We’re now less than a week away from The Witcher season two’s international release on Netflix, which means we’ll soon jump back into the grim, wartorn kingdoms of the Continent for another adventure. This time, the Netflix series is replacing the confusing timelines of season one in favor of a more traditional plot that focuses on Geralt (Henry Cavill), Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and Ciri (Freya Allan). Though we still have to wait a few more days, critics have already received the first six episodes of the series and the reviews are now out online.
There are a number of big take-aways from the many reviews we’ve seen, but the bottom line is this: if you enjoyed the first season of The Witcher, it’s highly likely that you will love season two. Scroll down for our review roundup.
Keep in mind that some of these reviews contain mild spoilers, so if you would like to watch season two without any prior knowledge, it’s best to skip this article.
Critics are loving the main cast
For The Win: “Cavill is expectedly excellent as the gruff Geralt of Rivia, flitting between bouts of horse-whispering and dad-jokering in a way that clearly differs from his season one portrayal of the character, but works. The softness and care he exhibits around Ciri is the quintessential part of his growth – everything he does is a subtle and inconspicuous way of making it easier to resonate with him.
“The real stars of season two are Chalotra and Allan. […] Every single scene with Yennefer is either revivifying or disarming. What’s more, most of Yen’s arc here is completely original to the Netflix series – the fact the writers have handled it with such tact and finesse serves as a major testament to how much they deserve to spin stories in this world. Allan, meanwhile, has a significantly larger part to play this time around. While Ciri wasn’t given a whole lot of room to breathe in season one, here we see her truly start to grow. Her relationship with Geralt obviously develops, but what’s more important is how much she learns about herself. Ciri is a character who has always contained multitudes, and Allan manages to manifest each and every one of them spectacularly.”
Comicbook: “Freya Allan’s Ciri is as important a part of this dynamic though. The fearful Princess of Cintra is long gone, replaced by a warrior in training who threatens to steal just about any scene she’s in. Ciri is one. of the best parts of the season, and if you’re not a fan going in, you surely will be when you leave.”
PC Gamer: “The best performance of the series comes from Freya Allen, who plays Ciri. Her story is at the centre of the season—a lot of time is spent in Kaer Morhen, the Witcher hideout where Geralt and brothers train her—and her arc begins with fear and denial. She’s frightened of herself and still distrusts Geralt, but desires his strength as a way to protect herself and express her fury at the forces which destroyed her home.
In keeping with the books and games, Ciri is witty, outspoken, and stubborn. (It’s a mystery who she got that from given that Calanthe was her grandmother and she’s hanging about with the White Wolf.) She switches wildly between overconfidence and not believing in herself, and it takes a whole bunch of Witchers and sorceresses to help her realise that she can control the Chaos within her, even if it won’t be easy. Carrying the fate of the world on your shoulders is no easy task, and Allen brings a wonderful mix of childishness, focus, and determination to the role.”
Yennefer will face greater challenges than ever and make surprising allies
Consequence: “Meanwhile, Geralt’s on-again-off-again sorceress lover Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) finds herself magicless after her explosion of fire “chaos” (read: magic) at the end of last season, first captured by the evil Nilfgaardians and then distrusted by her fellow mages at Aretuza for her miraculous escape. She’ll have to rely on some unconventional allies to survive, from the knight who was chasing Ciri last season (Eamon Farren’s Cahir) to Geralt’s estranged bard/comic relief sidekick, Jaskier (Joey Batey).”
Tilt: “Yennefer spends much of the season escaping, running, and hiding from various groups, but the biggest thing she’s running from is the truth about herself. She forges unexpected alliances and makes some difficult decisions that might lead her to do something unforgivable in the last two episodes of the season. Chalotra is charming and delightful, particularly when a sneer is on her face or she’s yelling at the disgusting Stregobor (Lars Mikkelsen).”
The Daily Beast: “At the same time, it focuses on the turmoil engulfing the northern kingdoms in the aftermath of rival Nilfgaard’s siege, which concluded with mage Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) incinerating the invading army with forbidden fire magic. In victory, the council of mages wants answers from its Nilfgaard prisoner Cahir (Eamon Farren), all as its members—and, in particular, Tissaia (MyAnna Buring)—mourn the battlefield deaths of their comrades. Yennefer is thought to be among those who perished, but as it turns out, she and Nilfgaard mage Fringilla (Mimî M. Khayisa) have wound up prisoners of elves, whose leader Francesca (Mecia Simson) seeks sanctuary and vengeance for her persecuted people.
