With the recent release of its second season, the Netflix series “The Witcher” gives fans a long-awaited end-of-year pleasure after the release of Season 1 at the end of 2019. The new season was released earlier last month, immediately picking up in the storyline where Season 1 left off. But after nearly two years of waiting, a lot of Season 1 might need a recap, especially with the convoluted culmination of three separate timelines that brought Season 1 together and formed the basis of Season 2.
If you’ve never watched “The Witcher” and are only beginning the series now, here’s some brief background: Netflix adapted the series from the famous “Witcher” novels written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, which have also inspired a series of Witcher video games that have grown a substantial fanbase throughout the years.
The series currently holds a critic rating of 68% and an audience rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, and features the infamous Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, Anya Chalotra as Yennefer of Vengerberg, Freya Allan as Ciri and Joey Batey as Jaskier (or “Dandelion,” as he’s known to video game fans) — all characters that are now loved by many in the captivating “Witcher” storyline. Witchers are powerful and vastly knowledgeable monster hunters who live nomadic lives traveling town to town seeking out monsters to slay to make their income. However, due to their sinister background and appearances, witchers are often shunned and ostracized, never knowing peace or familiarity.
Season 1 is made up of eight episodes that are about an hour each, throughout which, three main characters from three separate timelines come together through their intertwined fates.
Ciri’s timeline: The Cintra kingdom is besieged by the Nilfgaard kingdom. The Cintra queen, Queen Calanthe, sends her granddaughter, Cirilla (“Ciri”), off to find Geralt of Rivia, who she promises will keep the young girl safe. As Ciri reluctantly leaves the kingdom, she is captured but frees herself by displaying an enormous and uncontrollable power that sees her alone and on the run.
Geralt’s timeline (before Ciri): The audience is introduced to the hardy witcher Geralt of Rivia. A sorcerer hires Geralt to hunt down and kill a rogue princess named Renfri under suspicion that she is evil. Geralt comes to empathize with Renfri but still ends up battling her to her death. Before she dies, Renfri gives Geralt a vague but gripping prophecy that lays the groundwork for the rest of the show: Geralt’s destiny is connected to that of an unknown girl in a forest.
Yennefer’s timeline (before Geralt and Ciri): Yennefer of Vengerberg is a shy young lady whose hunchbacked appearance is the cause of severe bullying from her fellow townspeople. Her deformity is due to her elven heritage, a point that even sees her despised and mistreated by her own family. Yennefer’s father sells her to Tissaia de Vries, a sorceress who takes her to a remote place called Aretuza where she is trained in the ways of magic. Still feeling like an outcast, Yennefer eventually finds friendship with a mage named Istredd and commits herself to her training.
Geralt’s timeline: Geralt meets a charismatic bard named Jaskier while investigating stolen grains in a town. The two end up unlikely friends after an ordeal with the elven king who has been stealing the grains, and Jaskier takes a liking to Geralt. The bard comes up with the infamous ballad “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher” that paints Geralt in a heroic light. As Jaskier sings of the witcher’s glory, Geralt pauses and considers the fickle nature of how his kind are viewed by others.
Ciri’s timeline: Ciri eventually finds safety in a refugee camp through an eleven boy named Dara, who she comes to be friends with. However, the camp is attacked soon after and they flee together.
Geralt’s timeline: Geralt battles a strzyga in the Temeria kingdom with the help of the kingdom sorceress, Triss Merigold.
Yennefer’s timeline: Yennefer, despite developing a romantic relationship with Istredd, comes to scorn the mage when it is revealed that he has shared the secret of her elven heritage with the Brotherhood of Sorcerers. This has in turn affected her placement as a sorceress advisor among the kingdoms and has denied her placement in Aedirn, where she wants to be. Stubbornly, she forgoes attending her own graduation, instead choosing to receive her final transformation that fixes all her undesirable traits — but at the cost of her ability to have children. As a newly born woman and mage, Yennefer seduces the Aedirn king to ensure her place in his kingdom.
Ciri’s timeline: Ciri is drawn into a forest by an unknown force; Dara follows curiously behind her.
Yennefer’s timeline: After many years in Aedirn, Yennefer is unable to save either the Aedirn queen or her newborn baby from an assassination. The baby’s death in particular seems to perturb Yennefer.
Geralt’s timeline: In Cintra, Jaskier forces Geralt to attend a royal feast as his bodyguard due to his past grievances with some of the guests. The feast celebrates the betrothal of Princess Pavetta, the daughter of Queen Calanthe. However, the celebrations are interrupted by a humanoid hedgehog creature named Urcheon who claims Pavetta as his wife through the Law of Surprise — a gift that was bestowed upon him after he saved her father many years ago. Urcheon reveals that his appearance is due to a curse, but this does not seem to disturb Pavetta, who readily accepts his request.
