The Witcher releases on Netflix very soon, and we’ve been served three tasty new videos starring Henry Cavill‘s witcher Geralt of Rivia, the badass sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg played by Anya Chalotra and the lioncub of Cintra, Princess Ciri, played by young actress Freya Allan. With three minutes of mostly new footage in each of these featurettes, we’ll be analyzing them one-at-a-time. This one is all about Yennefer. Prepare for magic, battle and carnage.
The featurette opens with the iconic Yennefer shot of her in the ball gown, and quickly takes a turn for the worse: Yennefer’s childhood. The sorceress was originally born a hunchback, and suffered from an abusive relationship with her parents (of which we’ll see more very soon). The show will depict the deformed Yennefer’s, her transformation, and also the Yennefer she was always meant to be. A stone-cold badass, with perhaps the slightest indication of a deeper longing. A longing for love. All versions of Yennefer were acted by star Anya Chalotra, who early reviewers have been praising for an unforgettable preformance. The following quotes are via Yen’s mentor and mother-figure, the sorceress Tissaia de Vries, played by the magnetic MyAnna Buring.
Do you know how many people wouldn’t blink, if you died?
You lie, you keep secrets
You succumb to emotion. To weakness
Do you actually have what it takes?
Yennefer will spend most of episode two as a hunchbacked girl, and possibly part of the third episode as well. We will see her find an inner strength, and the ambition to be powerful and rely on no one. With Buring’s Tissaia grooming her (a cold yet loving mother-figure) at the Aretuza academy for young sorceresses, Yennefer is set to become one of the most powerful mages on the Continent.
Let’s give a warm welcome to Anya Chalotra, who narrates this featurette and explaines what defines Yennefer.
Yennefer is in a constant battle with herself
As mentioned, Yennefer was born a hunchback to a family of farmers who consistently abused her. We get to see a few flashes of her relationship with her family in the next few shots, revealing the actors who play her family. Fletcher, Yen’s father, is played by Roderick Hill. Charlotte O’Leary plays the character Tiffania, possibly Yennefer’s sister. Her mother and brother (if there is one) have not been identified yet.
She had a really tragic childhood. A place of frustration, rage and confusion
She was born with a deformed spine and jaw abnormality
This next scene opened the show’s first trailer. It’s from an entirely different sequence, which showrunner Lauren Hissrich has described as Yen’s “eye opening moment”, signifying a big shift for her character. What could it be?
Back to young Yennefer, we can see her father Fletcher in the images below.
Because of her deformity, her father resented her a lot
Enter Tissaia de Vries! Here we see the sorceress arriving at Yennefer’s farm and bartering with her father… over purchasing Yennefer herself. Recognizing Yen’s potential, Tissaia takes pity with Yennefer and decides to give her a chance in the school of magic (where she is Rectoress). But of course, Tissaia is not one to show her love (at least, not in a straightforward way). When Fletcher offers his daughter for six marks, Tissaia declines and offers just four marks. Fletcher doesn’t even hesitate and announces: “Sold.” The second episode, which introduces this scene is titled “Four Marks” (Marks being the currency of the kingdom of Aedirn, where Yennefer’s family is from).
Sold, four marks
Next, we see Fletcher violently shoving and dragging Yen towards her new mistress, Tissaia, who awaits her patiently. Anya describes the importance of this scene in the following quote:
That moment sets up the whole of Yennefer’s journey
Next stop, Aretuza! This school of witchcraft and wizardry teaches young girls to become expert sorceresses, probably the most powerful role a woman can have on the Continent. Here, Yennefer must contend with her fellow novices and prove herself worthy of the title sorceress.
In Aretuza, Yennefer appears to get locked in her room.
In one of their lessons, Tissaia teaches Yen and the other novices where magic comes from, and how to use it. But not everyone is capable of being a sorceress.