“A trip by Yennefer, Fringilla and Francesca to a subterranean chamber ends with an encounter with a shapeshifting witch of some sort who sets them on their ensuing paths, convincing Fringilla and Francesca to team up in order to battle the north and plunging Yennefer into an existential crisis.”
Collider: “Unfortunately, other characters like Yennefer haven’t fared so well by comparison, at least regarding any kind of pleasantness, plot-wise. It’s not necessarily spoiling anything to mention that she has, in fact, survived Sodden Hill, but it turns out that there might be some more serious consequences for her after channeling such an overwhelming display of power, even if said power did ultimately turn the tide in favor of the mages and the rest of the Northern Kingdoms. Hers is a long road this season, as she finds herself first in the company of enemies and then some unlikely allies, but always looking towards a certain ambition, and Chalotra’s performance deftly encompasses all of the complexities of Yennefer’s character as her own journey brings her closer and closer to her most deeply-rooted objective.”
The father-daughter relationship of Geralt and Ciri is a highlight of season two
Collider: “It’s a move from the series that brings us up-close on its most emotional plotline — the burgeoning relationship between Geralt and Ciri, as well as his initial reluctance to be any kind of mentor to her — but it also works to the show’s benefit as a whole, because Cavill and Allan are hands-down the most compelling part of this season. Even when The Witcher occasionally chooses to remind us that the Continent of the show still exists beyond the walls of Kaer Morhen — and there continue to be bigger forces at work, many of them with their sights set on Ciri herself — nothing manages to be as interesting as watching the father-daughter dynamic play out between two characters whose paths we spent an entire season (and multiple timelines) waiting to cross.”
IGN: “Geralt and Ciri’s budding father-daughter relationship forms the emotional core of The Witcher’s second season, which is broadly a step forward for the series despite lingering issues with pacing and characterization. Ciri in particular is the star of this season, making her by far the most improved character from the first season. Actress Freya Allen’s portrayal of the Child Surprise is alternately fierce and vulnerable, buoyed by Henry Cavill’s characteristically excellent work as Geralt. She drives almost all of this season’s most interesting developments even as the story steadily expands its scope. Geralt and Ciri’s relationship is the most prominent of the threads that continue from the first season.”
Comicbook: “Geralt and Ciri’s story is the heart of this series, and it shows in every scene they share. Henry Cavill’s Geralt is still gruff as one would expect, but when he’s with Ciri (and even Yennefer), the gruff facade drops, and in its place appears compassion and a need to protect, and there’s a fatherly love present throughout their time in Kaer Morhen.”
PC Gamer: “What’s new to this season is love and tenderness. While Yennefer and Geralt’s love and lust for each other blossomed in season 1, this season brings with it a more familial love. Vesemir regards the Witchers he trains as his sons, and the Witchers embrace each other as brothers. Geralt becomes a fatherlike figure, and his positivity and protection of Ciri is as big a turn-on as seeing him in a bath.”
Jaskier doesn’t appear much in the first six episodes, but it looks like his iconic Blood of Elves scene with Yennefer will be included
The Verge: “I won’t spoil too much about Jaskier (Joey Batey) other than to say he is no longer a happy-go-lucky bard — more like a lover scorned after his split from Geralt. (Seriously, just wait until you hear his new hit song.)”
Collider: “Similarly, we also pick up with Geralt’s once-devoted sidekick Jaskier (Joey Batey), sporting longer hair and an unshaven face as he performs a new hit single that might not be as much of an earworm as “Toss a Coin” but succeeds at being what can only be described as an angsty break-up rock ballad penned with a certain witcher in mind. In a brief but memorable scene, one townsperson makes mention of his daughter being a big fan of the bard’s music — except for one song in particular. “Took me to the fourth verse to understand there were different timelines,” he says, delivering a line that may as well be paired with its own wink at the audience but also represents what feels like the show’s updated philosophy as a whole.”