Queen Calanthe is not pleased and attempts to kill Urcheon, which causes Pavetta to display magical powers that she had kept secret all her life. Calanthe affectionately comforts her daughter, explaining how she had hoped that these powers would have skipped her generation as they had for her. Calanthe eventually gives her blessing to the union of the two lovers. Urcheon then asks what Geralt would desire as thanks in return for his help, to which he replies dismissively that he requests the same Law of Surprise. Pavetta is suddenly sick, revealing her pregnancy, and Geralt realizes that her unborn child will become his Child Surprise.
Ciri’s timeline: Ciri and Dara meet the queen of the dryads in the forest, where they are kept safe from attacking Nilfgaard forces.
Geralt’s and Yennefer’s timeline: Geralt, Jaskier and Yennefer all meet when Jaskier finds a djinn and ends up fatally wounding himself through the djinn’s magic. An elven healer refers Geralt and Jaskier to Yennefer after admitting that his magic is not strong enough to heal the bard. Jaskier is healed, and Geralt and Yennefer are drawn to each other out of attraction and mutual interest. However, Yennefer’s ulterior motives are revealed when she captures the djinn to try and reverse her infertility. Her plans backfire and the djinn turns on her, and Geralt has to make a wish to save her life that ultimately binds their fates together. Once Yennefer is safe, the two become intimate with each other and Geralt uncharacteristically falls into a peaceful sleep.
Ciri’s timeline: Nilfgaard hires a shapeshifter to kill and become the Cintra advisor, Mousesack, whom Ciri knows and trusts. In this form, the shapeshifter finds and coaxes Ciri and Dara away from the safety of the dryads.
Geralt’s and Yennefer’s timeline: Geralt, Yennefer and Jaskier find each other again on a dragon hunt with Borch (a famous adventurer), a group of dwarves and monster hunters called “Reavers.” The dragon is revealed to be dead, but its egg remains untouched. Borch reveals himself to be a golden dragon, hoping to defend the egg from the Reavers; Geralt and Yennefer assist. However, Yennefer once again appears to have ulterior motives, desiring the rumored healing powers of dragon hearts to cure her infertility. Geralt mocks her sentiments and offers his own thoughts on children, accidentally mentioning that he has a Child Surprise, much to Yennefer’s chagrin.
By the time the truth about the djinn’s wish and their intertwined fates emerge, Yennefer has taken great offense and insists that anything she and Geralt feel for each other is nothing more than the djinn’s magic. Geralt becomes defensive, insisting that her claims are untrue and scolds her for her temperament and her desperate attempts to cure herself. Eventually, the two go their separate ways when Borch tells Yennefer that she will never regain what she has lost and that Geralt will come to lose her despite his attempts to keep her safe.
Ciri’s timeline: The shapeshifter impersonating Mousesack reveals itself after Ciri questions him. A scuffle ensues, where Dara is knocked unconscious but Ciri seemingly escapes into Nilfgaard hands. However, the shapeshifter reveals itself as this false Ciri and fights the Nilfgaard forces. Meanwhile, the real Ciri is freed by Dara, but the young elf chooses to leave her alone and runs away.
Geralt’s and Ciri’s timeline: After learning of the Nilfgaard forces’ plan to invade Cintra, Geralt decides to invoke his Law of Surprise to keep Ciri safe. However, Queen Calanthe is unwilling to hand Ciri over and gives Geralt an unconvincing impersonator. When Geralt sees past the façade, he is imprisoned but eventually escapes. Yennefer goes back to Aretuza where the sorcerers and sorceresses are grouping together to fight against Nilfgaard’s attack on Cintra. Yennefer initially refuses to aid this cause, but Tissaia manages to convince her otherwise.
By the time Nilfgaard lays siege to Cintra, Calanthe wants to send Ciri away with Geralt, but the witcher is nowhere to be found and the girl must fend for herself.
The culmination of all three timelines: Geralt suffers grave wounds and loses consciousness after escaping Cintra when he defends a man from monsters. The man loads Geralt into a cart and takes him to his farmstead to take care of him. Meanwhile, the mages gather at Sodden Hill to make their defense against Nilfgaard. The battle is fierce, with both sides suffering grave losses. Eventually, Nilfgaard gains the upper hand, and Tissaia spurs Yennefer on to release all her magic to help them turn the tide. Yennefer, harnessing years of emotional pain, displays her monstrous powers as she rains fire down on the battlefield. However, she is nowhere to be found afterward.
In his feverish state, Geralt has visions of his mother, Visenna, and has a tense conversation with her about his abandonment and the witcher trials he had to endure. His mother reminds him that “people linked by destiny will always find each other” and implores him to find Ciri.
Ciri ends up being taken to the same farm Geralt is headed toward but has run away into the surrounding forest before Geralt arrives. But when Geralt wakes, he steps into the forest and the two finally meet. They embrace familiarly and Geralt remarks about their connected destinies. Ciri immediately looks up at him and asks, “Who is Yennefer?”
Season 2 of “The Witcher” picks up immediately from this point, answering many of the questions left in the wake of Season 1’s cliff-hanger, but also creating more intrigue as Geralt, Ciri, Yennefer and Jaskier find that fate is not done with them yet.