WarningMight contain spoilers.

Slightly inferior to the first one. I’ll always wonder how much it was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. (I know production was halted when Henry Cavill tested positive last year and before that in 2020 when unnamed cast members tested positive.) One thing I noticed this time is that the show wears its anachronistic dialogue with aplomb, unlike many of its contemporaries: the world seems more fully formed and the words belong.

The opening, ‘A Grain of Truth’, is one of the strongest showings. I like the central plot with Kristofer Hivju as the cursed, transformed Nivellen. Had I been told he was a creation of practical effects, I would have had no trouble believing it; only a behind-the-scenes video convinced me he’s entirely a work of CGI. Agnes Born is excellent as Vereena the bruxa with her unsettlingly inhuman movements. Keeping the truth a secret until the very end makes the episode all the more complex and quietly emotional.

It’s unfortunate that the same episode features the requisite monster turning into a woman who magically loses her clothes before dying. I’m also uncomfortable with the scene of Ciri in the bath, which inexplicably cuts from a somewhat unnecessary but not entirely unjustified angle to one that’s even closer and more revealing, just as she sits up.

I quite like Ciri herself. Her training gives her something to work at, fail at, and overcome, and her attempted transformation provides Geralt a dramatic conflict as well. There’s generally too much dissection at Kaer Morhen, though.

Kim Bodnia as Vesemir and Mecia Simson as Francesca both fall short. I could have done with less of both, as well as the menacing fire mage sent after Ciri to no purpose. Tom Canton is excellent as Filavandrel, on the other hand: there’s something interesting about him.

The show is at its best in those silent, suspenseful moments of Geralt advancing and steeling himself to meet a monster. He seems to skimp on his preparation more often this time around; a pity, given that the action itself is usually underwhelming in comparison, save for the use of magic, thanks to his unimpressive fighting style.

Meanwhile, his memory of a friendly conversation with Eskel in ‘What Is Lost’ took me by surprise with its understated execution, although that episode is a rather confusing one overall and the visual effects of Eskel’s transformation are grotesque but not good, in contrast to the real leshy. It’s unclear how the monster operates or how Geralt is able to determine Ciri will lead him to it. I don’t understand how Cahir survived or what happened with Yennefer in the woods, nor why no mages are chasing her.

Indeed, the scene with Yennefer, Fringilla, and Francesca in the woods is a confusing one. Why does the Deathless Mother spend all that time luring them to her, continue trying to fool them, and make them tell her their asks, only to drop the pretense as she tells Yennefer she’ll eat her later and release them all? I understand she feeds on pain, but the process seems convoluted.

Anya Chalotra clearly renegotiated her contract after the first season to let Yennefer keep her clothes on; the grauitous nudity is out, but she unfortunately spends almost the entire eight episodes rendered powerless instead, including two in a row of waking up cursing as she realizes she’s a helpless captive. It seemingly takes a long time for anyone to notice the change, but the character relishes the opportunity to make poor choices in desperation.

I was already a fan of Triss; I’m thoroughly charmed now. While I can’t say she has an adequate amount of time here, it’s better, and she gets her moments. The journey into Ciri’s mind is a frightening one: the momentary flashes are unsettling and Triss’s mother snapping to attention when she touches Ciri gave me a start. The revelation of the elven mother who assaults Triss was underwhelming, but I believe I can say the Wild Hunt looks good based on having seen a single trailer for the DLC for the third game.[1] I must say, she’s definitely not cut out for fighting and didn’t deserve to be burnt.

‘Dear Friend…’ is perhaps the weakest episode, with several performances faltering. Anna Shaffer seems like a different, less skilled actor when Triss plays against Vesemir here; Tom Canton’s Filavandrel becomes silly. On the other hand, Yennefer and Geralt’s reunion is well done, watching Geralt casually fire off spells never gets boring, and I’d greedily devour an entire series starring Codringher and Fenn.