Gamesradar: “The show’s treatment of Jaskier, too, is bizarre; the bard’s presence is less a difficult second album and more a feeble encore. He barely features in the first six episodes, save for a few scenes. It’s indicative of a show that’s still working out the kinks in terms of balance. There are ways to appease fans while simultaneously crafting a rich fantastical world of players that come and go, but The Witcher hasn’t quite hit that sweet spot yet.”
Consequence: “And Jaskier (perhaps the last good example of the Joss Whedon-esque comic relief character) is still a delight, though he spends most of his few scant appearances with Yennefer in the first six episodes provided for review.”
Season two will continue to deviate from the source material
For The Win: “Something that may have particularly pedantic fans in for a time of contempt is that season two deviates from the books on more than one occasion. Without venturing into spoiler territory, the showrunners have made some extremely bold decisions very early on in a series that has the potential to go on for a long time. In our eyes, all of the changes are justified based on how Netflix is integrating its own stories into this world.”
Season two will delve into the lore of the Conjuction of the Spheres
The Verge: “Amidst all of the individual struggles, season 2 of The Witcher attempts to broach some big, universe-defining questions. At the center of it all is an event, often spoke of in passing, called the conjunction. Essentially, before the conjunction, there were different realms, or spheres, keeping the likes of humans, elves, and monsters separate. But the conjunction saw them forced together, creating the world as we know it in The Witcher. So many things are tied to this event — the sudden appearance of new monsters, Ciri’s powers, the existence of the witchers in the first place — that it serves as the connective tissue for pretty much everything happening.”
Polygon: “Meanwhile, the world shakes, literally and figuratively. Structures called Monoliths are causing natural disasters and introducing new monsters to The Continent, and the disparate Northern Kingdoms must contend with the presence of Nilfgaard without, and unrest within that mostly manifests as fantasy racism towards Elves that may inadvertently fuel a violent uprising.”
On new and returning characters
The Verge: “This season also brings the woefully underused mage Triss (Anna Shaffer) into a much more prominent position and turns the seemingly heartless Fringilla (Mimi Ndiweni) into a surprisingly sympathetic leader. At the same time, The Witcher introduces some key new faces. Among them: Geralt’s mentor and father figure, Vesemir (Kim Bodnia), who is desperate to keep witchers from going extinct, a dark mage named Rience (Chris Fulton) tasked with finding Ciri, and Nenneke (Adjoa Andoh), a priestess who helps guide Geralt through this new (for him) territory.”
Gamesradar: “Kim Bodnia’s Vesemir acts as Geralt’s mentor and is a paradoxical beacon of warmth and trepidation. Fans of the third Witcher game, Wild Hunt, will revel in the Danish actor’s portrayal. Two antagonistic forces – fire mage Rience (Bridgerton’s Chris Fulton) and spymaster Dijkstra (Graham McTavish) also pop in to propel a fairly aimless middle third of the season, while Cahrir (Eamon Farren) undergoes a far more meaningful arc than the one-note glowering crusader he was prior to the Battle of Sodden.”
Comicbook: “Triss (Anna Shaffer), who isn’t just a side character and feels like the character of importance fans know from the books and games. Once she gets to Kaer Morhen, fans of the books are going to be right at home, and I couldn’t help but smile at just about every interaction she had with characters like Geralt, Vesemir, and Lambert. The same goes for Fringilla, whose arc is one of the most surprising aspects of the season so far. “
“As for the other Witchers, a few of them make a mark on the season instantly, with Vesemir bringing a welcome warmth to every scene he’s in, while Lambert’s snark and prodding sets up some delightful sequences between Geralt and Ciri. Newcomers like Nenneke, Rience, Dijkstra, Coen, and Francesca all add their own spice to an already compelling mixture, and the casting across the board is phenomenal.”
Tilt: “It’s a shame the show doesn’t use the effusive Graham McTavish, playing the mage Dijkstra, more as he only pops up sporadically and it’s confusing what he’s even doing, other than talking to an owl.”
Empire: “As for the new characters, Kim Bodnia, so effective as Konstantin in Killing Eve, does a fine job as Vesemir, Geralt’s mentor and father figure in the witchering business, even if his character is rather thinly drawn, and Mecia Simson is charismatic as uncompromising elven sorceress Francesca Findabair.”
