If someone in the mid nineties tried to push a short-story fantasy series from Poland as the successor to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, you’d do little more than grunt and walk away – just like Henry Cavill has in front of millions this week:

Wiedźmin, or The Witcher is a series that didn’t sprout overnight. It’s a curious tale of how an honest story somehow perseveres – making it through sequel novels, board games and comic books, and finally video-game cult status, before becoming a visual-format sensation two decades after the first story was written.

Like most fantasy adaptations, The Witcher took time in finding its voice. Season 1 was an absolute treat for those of us who played the games and read the novels – although it suffered from staccato pacing, somewhat bland characterizations, and most of all, tonality.

Two years on, showrunner Lauren Hissrich has really changed the game. With established character stories, worldbuilding, and even fantasy politics, The Witcher season 2 is a confident, stylish, and surprisingly emotional series to experience.

Here’s why I think so.

 

Superman of Rivia

Henry Cavill The Witcher

The books describe a very different kind of Geralt – a ‘pale’, ‘lanky’ man with an ‘ugly’ voice.

Look above – Henry Cavill does not fit that description.

I’m not certain if it’s the Superman actor’s personal commitment to the project, his well-documented geekhood, or even just raw natural talent – but his answer to the challenge of playing Geralt was to literally become a mutated, monster-slaying badass with a heart of gold.

I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that Cavill carries the show on his exceptionally broad shoulders, but he’s an absolute riot to watch. He’s poised yet physically intimidating, calm yet just a bit sad, caring, confident, and just a dash cheeky – all you naysayers can get hexed.

This is the Geralt that many of us have dreamed of for years, and in some ways, even surpasses our expectations.

“On season two,” he shared, “I wanted to bring as much of ‘Book’ Geralt into the show that Lauren’s vision and that the plot would allow. That’s a tricky thing to do, because the plot, as Lauren has said, is very centered around bringing women into the center of The Witcher.”

 

An Unfolding Prophecy

Ciri The Witcher

Much of season two revolves around Geralt’s relationship with Ciri – his new apprentice (and plot device). Played quite convincingly by Freya Allan, the pair set off after mourning Yennefer’s apparent death at the end of season one. Deciding to shelter Ciri at the Witcher stronghold of Kaer Morhen, the pair set off – only to get sidetracked by a sidequest based off the A Grain of Truth story from The Last Wish.

Yennefer is revealed to be alive at the end of the first episode. This intro does reek a bit of filler, but still carries out some of the series’ central themes through a dark twist on the Beauty and the Beast trope. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long for things to pick up.

The ball really gets rolling once episode 2 begins. The show, now having dealt with several layers of exposition, unleashes its true storytelling potential – throwing us face first into a combination of well-executed fantasy politics and high-stakes duels for Geralt. After being forced to kill a fellow Witcher, Ciri’s fate becomes truly intertwined with Geralt, as he decides to train her in combat.

The following saga of monster hunting, mythical powers and Ciri’s trials push forward a previously ignored subsect of Geralt’s world – the elves. All of this ties into a multifaceted, thrilling finale that leaves grand questions in the air – all tied to Ciri’s fate.

 

The White Flame

Emperor Emhyr var Emreis

While the season put us through several intense twists and turns, perhaps the biggest one is our introduction to Nilfgaardian Emperor, Emhyr var Emreis.

We’ve heard plenty regarding the Emperor, but not seen much. For those who’ve experienced the novels and video games, Emhyr is a cunning, ruthless ruler who has a surprisingly human element to his motivations.

As Ciri’s biological father, he is desperate to find her and establish her as the princess of his realms. While it’s unclear whether this is out of paternal love or a wish to secure one of the most powerful characters in the series, his confirmed presence for season three reflects an important choice for Ciri.

Will she follow her royal lineage, or will she stay with Geralt and carve a path out for herself?

The videogames have multiple endings – many of which could be in the cards for Netflix’s show.

 

The Wild Hunt

The Wild Hunt The Witcher

Again, Ciri’s fate is pulled in another direction by The Wild Hunt. A group of powerful, relentless elven warriors, these fearsome antagonists from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt make a return at the end of the season.

Their goals? Capture Ciri, and harness her powers through pretty despicable means.

While Geralt has a lot to deal with as a result of his new apprentice, she’s certainly able to hold her own. With the Witchers now in tatters and uncertain paths ahead, we can’t wait to see what the next season has in store for us fans.

(Image Sources: Netflix)