Based on Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s series of fantasy novels, Netflix’s The Witcher tells the story of Geralt of Rivia and his exploits in a medieval world called The Continent. Sapkowski drew inspiration from Polish and Slavic mythology while also including elves, dwarves, dragons, and various other monsters derived from East European folklore.
In the show, witchers are magically mutated individuals who act as monster hunters for hire. Man of Steel actor Henry Cavill plays the title character named Geralt of Rivia. The novels have previously been adapted into hugely popular video games and comic books. The first season of The Witcher came out in December 2019, receiving mostly positive reviews from critics. It currently sits at a 65% score on Rotten Tomatoes, with most of the criticism aimed at the non-linear narrative. The performances of Cavill and other cast members were lauded.
As we know from the numerous cancellations of acclaimed shows, fans’ appreciation doesn’t rank as high as profits on Netflix’s priority list. It must have blind faith in The Witcher‘s profit-turning abilities because the show was renewed for a second season weeks before the premiere of season 1. Unsurprisingly, the show was a massive hit, and if Netflix’s official numbers are to be believed, The Witcher was watched by 76 million households worldwide in its first month, making it one of the most-streamed shows of the year. Plus, if it wasn’t for the global health crisis, we would have already gotten season 2 by now. But as they say, better late than never. The Witcher season 2 is confirmed to release in 2021, probably in the last quarter, and here is what we know about the show.
Henry Cavill is returning for The Witcher season 2
After winning praises playing Superman in Zack Snyder’s DCEU films, Henry Cavill became the face of another popular franchise, The Witcher. Cavill was unanimously praised for his performance as Geralt, and even the harshest critics of the show had only good things to say about him. From his mannerisms to his gravelly voice and his gait, Cavill nailed every aspect of the character. Cavill is a self-proclaimed nerd and an avid gamer whose dedication to portraying a character knows no bounds. Cavill maintained his buff physique throughout the lockdown period. He also performed many of the stunts on his own and even injured himself while doing so. Cavill spoke with Vanity Fair about further improving his performance as Geralt saying,
“I’m on all the Reddit forums. I’m reading all the reviews. I’m literally trying to get everyone’s information. Some of it is not useful, and other criticisms are incredibly useful. I take it all in, and I look forward to bringing it even closer and closer to Sapkowski’s writing. So for me, it’s about seeing that, understanding it, and working out how I can do my job better within the framework provided, appease and make those people feel comfortable that I do actually understand this character – and love this character just as much as they do.”
Ciri and Yennefer play key roles in The Witcher season 2
Along with Geralt, Yennefer and Ciri were the primary protagonists of the first season. Neither the novels nor the games go into much detail about Yennefer’s backstory, so the writers had to take some creative liberties with it. Ciri started as a minor character in the earlier novels, but going forward, she will become the main focus of the show. Season 1 received a fair bit of criticism from fans for focusing on Yennefer and Ciri’s origins instead of Geralt’s.
But as it turns out, the showrunners had other plans. Geralt’s past and upbringing will be a major plot point in the second season. Newcomer Freya Allan played princess Cirilla of Cintra in the show and will reprise her role in season 2 alongside British actress Anya Chalotra, who plays Yennefer of Vengerberg.
In the first season, Ciri was a helpless girl left to fend for her life after invaders kill her grandmother Calanthe, the queen of Cintra. Unaware of her elven heritage and possessing mysterious powers, Ciri goes on to find Geralt of Rivia. Yennefer was born with a hunchback and faced abuse from her parents growing up. She was taken as an apprentice by the sorceress Tissaia de Vries at Aretuza and taught magic. Yennefer quickly mastered sorcery and used it to heal her spine. It is too early to say, but we might get to see the mother-daughter relationship that develops between Yennefer and Ciri in season 2 itself.