Just because you are conduits of chaos does not mean that you are capable of magic
And now, some spell-casting. Or, rather, spell training. We can see Tissaia testing the novices in an attempt to draw power from a source in the ceiling and into some sort of container. When Yennefer draws the power, a shaft of lighting manifests and is sucked into the container.
But before long, Yennefer slips, and the lightning casts her aside. We can see future sorceress Fringilla Vigo observing (and no doubt dreading her own turn). Fringilla is played by actress Mimi Ndiweni.
Eventually, Yennefer overcomes the many challenges of her training. She will be fully formed (and transformed) as of episode three. The power Yennefer is able to summon changes her. She is no longer the weak, hunchbacked girl. She is a force to be reckoned with. We are treated with a taste of the fully-formed Yen in the following shots. The last one, a gif, is from the season finale’s Battle of Sodden.
That then became her life
Along with her magical abilities, Yennefer’s swordplay and general reflexes also seem to have improved considerably as she can be seen fighting and absolutely decimating the Crinfrid Reavers in a scene from episode six.
Indeed, Yennefer becomes incredibly powerful during the course of the season. But she also has her shortcomings, one of which Anya describes in the following quote.
However, she is never satisfied. Always striving for something else.
We see more of Yennefer in her Battle of Sodden outfit below. This dress is threaded with black-and-white ropes, and is only one of Yen’s many outlandish and iconic dresses of the season. What is she doing on a beach in that dress? Our guess is that she is returning to Aretuza to convene with the mages before the battle.
She owns her sexuality
She uses her sexuality to manipulate people and get what she wants
Next, we return to the ball at Aretuza, where Yennefer boldly introduces herself to King Virfuril, a character played by Ben Lambert. She later dances with the king.
My world is cruel and predictable. You enter, you survive, you die
Next, we see Yennefer preparing for the masked orgy where she first meets Henry Cavill‘s character (and Yennefer’s primary love interest), Geralt of Rivia.
She presents a certain version of herself. Someone who’s direct and in control. Dangerous.
From here on out, we mostly see flashes of Yennefer’s journey from throughout the season. We’ll be addressing them separately.
The arc that she goes through is an incredible challenge
These next two shots are from the teleportation sequence in episode four. Yennefer is tasked with protecting Queen Kalis played by Isobel Laidler and her baby daughter from another mage, and the mage follows them through various landscapes, unleashing destructive magic and even a crab-like monster to chase them.
She longs for that connection, but that fear… that insecurity, feeds this chaos, this magic that makes her incredibly powerful
Back to the scene filmed at Roque Nublo, we can see Yen preparing a spell which will no-doubt make the opposing mage regret he ever pissed-off Yennefer of Vengerberg.
In the following three shots, which appear to be from the same scene, we see Yennefer summoning her powers. This is almost certainly shows the events of the short story The Last Wish with Yennefer trying to capture the power of a djinn, a powerful air genie.
We return to Yen’s transformation. Behind her, we can see Julian Rhind-Tutt, who plays an unidentified character. Since he is involved in her transformation, we believe he will play an archmage of magic; perhaps Hen Gedymdeith, the oldest living sorcerer on the Continent or Grandmaster Ortolan, a man notorious for his magical genius and many inventions. Rumors that he plays Borch Three Jackdaws were disproven by Netflix.
A few final flashes lead up to the end of the featurette. First off, another shot of Yen training in the cave.
In another cave, Yennefer continues to kick ass. She is killing Reavers using her magic, a dagger and a picked-up sword.
A quick exchange between Tissaia and Yennefer shows the character’s growth over the course of these upcoming eight episodes. Tissaia, who no longer needs to control Yennefer, asks:
What do you want?
And Yennefer answers:
And that’s it for Yennefer’s featurette. Make sure to check our already-published analysis of Geralt’s featurette, and our upcoming analysis of Ciri’s. With the series launching on December 20, the wait for The Witcher season one is almost over. We can practically smell the lilac and gooseberries!