The Witcher Recap: Make New Friends But Keep the Old

The Witcher

Redanian Intelligence
Season 2 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

The Witcher

Redanian Intelligence
Season 2 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: Susie Allnutt/Netflix

It’s a bad time to be an elf. It’s never been a great time — at least not since humans arrived on the Continent — but somehow things are only getting worse.

As the northern kings consolidate their power, elves are being rounded up by guards and sent off to places unknown. Even Yennefer, a quarter elf, is in danger, which makes her Cahir’s reluctant ally. Conveniently, her former prisoner is also trekking toward what’s left of Cintra, which Nilfgaard has turned into a safe haven for elves. For now, these former enemies are bound at the hip: trading insults and confidences, saving each other’s lives, and generally connecting in a way that might make Geralt a little uneasy if he were there to see it.

Much of “Redanian Intelligence” centers on a pair of mismatched couples: Yennefer and Cahir in Gors Velen and Oxenfurt, and Geralt and Triss Merigold in Kaer Morhen. Before long, Yennefer and Cahir are joined by an extremely welcome face: Jaskier, who has now styled himself as “the Sandpiper” and spends his nights guiding elves safely out of the city.

Despite the constant stream of insults Yennefer and Jaskier blast at each other, it’s a convenient reunion just when she needs it. After a slog through a sewer to avoid the guards and with the help of a few elves — who invariably meet grim fates along the way — Yennefer and Cahir manage to reach safety just in time for Jaskier to get in trouble, which will presumably necessitate Yennefer scuttling right back to save him.

All of this happens very fast. Maybe too fast. It was one episode ago that the mages even learned Yennefer was alive; now, she’s a traitor being hunted across Redania while fleeing with their prized captive. Meanwhile, Triss Merigold — the friend Yennefer shared a tender moment with just one episode ago — has suddenly arrived in Kaer Morhen to hang out with Geralt and company. The Witcher has never been shy about scrambling its chronology and asking viewers to keep up, but it’s also starting to feel like the show is eliding over parts of the story that needed a little more time to cook.

Take our new love triangle between Geralt, Yennefer, and Triss. (Maybe a love quadrangle? It’s hard to gauge exactly how Cahir feels about Yennefer.) Triss’s apparent longing for Geralt developed offscreen, sometime after their brief and not especially romantic meeting in season one’s “Betrayer Moon.” Even Geralt and Yennefer’s tumultuous love story — which drives so much of their motivations — unfolded largely between episodes, with season one showing the beginning and ending and relying on dialogue to fill in the gaps.

Even the show’s friendships are feeling a little muddled. Jaskier is reintroduced singing a song expressing extreme bitterness toward the witcher to whom he once urged everyone to toss their coins. Geralt wasn’t exactly pleasant to Jaskier when they parted ways at the end of season one’s “Rare Species” — but as touchy as Jaskier can be, I’m not sure Geralt’s brief tantrum is enough to justify a “You Oughta Know”-esque scorcher about how Jaskier wants his friend to burn (literally? In hell? Both?).

Maybe something else happened, and we just haven’t heard about it yet? It can sometimes feel like The Witcher is missing a few episodes, or maybe even a full season. (To be fair, the show’s freewheeling approach to chronology also means it could spend an episode or two filling in these gaps anytime.)

But if The Witcher is building its narrative on relationships without fully doing the work to earn them, at least those relationships are interesting. When Triss arrives, Geralt explains that he invited her to Kaer Morhen so Ciri could have a mentor who wasn’t a smelly male monster hunter. But Triss has her own ulterior motives for making the trek. Bearing both physical and mental scars from the Battle of Sodden Hill, Triss is seeking comfort and support. As Ciri eagerly bonds with her, it’s easy to imagine Geralt, Triss, and Ciri forming a surrogate family — especially when Triss asks Geralt to share her bed.

For now, at least, Geralt turns Triss down, and these interpersonal dramas are quickly superseded by the complex mythology The Witcher is building around Ciri. The monsters who are drawn to Ciri — including a particularly nasty one not even Geralt could identify — were apparently unleashed back in season one, when Ciri’s uncontrollable powers enabled her to escape Cahir by toppling a monolith that was holding them at bay. At the same time, Vesemir discovers that Ciri’s veins are pumping with Elder blood — a key ingredient in the mutagens used to create witchers, which were lost in the attack on Kaer Morhen.

This is all building toward something. For now, it’s probably enough to say that Ciri is important in ways that nobody can fully comprehend, though most of our characters are starting to figure that out.

But answers are coming. As the episode ends, Geralt teleports to seek answers from acknowledged monolith expert Istredd, which makes another person who might finally tell him that Yennefer is still alive. And it’s only a matter of time before Yennefer slips out of Oxenfurt and goes back to the ruined city where this continental war truly began. In the long run, all roads lead to Cintra.

Stray Arrows

• Dijkstra, the previously teased spymaster for King Vizimir, gets a splashy entrance when he kills a couple of would-be traitors, including one who has known the king since he was 12. He spends the rest of the episode talking to an owl. (I’ll renew my request that Witcher readers and gamers avoid sharing possible spoilers for future episodes in the comments below.)

• Graham McTavish, the actor playing Dijkstra, has a pretty rich history in genre fare: In addition to starring roles in the Hobbit movies, AMC’s Preacher, and Starz’s Outlander  — as well as voicing Dracula in Netflix’s own Castlevania animated series — he’ll appear in HBO’s upcoming Game of Thrones spinoff Blood of the Dragon.

• Dara, Ciri’s elf buddy from season one, who I kind of figured we’d never see again, is apparently being set up as Dijkstra’s spy within the walls of Cintra.

• A guard at the shipyard makes a bunch of complaints about Jaskier’s latest ballad, which are barely disguised riffs on complaints that critics leveled at The Witcher’s first season. The one that rings truest is probably, “It took me to the fourth verse to understand there were different timelines.” (That said, when the obnoxious guard complains that the dragon twist was way too obvious, I couldn’t help but feel a little targeted.)

• At the risk of provoking a tongue-lashing from Jaskier, “Burn, Butcher, Burn” is way less catchy than “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher.”

• We don’t get a great look at the tentacled monster in the sewer, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s a zeugl.

• The flower that grows in the spots where Ciri spills Elderblood is called feainnewedd. I have no idea if that’ll ever be important information, but the word was enough of a pain to transcribe that I refuse to write this recap without mentioning it.

The Witcher Recap: Make New Friends But Keep The Old