witcher’. Photo: Susie Allnutt

Volume two of The Witcher kicked off where volume one ended, on a knife-edge, balanced, with Aretuza under siege. Volume one left us with Redania’s spymaster Djikstra holding a knife to Geralt’s throat. Warning, spoilers ahead!

What an episode this was. It picked up right where the brilliant volume one left off and took us right into a battle for the magical island with both sides, Redania and Nilfgaard, making a play for it. The mages battle valiantly to hold their lands. 

With the Redanian soldiers, Djikstra is attempting to determine alliances on the magical island. The plan is to rid the island of mages who have an alliance with their enemy, Nilfgaard. The dastardly duo, Djikstra and his mage accomplice, Philippa, dubbed it “the purge”. 

Before it gets very far, Nilfgaard through the witch Fringilla who is a confusing character, elven leader Francesca and loyal soldier Cahir enter Thanedd with soldiers to make a play for it. They were brought in by Vilgefortz, a stab in the back to his partner, Tissaia. The conversation the pair have really hurts Tissaia, the anguish visible.

The battle ensues and we learn about various witch alliances before they all rally together to keep their home safe. 

Tissaia eventually resorts to extreme chaos to keep hold of Aretuza. She uses a power called Alzur’s Thunder, which takes a huge toll on her because of the chaos it relies on. 

They manage to keep the foes at bay but the use of such power, the betrayal that she couldn’t see and the heavy casualties lead her to take her own life.

Redanian king Vizimir is unhappy about his team’s failure to capture the place and tells Djikstra that someone will pay. He ends up dying after Philippa takes action for the threat. His brother Radovid assumes the crown. 

Geralt meets his match

Meanwhile, Geralt and Yennefer make their way to Ciri. They find her and are met by Rience, the fire mage who has been chasing Ciri hard. 

Setting up an awesome confrontation, Geralt and Yennefer make light work of what was a pretty good antagonist. He loses his head quicker than we expect. 

The trio make plans to get Ciri far away from the fray. Yennefer heads back to help Tissaia and the witches. Cahir, in a total about-turn, abandons Nilfgaard interests and apologises to Ciri for his actions in season one and pleads with her to take his life. He intervenes and stops some riders trying to grab Ciri.

As Geralt and Ciri attempt to take a boat and ride out, Geralt sends Ciri running. The battle with Vilgefortz is about to take place. 

Whoa! Geralt gets his butt handed to him. We see how strong Vilgefortz really is. With his staff, he smashes Geralt’s sword, breaks his back and leaves him with a gaping wound in his leg. 

The battle leaves Geralt in a bad way — it looks like they could be setting him up for his departure from the show. 

He gets dropped off at the Dryads’ forest to heal. Basically, he spends all three of his final episodes wrapped up, healing. It is a weak ending for someone who embodied the role with such fervour.

At least they let him out with a bang, standing up for a downtrodden family at a Nilfgaard checkpoint after he destroys the soldiers taking bribes from these people. 

The highlight of his time at the Dryads recovering is a human archer he meets called Milva, who is so sullen and grumpy it’s fantastic. 

That, coupled with Geralt’s friend, Jaskier who is trying to help him heal and who loves a chirpy comment, adds some colour. 

This was a chance for the show to start the end of Henry Cavill playing Geralt as Liam Hemsworth takes up the mantle but it was not jumped on. 

Ciri’s chaos

After Geralt’s royal butt-whipping, Vilgefortz reaches Ciri at what looks like a small monolith on the island. You’ll remember Ciri has the power to drop them, opening portals. They’re also a gateway to other regions which was alluded to in Blood Origin. 

He tries to convince her to join him, to study under him to embrace the power she has and he can guide. It doesn’t work — she creates a portal which leads to a massive explosion and gets thrown into a desert. 

Episode two is basically Ciri in the desert. What a drag, especially following the previous two episodes. She confronts people from her past, sees visions and befriends a unicorn, which helps her survive. 

In the visions she meets Falka, a long-lost relative, who was powerful, killed her father, led a rebellion and was burnt at the stake. 

Falka encourages Ciri to embrace the chaos of fire magic to heal the unicorn which was hurt in an altercation with a monster. 

Ciri does so and it looks a lot like X-Men’s Jean Grey embodying her Dark Phoenix power. “It feels good,” she says while glowing red. Falka’s coaxing and manipulating makes it look as if Ciri is joining the dark side. 

After being captured by slavers, Ciri meets The Rats, a group of criminals who free her, after she takes her first life — the life of the man who captured her. 

She tells them her name is Falka, making it look as if she has embraced the evil and chaos within her.

Overall thoughts

I was a bit disappointed that the show’s creators missed the chance to make the transition from Cavill to Hemsworth smooth, especially after Geralt took such a beating. Also, episodes two and three don’t stick to the pace and thrill of the first episode. 

The episode focusing on Ciri in the desert was boring. While I get it’s important for her character’s growth, especially since she is rumoured to be the focal point of the show, it dragged. So desperate to be good, and bring about change in a positive way, she quickly transitioned to the dark side — if that is where they take her. 

Yennefer and the witches fall away swiftly to lick their wounds after the battle. 

Nilfgaard’s leader Emperor Emhyr has led a massive event to announce Ciri’s return. But it is not her who is presented to him, with a smiling Vilgefortz next to him who has been maimed after Ciri blew up the tower. 

We know Vilgefortz was working on creating fake Ciris. For what reason and whether Emhyr will know, we will have to wait and see. 

Diehards might not be happy but the average person, like me, will stick by the show and see what they come up with. I’m curious about how Hemsworth does and what becomes of Ciri.