It should come as no surprise that Jaskier remains my favourite character. I was ready to cheer at his reappearance. Whether it’s his could have been about anyone monologue culminating in his confession, the song insulting the guard, his relationship with the rats, any of his interactions with Geralt… I can’t get enough. It’s a shame he has no role in the finale except to disappear once again so Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri can be a family. I could have done without seeing him being tortured; I was completely on Yennefer’s side as she dealt with the man responsible. Putting the two of them together on their own is very effective.

Cahir is a fascinating character. I disliked him initially in concept because it felt like he was being groomed for redemption. Fortunately, his journey is more complex. The story lets him succeed in misguided ventures and refuses to absolve him of his sins. He makes for surprisingly good comic relief when paired with Yennefer, too: Eamon Farren’s delivery of I’m still thinking it over when Yennefer assures Dermain they won’t hurt them makes it the line of the season, and the way he casually sniffs Yennefer when Jaskier says they both stink had me laughing. Once he’s in a position of power again, he exudes an ominous, self-righteous energy, right until the finale robs him of purpose.

Incidentally, Dermain’s death is telegraphed so strongly it reminded me of Samuel L. Jackson in Deep Blue Sea .

Dijkstra and Vizimir are two extremely interesting characters. I would be glad to see more of them, unlike Tissaia and Vilgefortz, who indulge in much sound and fury, signifying nothing (not that MyAnna Buring’s performance is in any way to blame). Roach’s death is sad indeed. Fringilla’s murderous rampage is acceptable when the objects of her wrath are despicable. Geralt’s expression when he arrives to save Ciri from both Yennefer and the guards is downright chilling; I feel for Ciri and Yennefer there.

The atrocities visited upon the elves are shocking. The assassination of Francesca and Filavandrel’s baby is hardly a surprise when it comes, but it’s no less abhorrent for that. One might ask the elves to show restraint; one cannot blame them at all for seeking bloody vengeance.

I find the selective visual emphasis used on occasion quite distracting in the middle of all the muted colours. It’s a mystery to me why shows adopt a dull orange and teal palette and highlight specific colours as if it were a brand new technique. The effect is displeasing and jarring.

The finale is middling, considering it follows the very good ‘Voleth Meir’. After a full season of Ciri running around and looking scared, it would have been nice not to see her lost in a device we’ve seen over and over again (though it was a good excuse to see Calanthé and Melzac again, which I can’t complain about). Too many people die: the witchers who fall to monsters and the babies the elves murder during their rampage. The ridiculous voice coming from the ordinary-looking man in the Wild Hunt deflates its mystique. The Deathless Mother, who’s apparently been around since the Conjunction, is revealed to gain her powers from… hatred, and demonstrates her supposedly enormous strength by splitting the witchers’ tree to send a few monsters through it.

I enjoyed Geralt quickly despatching the monster she sends after him so he can return to protecting Ciri from Vezemir. I’m glad Yennefer regains her powers and the three of them are together at last by the end. It’s kind of Ystredd to pop up just to inform the elves that Ciri is their blood.

Henry Cavill is harder and harder to stomach as Geralt. Despite how deeply he cares about the material and how much effort he puts into it, he’s simply wrong for the part. His voice is forced. His body is far too bulky. His face looks strange with that hair. His particular style of delivering certain lines—where he sticks out his chin as he says something to soften it—comes across as an actor’s mannerism. He looks ridiculous when he snarls or growls. However impressed Cavill’s trainers may be, he fails to justify it in combat scenes.

I would have been much happier with an older and less bulky Geralt who didn’t feel the need to ‘do a voice’, and who could balance the alleged lack of emotion of a witcher with the ability to convey emotion (not that this paradox appears to be relevant for a single other witcher on the show). A friend of mine suggested Viggo Mortensen—I can’t imagine anyone more perfect, except that even he might find it difficult at the age of 65. If we went in the other direction, Joel Kinnaman is younger than I had in mind, but after Altered Carbon I’m convinced he could have pulled it off.

Of course, it seems we’re getting Liam Hemsworth instead.

  1. Which was frankly a better movie than this is a series.