We've reached the finale of season one of Netflix' adaptation of The Witcher. This is it. Every tease, every hint, every red herring throughout the season has to be paid off here before Season Two kicks off. So does it all pay off?
Yennefer Goes to War
Yennefer's entire arc this season was all heading here. She and her dwindling band of mages fight at Snodden Hill to stall the Nilfgardian army from invading the Northern Kingdoms after the sacking of Cintra. They just have to hold them off long enough for King Foltest of Temeria to show up with his army. Triss Merigold gained his trust after she and Geralt saved his daughter from the Striga curse.
This is the first time that hardcore battle magic has been shown in any movie or TV show. It's ruthless, nasty, messy and kills a whole lot of people. Fringilla's tactics are as underhanded and vicious as her fanatical devotion to the White Flame justifies killing the sorceresses who were once her classmates.
When all seems lost, Yennefer unleashes all her power and saves the day. Yennefer is nuke. I suppose the writers wanted to hold off the reveal till this climax. It feels a little artificial, as does the faux cliffhanger of having her go missing after she releases her full power. Come on, guys, do you really think we might worry that she might be dead after you spent a whole season building her up?
The Yennefer storyline has been the most mixed this season since her backstory was never fully explained in the books. Her mystique came from the hints rather than a full reveal like this. I just hope that now it's over, the next season can get on with depicting the cool, ruthless Yennefer of the books.
Geralt Gets Bitten by a Ghoul, And Somehow, That Kinda Helps
You might have expected an action-packed segment where he battles his way to finding Ciri. Instead, he saves a merchant from a pack of ghouls and gets bitten for his trouble. The poison from a ghoul's bite would kill any human, but witchers have greater resistance to poisons, but it's touch-and-go even for Geralt.
Geralt spends most of the show in a coma and flashing back to his origin story. To be fair, this is an faithful adaptation of "Something More", the final story in the second book Sword of Destiny. Geralt flashes back to memories of his childhood and the mother who abandoned him. He dreams of Renfri, Yennefer, Borch and finally his mother, a sorceress named Visenna. He pours out his abandonment issues and rage at her abandoning him. She left him at Kaer Morhen, the witcher stronghold where he was mutant and trained. In the original story, she came to him for real to heal him from his injuries and just as mysteriously disappears again.
Things Finally Look Up for Ciri
Ciri wakes up to find the people who tried to grab her splattered all over the landscape, which is standard procedure by now. The kindly lady who wanted to help her takes her in and gives her shelter in her home. Ciri has her own cryptic and prophetic dream as she sleeps, because this is the Fantasy genre.
Turns out the lady is the wife of the merchant Geralt saved, and he's brought Geralt home to recuperate from the ghoul bite. Destiny prevails, and Geralt and Ciri finally meet.
She just has one question from her dreams: "Who's Yennefer?"
In the original book, Geralt first meets Ciri as a child who got lost in the woods. She's stubborn and precocious and he doesn't realise she's the Child of Surprise he was promised. When meets her again a few years later after he recovers from his ghoul bite, there's a greater emotional payoff in their reunion. That leads right into the first novel The Blood of Elves. The Nilfgardian invasion of Cintra and Ciri's escape is from the first novel. The show's writers chose to weave that into what's been a somewhat messy first season.
This first season has been the prologue all along. The next seasons should be a more straight-up adaptation of the saga of the five novels. The writers won't need the multiple-storyline structure that many viewers have complained about. The real show can finally begin.