“We all make decisions. The Sword of Destiny has two edges.”
There’s no better way to start the second half of The Witcher Season One than to finally get an encounter shaped by destiny, and I don’t mean Ciri and Geralt. After decades of their own adventures, Geralt and Yennefer finally meet when the Witcher must reach out for her help in order to save his most constant companion (not named Roach).
It’s been months — maybe years — since Geralt and Jaskier last ran into each other and the Witcher is not in his most agreeable mood. Whether it’s due to the stresses of the job or his own guilt and worry at abandoning his child surprise in Cintra, Geralt has a mighty case of insomnia. In a world where Ambien is not yet on the shelves, Geralt decides that wishing upon a djinn is the best course of action. Like a sick, twisted setup of dominoes, Geralt and Jaskier’s argument sets into motion a series of events that will ultimately entwine Geralt and Yennefer’s fate with a firmness only exhibited by that nasty word “destiny”.
After her own crisis of faith, Yennefer has stepped away from the Brotherhood and her responsibilities as mage of Aedirn. Maybe it’s holding Kalis’s dead baby or other events we’ve not seen but Yen is searching for a way to recover her womb, the sacrifice she made to complete her transformation decades ago. When Jaskier is stricken by the djinn’s power—thanks to Geralt’s unintentional wish—the bard’s only hope is Yen’s presence in Rinde. It seems like a nice bit of coincidence, but this is, after all, a series heavily steeped in the idea of fate. For Geralt and Yen, it seems as if destiny didn’t need to work too hard for the pair to make a connection. It’s always a coin-toss on the chemistry between actors and, despite what their characters are supposed to feel, that doesn’t always come out in the performances. For Geralt and Yen, that is not a problem.
Cavill and Chalotra have a taut wire-tension of unexplored possibilities from the start. From the character perspective, Yennefer frustrates and surprises Geralt like no one has and, for Yennefer, Geralt’s straight-forward and challenging, a vast ocean away from the relationship she and Istredd shared. But as with all mages, Yennefer has her own designs, and when she learns of the djinn, hatches a plan to pull the creature into the vessel in order to gain the power she’s always desired and, in that, regain her choice to bear children.
A direct adaptation of the short story “The Last Wish”, “Bottled Appetites” is a fantastic tale that continues the destiny trope while giving us that missing component in the Witcher’s life: a formidable woman who will challenge him like no one else. Despite the overtones of doom and dread, perfectly encapsulated by Yennefer’s obsessional demand for power (such a great performance by Chalotra) and Cahir and Fringilla’s move to seek out Ciri for their precious White Flame of Nilfgaard, “Bottled Appetites” is a lighter affair. From Yennefer’s hexing the entire town to fall into an orgy of pleasure or Chireadan’s (Lucas Englander, Catherine the Great, Genius) childlike infatuation with the sorceress, this is a welcome departure from the normal serial gloom of The Witcher. Though Geralt and Yennefer consummate the beginnings of their tension-filled relationship in the most Biblical of senses, the unknown remains between them in the form of Geralt’s wish; one he makes to save Yennefer but never voices aloud. Whether it be something that will be a boon or a burden between them remains to be seen.
On Being a Witcher
• Though she’s a major part of the show, Ciri’s on-the-run situation doesn’t make for as captivating a narrative as the others. Though Ciri reneges on her decision to remain in the Forest once ‘Mousesack’ appears, it’s another push towards the Lion Cub of Cintra accepting her own destiny. In part, it’s the reason she so readily goes with the mage despite his uneven behavior; she knows she must find Geralt and even if Dara’s words of choosing for herself and not because she was told something rings true, Ciri is on that path, though there will be some bumps along the way for the young princess.
• Considering a witcher’s long lifespan, I have loved this series’ commitment to dropping in hints at time’s passage. Jaskier’s offhand reply on the time since he and Geralt last saw one another is one of those. And on the mention of the bard, Batey continues his on-fire performance. Even with the excellence of Cavill and Chalotra, Batey is never overshadowed, with him often making a run-of-the-mill interaction into a hilariously fascinating exchange. If there was a voting on The Witcher’s MVP thus far, Batey would unquestionably be up for consideration.
The Witcher – “Bottled Appetites”
8 out of 10