The fight between Geralt and the Michelets at the Temple of Melitele is season two’s Blaviken
PC Gamer: “The setting up of things takes time, but the pace quickens by episodes five and six and there are some excellent fight scenes, including a hand-to-hand combat scene in the Temple of Melitele. Geralt single-handedly fights off a gang of mercenaries, using their own weapons against them. The brutality hasn’t diminished since Geralt’s Butcher of Blaviken moment in the first episode of season 1. This season’s slow-motion swordplay includes an unfortunate meeting between a blade and a guy’s face. The fight choreography remains brilliant. Cavill almost glides through the air despite being hench AF, and he makes stabbing people while pirouetting look easy.”
Fortress of Solitude: “Of course, it wouldn’t be The Witcher if there weren’t action-packed scenes and magical creatures and monsters. While we were only provided six episodes for review, we encountered more than a handful of menacing foes for Geralt to face off against. But here’s the funny thing: the best fight in the season is still between Geralt and a bunch of humans. The cinematography is next level and the use of slow-mo at pivotal points is a welcome reminder of how superb Henry Cavill’s action scenes looked in Zack Snyder’s films.”
Kaer Morhen is great, especially Kim Bodnia’s Vesemir
PC Gamer: “Seeing Kaer Morhen and the Witchers together is an absolute delight, and you can see the influence the Witcher games have had on its design. A foreboding keep high up on the mountain, there’s a real sense of family and togetherness here. Lambert is still a prick, and Kim Bodnia is excellent as Daddy Vesemir. He’s a wise and sarcastic old codger who loves his strange little family, but even as he embraces Ciri as his own, he sees a use for her that could put her life in danger. There’s also a nice little easter egg at the Medallion Tree, so keep your eyes peeled.”
Comicbook: “There really aren’t many flaws so far in season 2, but as of right now I would say most of the new Witchers haven’t really added much. It’s awesome to see so many of them, but so far only Lambert and Vesemir feel fully fleshed out.”
On Kristofer Hivju’s guest role as Nivellen
Gamesradar: “Fresh from their embrace at the first season’s end, the new season starts with Ciri and Geralt travelling to see Geralt’s old pal Nivellen, played by Game of Thrones actor Kristofer Hivju, who is hiding a monstrous secret. Hivju gives a performance that skilfully balances the sympathy and internal strife of the source material in a strong standalone adventure that will enrapture book fans with its reworking of short story A Grain of Truth. Then it’s on to more serialized fare as they head on towards Kaer Morhen, the fortress and training ground where the witchers make themselves at home for the winter.”
Tilt: “At the beginning of the season, Geralt and Ciri visit an old friend, Nivellen (Kristofer Hivju). He is cursed to look like a monster, but Geralt and Ciri know being a monster doesn’t have anything to do with the way someone looks. In the end, Nivellen reveals that he did something truly monstrous. Geralt and Ciri do not give him forgiveness and walk away.”
Season two is largely more serious than the lighthearted season one
The Verge: “Season 2 attempts to up the fantasy stakes by focusing on some of the bigger, more existential questions about The Witcher universe, from the origins of monsters to why a young princess’s screams create earthquakes. The result is a show that has a more ambitious, epic feel and one that also loses some of the personality that made it such a hit in the first place. These issues mirror the trajectory of the books, but they feel more pronounced in a live-action series where so much depends on the characters and their performances.”
“The Witcher is full of political intrigue and fantasy drama, but a core part of the appeal is also all of the sex and jokes. Season 2 is missing both. We still have Geralt’s sarcastic, dry quips, but I definitely realized how important Jaskier’s comedic relief was once it was almost entirely gone. It’s cool to see a new side of the character, but I wish he didn’t take all of the jokes along with him. Likewise, for a franchise where virtually every iteration — from the video game to the anime to the live-action series — is closely linked with an image of a buff man in a bath, it’s remarkable how sexless this season is. The Witcher is one of the rare dark fantasy stories where the sex is fun and joyful, rather than frequently tied to violence and rape. Now it’s virtually non-existent.”
With all that behind us, it’s important to remember than The Witcher‘s second season is releasing just a few days, which means we’ll all be watching it soon enough and forming our own opinions. And if these reviews are anything to go by, fans of the first season are in for a treat.