Lauren Schmidt Hissrich is returning as showrunner for The Witcher season 2
Hissrich has had a long working partnership with Netflix writing on hit shows like The Umbrella Academy, Daredevil, and The Defenders. Having no experience with a fantasy show before, Hissrich was hesitant when Netflix approached her to develop The Witcher but soon leveled up and came on board as showrunner. With the success of season 1 and Hissrich’s commitment towards the show, Netflix greenlit the second season, with her returning as showrunner. She has been talking to news outlets regularly, revealing details about the upcoming show. Hissrich has acknowledged the criticism of the first season and is doing her best not to repeat the same mistakes.
“Some people feel that because we were putting in so much story, and because it was very important to me to present Yennefer early on, they felt like they didn’t get to go deep enough into any of the characters. They were trying to follow so much story that none of the stories emotionally resonated. Not everyone feels that way, but I have heard that critique enough for it to sit with me.”
Who else is returning in The Witcher season 2?
Season 2 will see the return of many familiar faces like MyAnna Buring as the rectoress of Aretuza Tissaia de Vries, Anna Shaffer as the fan-favorite sorceress Triss Merigold, and Lars Mikkelsen as the dark wizard Stregobor. Also returning are Therica Wilson Read as Sabrina, Tom Canton as the elf king Filavandrel, Mimi Ndiweni as the evil sorceress Fringilla Vigo, Lilly Cooper as Murta, Jeremy Crawford as dwarven dragon hunter Yarpen Zigrin, Mahesh Jadu as the scheming mage Vilgefortz, Eamon Farren as the Nilfgaardian black knight Cahir, Terence Maynard as Fringilla’s uncle and fellow sorcerer Artorius Vigo, Royce Pierreson as Istredd, and Wilson Mbomio as Dara. Joey Batey is also reprising his role as the lovable bard Jaskier who sang the now-iconic “Toss a coin to your witcher” song. Batey and Cavill’s chemistry was one of the highlights of season 1. Showrunner Hissrich has teased that Jaskier will deliver a few more memorable songs in The Witcher season 2.
The Witcher season 2 will have a more straightforward narrative
The biggest criticism of The Witcher season 1 was that it was hard to follow. Everyone who disliked the show also had something to say about the confusing, multiple, intertwined timelines. It was arduous figuring out the events, and most viewers couldn’t gather what was actually happening in the show till at least episode 4. Showrunner Hissrich did give a logical explanation as to why she adopted a non-linear narrative, “The narrative structure was put in place so that we could tell Geralt’s short stories (the foundation of the whole Witcher world, in my opinion), while Ciri and Yennefer could also be a part of the action. Their stories don’t happen simultaneously, so we knew we needed to play with time a bit.” She said on Reddit.
But fans can rest assured because the showrunner has promised to tell the story in a more cohesive manner in season 2. However, she did mention the possibility of flashbacks and flash-forwards. Here is what Hissrich said to Vulture,
“No. All three characters (Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer) are on the same timeline now. That’s where we ended season one. That’s absolutely where we will pick up in season two. The stories will be told in a much more linear fashion. They won’t all be one story. It’s not like all three are together and happy all the time, but I do want to employ some different ways to look at time series-wide. I think that there is a lot that we couldn’t fit into season one. There are different short stories that I would love to highlight and focus on. We may end up doing those in the future, via flashback, for instance. But no, we won’t have things happening across 100 years at the same time anymore.”
Kristofer Hivju has joined the cast of The Witcher season 2
Back in February, Game of Thrones alum Kristofer Hivju was cast as a character called Nigel in The Witcher season 2. Fans soon figured out from the character description that Nigel is indeed an alias for Nivellen, a monster who appeared in the short story “A Grain of Truth” in the second book of The Witcher series The Last Wish. Nigel or Nivellen is described as a charismatic, witty, and funny man who is cursed to live like a monster resembling a bear. The tale of Nivellen in the novel is inspired by Beauty and the Beast, with his lady love being a Bruxa named Vereena, a powerful vampire. Geralt crosses paths with Nivellen and helps him break his curse. Unfortunately, the story of Nivellen is a short one, and Hivju will only appear in the first episode.
Who is playing Vesemir in The Witcher season 2?
