The first half of The Witcher’s first season has been all scope and sprawl, with three separate protagonists wandering the continent in three different timelines, having their own adventures without ever crossing paths. But there are only eight episodes in The Witcher’s first season, and at some point, this show was going to need to start tying all of these threads together.
Enter “Bottled Appetites,” a mostly stand-alone adventure that takes our two most dynamic protagonists — Geralt of Rivia and Yennefer of Vengerberg — and brings them together for the first (and presumably not the last) time.
It starts, like many of Geralt’s misadventures, with a chance encounter with Jaskier. Geralt is fishing for a djinn’s bottle at the bottom of a lake. The bottle would grant him three wishes, but Geralt only needs one: a cure for his recent sleeplessness. Jaskier arrives, comparing Geralt’s insistence on using a genie to cure his insomnia — instead of, you know, addressing whatever happened that made it so hard for Geralt to sleep in the first place — to putting “a salve on a tumor.”
When Geralt does dredge up the djinn’s bottle, things go haywire pretty quickly. He and Jaskier struggle over the bottle, the djinn gets loose and strangles Jaskier, and the bard ends up needing urgent magical medical treatment. Geralt tries Chireadan, a local elf who is known as a healer, but Jaskier’s injury requires the intervention of someone even more powerful — like, say, a certain purple-eyed sorceress.
When Geralt heads to the mayor’s house with the injured Jaskier in tow, he’s greeted by the mayor himself, naked and babbling about the mistress needing apple juice. Geralt works his way through the house and wanders through an elaborate orgy being performed, via mind control, for the enjoyment of the sorceress herself, Yennefer of Vengerberg.
We’ve spent a fair amount of time with both Geralt and Yennefer by now, so it’s interesting watching them size each other up without the same knowledge the audience is bringing to the table. Geralt is, understandably, both unnerved and intrigued by this sorceress who has engineered an elaborate orgy-by-mind-control for her own entertainment. Yennefer is, understandably, both troubled and fascinated by this taciturn witcher who is immune to the spells that affect everybody else. Both of them, understandably, think the other one is hot.
So if the rest of the episode is relatively light on plot, it’s heavy on sexual tension. Yennefer guides Geralt into a bathtub, because that’s the kind of thing that happens in The Witcher. There’s a bunch of argue-flirting as they size each other up and note each other’s scars, until Yennefer agrees to treat Jaskier’s injury in exchange for Geralt’s “company and conversation.”
Of course, we know Yennefer well enough by now to know that things won’t be so easy. She wants the djinn for herself, and she intends to cure Jaskier just so she can get him to use his last wish for her benefit. She gets rid of Geralt via a spell, delivered in a kiss, that makes him rampage around the town attacking all her enemies, which culminates in Geralt publicly spanking somebody until a local constable is able to wrangle him and toss him into a jail cell.
Geralt rushes back to find Yennefer doing her best to take control of the djinn, and reveals that he — not Jaskier — is actually the one with a wish left on his docket. When he asks Yennefer what she wants, she gives the only answer that would make sense with the arc we’ve seen her on: “I want everything.”
For now, at least, she doesn’t get it. Geralt uses his final wish — we don’t actually hear it, but my best guess is that he’s sending the djinn away — and everything returns to normal. The djinn escapes, and Geralt and Yennefer consummate another round of argue-flirting by having sex on the floor of the mayor’s ruined mansion. When it’s over, Geralt finally falls asleep. Who needs a djinn when you have what is sure to be a not-at-all-dysfunctional fling with a sorceress to rock you to sleep?
• Ciri watch, episode five: The Black Knight hires a Doppler — essentially a malevolent shape-shifter who can steal the appearance and the memories of anyone it chooses — and the Doppler takes the form of Mousesack, the kindly sorcerer who played such a big role in Ciri’s childhood. As Mousesack, the Doppler enters the Brokilon forest and convinces Ciri to abandon the dryads and come along with him. Uh-oh!
• The timeline remains kind of fuzzy here, but Jaskier does mention that he can’t recall if it’s been months or years since the last time he saw Geralt, so a decent chunk of time must have passed since the banquet in Cintra.
• Andrzej Sapkowski’s first two Witcher short-story collections get name-checked here. The first, Sword of Destiny, comes up in a speech Shan-Kayan gives to Ciri. The second, The Last Wish, is the crux of Geralt and Yennefer’s story in this one.
• It wasn’t until this episode, when we spent a little more time with him, that I realized where I’d previously seen Eamon Farren, the Black Knight: as the terrifyingly amoral Richard Horne in Twin Peaks: The Return.
• Lilac and gooseberries, Yennefer’s signature scent, will be familiar to anyone who played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
• Chireadan the elf healer turns out to be in love with Yennefer, but when he peeps through the window and sees Geralt and Yennefer having sex, he’s surprisingly cool with it.
• That’s Declan de Barra performing the original song “The Last Rose of Cintra” over the closing credits.
• If you’re going to buy the magic equivalent of Viagra, I suppose “kumquat” is as good a safe word as any.