‘The Witcher’: Geralt Battles a Beastly Old Friend in Season 2 Premiere (RECAP)

Henry Cavill as Geralt in The Witcher Season 2
Spoiler Alert
Susie Allnut/Netflix

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for The Witcher Season 2 Episode 1, “A Grain of Truth.”]

After a two-year absence, The Witcher is back with more grotesque monsters, magic-wielding mages, and Henry Cavill grunts. The first season of Lauren Schmidt Hissrich’s fantasy drama adaptation succeeded due to a hefty sense of fun, with its fantastic fight sequences and sly tongue-in-cheek humor. Based on this first episode of Season 2, we’re in for more of the same in the second go around.

What’s different, however, is the structure. If there was any criticism of the first season, it was that the multiple timelines were perhaps a little confusing at times. The action jumped around so much that it often took a while for the viewer to anchor themselves, especially while also trying to familiarize themselves with the vast array of characters. That’s not an issue here. At least for now, the timelines have been abandoned, with all of the action taking place in the same era.

The action picks up where we left off last season, in the aftermath of the battle at Sodden Hill, where Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) tapped into fire magic to fend off the Nilfgaardians. As Tissaia (MyAnna Buring) and Vilgefortz (Mahesh Jadu) search through the rubble and charred bodies, they come to the conclusion that Yennefer is dead, having sacrificed herself to save them. “She’s gone,” Tissaia tells Geralt (Cavill), who stumbles upon the bloody scene with Princess Ciri (Freya Allan) in tow.

Freya Allan and Henry Cavill in The Witcher Season 2

Jay Maidment/Netflix

As the war rumbles on, Geralt and Ciri head to the safe haven of Kaer Morhen, the old keep where witchers used to be trained. Geralt knows that the Continent isn’t safe for himself or Ciri, especially due to their “other” status. And this is an episode all about how the world fears those that are different, labeling them monsters. But in a world occupied by monsters both real and metaphorical, what is it that truly makes someone monstrous?

That’s the question at the center of this episode’s story, which is based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s short story A Grain of Truth. On their journey, Geralt and Ciri come upon an abandoned village and decide to spend the night at a nearby manor. The manor belongs to one of Geralt’s old friends, Nivellen (Kristofer Hivju), a man cursed with the form of a beast, destined to spend life alone because of his past misdeeds, which he tells Geralt involved robbing a temple.

However, despite his coarse language and looking like the Beast from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Nivellen doesn’t seem like a monster, at least as far as Ciri is concerned. All she sees is a person who is different, just like herself, capable of power she doesn’t understand and never asked for — that doesn’t make someone a monster. Geralt, however, senses something is off, Nivellen isn’t being entirely forthcoming, and it doesn’t make sense that the nearby village was abandoned.

While Geralt keeps watch outside, Ciri’s sleep is interrupted by Vereena (Agnes Born), the monster Nivellen has been hiding in the attic. Vereena takes the form of a pretty young woman, albeit with some freakish eyes and creepy twitching body movements. She tells Ciri not to say anything, but Geralt is already one step ahead after following some snowy footprints to the village and realizing the beast responsible for ransacking the village can fly.

Freya Allan in The Witcher Season 2

Jay Maidment/Netflix

Vereena, it turns out, is a bruxa, a powerful type of vampire that takes on the appearance of a dark-haired young woman, but whose natural form is that of a giant black bat with sharp fangs and claws. Geralt catches Vereena feeding on Nivellen, and a fight ensues. Once again, The Witcher knows how to deliver a frenetic, intense fight sequence, as the pointy fanged monster transforms back-and-forth from bat to human, ducking and dodging Geralt’s sword.

In the end, Nevellin impales Vereena with a spike, and there is a particularly gruesome bit of business as the bruxa rotates its head to face Nevellin and slides her body along the stick. There are declarations of love before Geralt chops the monster’s head off, much to the dismay of Nevellin. It turns out, Nevellin and Vereena were in love, as the beast never judged him. So he took care of her, turning a blind eye to her attacks on the villagers.

After the battle, Nevellin’s curse is lifted, the love and the blood of Vereena reversing his fortune. He returns to his true human form, but that doesn’t make him any less of a monster. In the heat of the moment, Nevellin confesses the real reason he was cursed; it wasn’t just because he robbed a temple; it’s because he raped a princess. He begs for Geralt to put him out of his misery, but Geralt and a disappointed Ciri turn their backs and leave, destining Nevellin to a life of loneliness.

Meanwhile, Yennefer’s situation is similarly bleak, though at least she isn’t dead like Geralt and Co. assume. Instead, she’s been taken prisoner by Fringilla (Mimî M. Khayisa) and what’s left of her army, which is basically the walking wounded. Fringilla taps into Yennefer’s fears, telling her that she won’t be allowed back into the circle of mages due to her use of fire magic. Again, anyone different is shunned, and Yennefer knows all about that, given her past as the poor hunchback girl.

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Lauren Schmidt Hissrich also teases the fatherly role he's taking on with Ciri under his care.

But Fringilla and Yennefer may end up needing each other, as the end of the episode sees their camp under attack and their remaining soldiers killed, leaving them all alone. The real battle may just be getting started.

The Witcher, Season 2, Streaming, Netflix