Kim Bodnia of Killing Eve fame will play Geralt’s mentor and the eldest of the witchers, Vesemir. Netflix has released the following description for the character,
“A charming relic of the witcher Golden Age, Vesemir is the oldest and most experienced witcher in our series, as well as a father figure to Geralt. As one of the survivors of The Massacre at Kaer Morhen, a haunting slaughter that nearly exterminated the witchers, he is fiercely protective of the remaining few, who he sees as an endangered community who can find glory on ‘the Path’ slaying monsters.”
Netflix’s first choices were Mads Mikkelsen and Michael Keaton, both of whom reportedly turned down the role. Witcher fans had also campaigned for Mark Hamill to play Vesemir, with Hamill playfully accepting as well. Unfortunately, Netflix never offered him the role. Kim Bodnia has also starred in Nicholas Winding Refn’s Pusher and the Scandinavian crime drama The Bridge. Bodnia is a phenomenal actor, and no doubt, he’ll be great as Vesemir. He won’t be the only new witcher to appear in the show. Actors Paul Bullion and Yasen Atour will play a pair of witchers named Lambert and Coën. Basil Eidenbenz will play Eskel, a fellow witcher and childhood friend of Geralt. While talking to The Wrap, Hissrich said,
“When you start to imagine someone’s family, you also need to understand their family of origin. Sometimes that’s a mother and father, sometimes that’s blood relatives. For Geralt, it’s his brothers, it’s the brotherhood of the Witchers. So I’m really excited to get back in and meet Vesemir, his father figure, for the first time and all of these men that he was raised with since he was seven years old.”
Who else will be joining the cast of The Witcher season 2?
Even though more emphasis will be on the returning characters, The Witcher season 2 has expanded its star cast substantially. Barring a few exceptions, the new cast members consist of lesser-known actors from diverse backgrounds. Aisha Fabienne Ross will play Lydia, an accomplice of Vilgefortz. Newcomer Mecia Simson will play an elven sorceress named Francesca, described as “the most beautiful woman in the world”.
Other new additions to the cast are Adjoa Andoh (Bridgerton) as Nenneke, priestess of Melitele. Cassie Clare as Phillippa Eilhart, a powerful sorceress and master of polymorphy, disability rights activist Liz Carr as a gender-flipped Jacob Fenna, Simon Callow as Fenn’s accomplice Codringher, Agnes Bjorn as Vereena, Graham McTavish (The Hobbit, Outlander) as Sigismund Dijkstra, a spy, and head of Redanian Intelligence, and Chris Fulton as Rience, a mage entrusted with tracking down Ciri. Kevin Doyle (Downtown Abbey) and Carmel Laniado (Dolittle) will play a pair of original characters named Ba’Lian and Violet, respectively.
What will the plot of The Witcher season 2?
Netflix has released the following synopsis for The Witcher season 2:
“Convinced Yennefer’s life was lost at the Battle of Sodden, Geralt of Rivia brings Princess Cirilla to the safest place he knows, his childhood home of Kaer Morhen. While The Continent’s kings, elves, humans and demons strive for supremacy outside its walls, he must protect the girl from something far more dangerous: the mysterious power she possesses inside.”
Hence, season 2 will mainly focus on Geralt becoming Ciri’s guardian and teaching her in the ways of the witchers while protecting her from Nilfgaardian forces who are attempting to seize control of The Continent.
Who is directing The Witcher season 2?
Stephen Surjik (The Umbrella Academy) will direct the first two episodes of season 2, Sarah O’Gorman (Netflix’s Cursed) will direct the third and fourth episodes, Ed Bazalgette (The Last Kingdom, Doctor Who) will helm episodes 5 and 8 and Geeta Patel (Meet the Patels, Dead to Me) will direct episodes 6 and 7. Due to unknown reasons, cinematographer turned director, Alik Sakharov who helmed three episodes in season 1, will not be returning. Judging by the past works of the current line-up of directors, The Witcher seems to be in good hands.
Which novels will The Witcher season 2 adapt?
