When The Witcher dropped on Netflix 2 years ago, it brought with it a new wave of optimism in the fantasy genre. With many publications still hungover from Game of Thrones, comparing any and all fantasy IPs to the juggernaut that eventually crashed and burned, it was always going to be difficult to persuade fans and critics alike to look at these shows with a fresh perspective.
With the latest casualty of this falling to The Wheel Of Time, The Witcher season 2 benefits from not having that black cloud of impossible expectations hanging over it. The scriptwriters seem to feel this freedom too, as this second season expands the story and mythology out – and it’s all thee stronger for it. There are some brilliant new additions here this season and, more tellingly, a lot more elements of The Witcher 3’s story into its plotline.
The first episode essentially works to reintroduce all our characters, picking up shortly after the events of the finale. Geralt and Ciri are bound for Kaer Morhen, the Witcher refuge inhabited by other Witcher brethren during the harsh winter months. Ciri is the prophesied key to what’s happening, and Geralt intends to try and train her up to defend herself.
However, Geralt is also burdened by the perceived loss of Yennefer, who is thought to have fallen during the fires that consumed the Battle of Sodden. With Cahir prisoner and Nilfgaard on the run, the reality here is that Fringilla has taken control of the armies and has Yennefer as her prisoner. Their story soon coincides with the elves, where a loose alliance is agreed. Only, this thin allegiance looks set to shatter at any moment.
Yennefer finds herself on a much deeper mission this year, although I’ll refrain from spoiling too much here. Suffice to say her journey brings her to a few familiar faces from season 1, a surprising turn and a much more interesting and complex arc than before. Other characters like Istredd serve their purpose to help flesh out the world, as the real threat hanging over the Continent is explored.
Now, fans of The Witcher 3 will instantly recognize some of what’s happening here, especially the teasing glimpses of a Hunt and black riders, that are teased right the way through the season. All of this, of course, crescendos into quite the dramatic showdown, with the final set of episodes arguably the best of the season.
There’s a lot more political intrigue and drama this time around too, and although there is still monster hunting, most of Geralt’s journey sees him playing babysitter to Ciri. While this in itself sounds disappointing, episode 6 features another slick action sequence that attempts, but comes up short of, emulating that excellent scene in the village during episode 1 of last season.
The addition of extra Witchers, including one elder whom many fans will instantly recognize, really helps to flesh out the world and returning characters like Triss Merigold and Tiissaia also help to provide extra depth to the story.
And depth is the name of the game here. While the first season felt like a series of different side-quests stitched together, alongside that clever twist of course, the second season is much more streamlined. Many of the additions work to make this world feel much bigger, building up consistently throughout.
The only downside with this more expansive story is the tone. This is a much more gritty and darker story, missing a lot of levity and jokes that made the first season so accessible. During episode 4 onward there is an attempt to inject that back in again, but this is used sparingly.
Despite this though, season 2 of The Witcher feels like a marginal improvement over the first. Sure there’s less nudity, grunts and individual monster hunts, but in its place is a story that feels much more like an epic main quest. Well written and visually stunning, The Witcher season 2 has certainly been worth the wait.
The Witcher Season 2 releases on Netflix worldwide on 17th December 2021!
Verdict - 8.5/10