“People linked by destiny will always find each other.”
Not long after escaping Cintra and beginning his quest to find Ciri, Geralt runs into Yurga (Francis Magee, Rogue One, Into the Badlands), a woodsman set on giving the slaughtered Cintran refugees (the same ones Ciri supped with) the respect of a burial. In a sequence that could have been pulled from the game itself, Yurga is attacked by a horde of ghouls, only to be saved by the witcher. Even in the darkness, the action is a visceral fight of frantic slashes and furious fists as Geralt wins the day but is not without injury, poisoned by a ghoul’s bite. What follows is a smattering of images from a young Geralt’s past that eventually leads to his conversation with Visenna (Frida Gustavsson, Dröm), a sorceress who, many years past, set the witcher on his course when she left him outside of Kaer Morhen.
But Visenna is not just a sorceress but the witcher’s mother whose decision to leave him to the uncertain fate of the witcher trials has been a question that’s haunted Geralt throughout his life. It’s a surprising turn of events, considering we’ve never gotten anything about Geralt’s pre-witcher days and while it’s a powerful moment, I’m not certain how much it adds to Geralt’s story. The question then becomes if this is a last goodbye of his past — an extra push towards making that final connection with Ciri — or something to be explored in later seasons?
A near stone’s throw from where Geralt and Ciri fulfill the first step of destiny, Yennefer and a few dozen Northern Mages prepare the defense of Sodden from Nilfgaard’s advance. Despite Geralt being the titular character, Yennefer’s arc has been the most in-depth of any character and “Much More” serves as its satisfying conclusion. So determined to grasp what the universe “owed” her, Yennefer has fallen into a state that vacillates between cynicism and apathy, her initial acceptance of Vilgefortz and Tissaia’s mission seemed fueled more by boredom than any conviction.
Even during the preparations for war, Yennefer doesn’t seem to care for the ramifications Nilfgaard’s rise will have on the Continent. Her indifference shifts once she gets into the thick of battle and witnesses her fellow mages fall around her — at times connected to them as they die. It’s then that Yennefer not only realizes the importance of this stand, but also accepts the truth of her own folly.
Towards the inevitable end, where only Yennefer and Tissaia remain, she reaches through the curtain of strife she’d built between her and Tissaia, admitting that the latter had saved her. In this moment, Yennefer of Vengerberg sheds all anger, pretense, and past pain, accepting the love Tissaia had offered but Yennefer had been too consumed by her past to accept. Tissaia’s final words to “Let your chaos explode” is the permission Yennefer has always needed to become one with herself in every way, unleashing her true potential in a devastating blast of fire that incinerates the Nilfgaardian host and, for the time being, saving the day.
Though there is a sparseness to the battle of Sodden Hill which robs it of the visual spectacle of similar entities such as Vikings and Game of Thrones, the emotional journey is ever present, tethering you to the characters as they face a nearly impossible situation. This isn’t relegated to the participants at Sodden Hill but Geralt’s draw towards the battle as he fights the debilitating effects of the ghoul’s poison. It’s not only a callback to Borch’s warning to Geralt that he would lose Yennefer but also their wish-driven connection, which only adds to the already massive stakes set forth. It’s this conscious effort to nurture these emotional queues instead of the calamity of battle, while at times lessening the physical tension, is ultimately the right choice.
For decades, Geralt has fought the idea that his life was directed by destiny. In “Much More” he succumbs to the truth; that, since even before his time in Kaer Morhen, his life has been guided by that immutable force. More importantly, he accepts the responsibility to Ciri and despite never meeting, the two come together with the fierceness of a long-formed bond. It’s a poetic and fulfilling end that, even with the lingering threat of Cahir, Fringilla, and the Nilfgaardian horde a massive shadow on the horizon, or Yennefer’s disappearance, paints a picture of hope. Perhaps not for the Continent, but for the inevitable bond formed between Geralt and Ciri. And for viewers like me and you, it creates even higher hopes that The Witcher Season Two will be an even greater expanse of the series lore.
‘The Witcher’ episode rating: 9 out of 10
On Being a Witcher
With an uncomfortable amount of flack in the months leading up to its premiere, I maintained a spot of cautious optimism for The Witcher, the majority of which was due my love for Henry Cavill as an actor and his unbridled passion for property. This season blew my expectations out of the water. From the amazing characters and the performances bringing them to life, to an original soundtrack on par with anything seen in big-time Hollywood (make this available, Netflix!), and the marvelous set pieces, The Witcher hit almost every note with a yeoman’s precision. Every series has its stumbles and The Witcher was not without its share, including the missing something of the bigger battles and the antagonists not having a chance to properly develop, the positives far outweighed the negatives. The cast, made up of relative unknowns, was a revelation, with nearly everyone having their moments to shine. The joy and magic of this show has pushed me back into the Sapowski novels and I continue to debate whether to revisit Geralt’s journey in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (my favorite game of the past decade). The biggest boon for fans like myself is that, despite the heaps of praise I’ve given this series, there’s room for improvement and if they build upon the solid foundations set by this first season, The Witcher on Netflix will be one of those series that people are talking about 15 years for now. Almost like it was… destiny.
‘The Witcher’ Season One rating: 9.5 out of 10