The Witcher Returns with Streamlined Second Season That Still Stumbles | TV/Streaming


Season two starts with incredible promise, in no small part because it discards the chronological and narrative gamesmanship of season one, telling a story in a more traditional fashion. A lot of season two seems more traditional, although the show is often at its best when its admittedly impressive design elements are allowed to be surreal and strange. Some of the creature design here is remarkable, and the show can come to life in its big moments, especially when swords are swinging at monsters you’ve never seen before.

The chaos that ended season one finally brought together Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) with Princess Ciri (Freya Allan), which kind of shifts the former’s role this year, turning him into less of a brooding wanderer and more of a father figure. The first episode, “A Grain of Truth,” may be my favorite to date because it’s so focused and reliant on the design elements that work best here. Geralt and Ciri are stuck in a mansion with a kindly creature but both he and the setting hide a dark secret. Focused in terms of storytelling and almost gothic in its design, it’s a confident, almost standalone story that sets up themes for the season, reminds one of the darkness of this program, and gives Cavill and Allan some nice character beats. Sadly, that confidence doesn’t last long.

After the premiere, Geralt and Ciri end up at a place called Kaer Morhen, a Witcher outpost where the princess learns to fend for herself while creatures stalk the perimeter. The snowy ruins of Kaer Morhen make for a gorgeous setting—the show’s art direction is undeniable, presenting locations that feel like the ones I eagerly explored in “The Witcher 3,” one of the best games of all time. However, there’s a lot of talking at Kaer Morhen too—“The Witcher” constantly struggles to balance its dialogue-driven scenes with pushing the plot forward. It can be an exhausting show in terms of pace—every single episode feels longer than it actually is. At one point, I had to pause an episode and was sure I was near the end just based on how long I felt I had been watching. I was 13 minutes into the hour.

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