The first season adapted the first two books of the Witcher series, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny. They were only a collection of short stories, and the main Witcher saga consists of five novels starting from the third book, Blood of Elves. That’s the novel season 2 will be adapting. As evident from Hivju’s casting, season 2 will still include elements from the previous novels.
The Witcher season 2 will spend more time with familiar characters
Season 2 will not be rushing things and instead take a grounded approach to the character development of the trio (Geralt, Ciri, Yennefer). Speaking with Vulture, showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich said,
“One of the biggest changes we’ve made is to make sure that the scripts aren’t too long. It’s a terrible thing when you shoot a story that you’re proud of, and then it’s 95 minutes long and you’re trying to fit it into 60 minutes of television. You end up cutting stuff that you know would be great, or would be important. Viewers are going to find that because we’re not trying to push as much story, and we’re not trying to constantly introduce new characters all the time, and new worlds, and new kingdoms, and increase the politics, sometimes we just get to sit with characters and learn about them a little bit more.”
It makes sense because Geralt and Yennefer become father and mother figures to Ciri, guiding her towards fulfilling her destiny. Ciri becomes a central character of great importance in the later novels. The more time viewers spend with the trio more they will resonate emotionally with the characters and their motivations. As Jesse Eisenberg says in Zombieland,”enjoy the little things”.
Where was The Witcher season 2 filmed?
The first season was filmed all over Europe in Poland, Spain, Austria, Hungary, and the UK. But due to lockdown and other restrictions in Europe, season 2 of The Witcher was entirely filmed in the UK, mainly at the Arborfield studios in London. The filming started in February 2020 with the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, and Scotland as potential filming locations. But that was before the pandemic struck in March 2020. The same month, Kristofer Hivju tested Covid positive, and the world went into lockdown. Consequently, the filming was suspended, to be resumed again in the summer. Even after following guidelines and taking all the necessary precautions, filming was halted several times due to Covid spread on set, and what was supposed to be a 4,5-month shoot dragged on for more than a year.
But all that trouble is in the past now, with filming finally coming to an end in April 2021. Hissrich has assured fans that the prolonged delay has only benefitted the show, and the makers have used the extra time to tweak the script. Netflix shared a behind-the-scenes video celebrating filming wrap. Let’s hope the show is worth the wait.
What’s next after The Witcher season 2?
Netflix has also announced a prequel miniseries, The Witcher: Blood Origin, with the official synopsis as follows:
“Set in an elven world 1,200 years before the world of The Witcher: Blood Origin will tell a story lost to time-the origin of the very first Witcher, and the events that lead to the pivotal ‘conjunction of the spheres,’ when the worlds of monsters, men, and elves merged to become one.”
Declan De Barra will be taking on the duties of showrunner, with Laurence O’Fuarain attached as the male lead. Jodie Turner-Smith, who was cast as the female lead, exited the show amid production delays, and her replacement is still being sought. If all goes well, Blood Origin will release sometime next year.
An animated film, The Witcher: Nightmare of The Wolf, will tell the origin story of Geralt’s mentor Vesemir. Studio Mir, the Korean animation house behind The Legend of Korra, will develop the anime-inspired film. Beau DeMayo, who wrote season 1 of The Witcher and is currently writing the Disney+ series Moon Knight, has penned the script. Nightmare of The Wolf is due to release in 2021 on Netflix.
When will The Witcher season 2 release?
In Netflix’s own words, “We anticipate paid membership growth will re-accelerate in the second half of 2021 as we ramp into a very strong back half slate with the return of big hits like Sex Education, The Witcher, La Casa de Papel (aka Money Heist), and You.” Netflix has confirmed that some of their biggest hits, including The Witcher, will be coming out in the following months. Season 2 of The Witcher is nearing completion and is on track for a December release. A teaser was released last week, and an official full-length trailer will be out soon, probably at the WitcherCon in July. The virtual event is a must-attend for fans as it will likely reveal the official release date of season 2 and feature exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from the show. It will also include commentaries from showrunner Hissrich and star Henry Cavill with updates on the spinoffs and The Witcher video games. Be sure to check it out.