Movie & Television Show Reviews

Burn Butcher Burn | “The Witcher” Season 2 (2021) Netflix Series Review

While I didn’t review it, the first season of “The Witcher” was one of my favorite shows when it came out. I haven’t played the games or read the books, but I found its tone and approach to the fantasy genre to be refreshing, hilarious and engaging, and even though I think its story would have worked better if it was told in a linear fashion, it kept me wanting more. 

So I came into Season 2 with great expectations. Our story begins with our Witcher protagonist, Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), and his surrogate daughter, Ciri (Freya Allan), as they learn that Geralt’s love interest, Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) is presumed dead (spoilers: she’s not). He then sets out to take Ciri to the Witcher stronghold of Kaer Morhen, but on the way, stops to visit his old friend, Nivellen (Kristofer Hivju), who was changed into a beast by a curse. 

Nivellen comes off initially as charming and a great host — somebody we should draw sympathy for in the same vein as The Beast from “Beauty and the Beast.” But Geralt and Ciri are soon on to him, as they discover corpses from people killed by Vereena (Agnes Born), a bruxa Nivellen saved and has a romantic relationship with. It’s a great one-off adventure to start the season with, before it gets hijacked by the larger plot. 

Afterwards, Geralt and Ciri would make it to Kaer Morhen, where we finally meet the other active Witchers. Led by Vesemir (Kim Bodnia), whom fans will recognize from the film “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf”, their ranks consist of lively faces like Lambert (Paul Bullion) and  Coën (Yasen Atour), who love to challenge Ciri as she trains; and Eskel (Basil Eidenbenz), whose brazen and rude nature greatly contrasts with Geralt. 

Ciri comes into her own this season.

Unfortunately, the series also has to tend to its B plots, which begin with Yennefer and Fringilla (Mimî M. Khayisa) being captured by the elven King Filavandrel (Tom Canton) and the sorceress Francesca Findabair (Mecia Simson), whom he has surrendered command of the elves to. They are in hiding, and have hopes of restoring the elves to their former glory. Francesca, Yennefer and Fringillia are also connected by similar dreams, and in the Witcher world, dreams can have powerful meanings. Yennefer also doesn’t have her powers anymore this season, which is related to Voleth Meir (Ania Marson), a demon once trapped in a house long ago by Witchers, who wants to be freed. 

There’s a lot less action in Season 2 than in Season 1, as Season 2 focuses a lot more on the politics of the Witcher world, though Nilfgaard noticeably takes a back seat this season. They are done with indiscriminate killings, and are holding onto Cintra. A lot of effort is made in this season to justify their actions in Season 1, and to humanize their commander, Cahir (Eamon Farren), to no avail, but the character growth he underwent this season will no doubts be used in Season 3 to create conflict with him and the Nilfgaard Emperor, who is revealed to be someone quite close to Ciri. 

Vesemir and Geralt

Speaking of Ciri, it’s clear that the show has a higher purpose for her, as it’s revealed this season that she has Elder Blood, which has special properties, and is the key ingredient needed to make more Witchers. She almost becomes one, and will probably become one next season, and is pursued hotly by Vesemir who understandably wants to refill the Witchers’ ranks. 

We end the season with a great siege of Kaer Morhen, as a possessed Ciri starts killing Witchers, and eventually summons monsters from another dimension to pick them off, one by one. I wasn’t a fan of this sequence, even though it had good action and great creatures, mostly because it needlessly killed off a great portion of the Witchers for cheap shock value, throwing away characters we barely know that could have been used in fantastic and creative ways in future seasons. 

Jaskier (Joey Batey) is also barely in this season, but he receives a notable glow-up, and does deliver another really catchy song unique to this show (“Burn Butcher Burn”). Hopefully he’s in more of Season 3, because Jaskier is a central character to this show, as his contrast to Geralt’s stoic nature is a big reason why Season 1 worked so well. 

Overall, this was still a very good season of television, but it was not as good as Season 1. Freya Allan finally came into her own as Ciri, and Henry Cavill is brilliant as Geralt; the show just suffers from its core group of Yen, Geralt, Ciri and Jaskier being separated for too long, as well as too much exposition and not enough action. 

“The Witcher” Season 2 gets a 7.5/10 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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