The Witcher Season 2, Episode 6 Review: "Dear Friend"

The following contains full spoilers for The Witcher Season 2, Episode 6. For a refresher, check out our review of the fifth episode, or check out our spoiler-free review of the first six episodes of Season 2.

Just when Witcher Season 2 seemed to be gaining momentum, its sixth episode unexpectedly stumbles. It’s not enough to derail a story that should by now be speeding toward its finale, but it does force me to step back and reevaluate my feelings about this season. It also has one of the most inexplicable and frankly upsetting depictions of horse violence I’ve ever seen. I mean, what the hell, Witcher?

It lays bare some of this season’s weirder pacing issues, which to this point have been able to pass mostly unnoticed. In particular, it finally goes somewhere with Francesca, who has been mostly hanging out in Xin’trea being pregnant and doing little else. In this episode she’s suddenly giving birth, which makes it seem as if the show forgot about her and is now scrambling to make up for lost time.

The Witcher Season Two Images

The Francesca and Fringilla thread has been one of this season’s stranger storylines, having been all but ignored since first being introduced in the season’s second episode. It has mostly served to drive events elsewhere, both in Aretuza and Redania, while giving Cahir somewhere to go. Otherwise it’s been little more than background noise as more interesting storylines have unfolded in the foreground.

Now Cahir is in Xin’trea along with Dara, who looks as if he has aged about 20 years since we last saw him. Cahir’s presence disrupts Fringilla and Francesca’s domestic bliss, as he sheds his beard to return to prowling around in a cape and being villainous. Cahir wants to get back to hunting Ciri. Fringilla cares more about the plight of the elves and her new best pal, Francesca.

Look, I’ve said this before, but The Witcher has just not done enough to make me care about Fringilla, Francesca, or the White Flame. So much of what we know about Nilfgaard has been related secondhand that it makes the entire story feel abstract. I mentioned in my review of the last episode that the Witcher has generally done a decent job of boiling down Andrzej Sapkowski’s mythos in a way that feels digestible and interesting. If there’s anywhere this adaptation has consistently failed, it’s Nilfgaard.

Elsewhere, Geralt is taking Ciri to the temple school where he learned his Witcher signs, in a trip so casual that I briefly wondered if I had started the wrong episode. It feels out of place coming after last week’s emotional crescendo, making it seem as if it should be happening near the beginning of the season instead of near the end. Perhaps sensing this, the episode tosses in a quick monster battle, which is where Roach meets his untimely end. Poor Roach. Not since Atreyu in The Neverending Story have I been so traumatized by a gratuitous horse death.

The momentum that has driven the last two episodes is largely gone.

When Geralt and Ciri finally arrive at the scenic temple school, they’re met by Nenneke (Adjoa Andoh), who plays the wise and learned teacher for this story. It’s all so strangely calm and relaxed after the previous episode, which seemed to be in such a hurry to get somewhere. The momentum that has driven the last two episodes is largely gone, at least in the first half.

The odd mood is further accentuated by the arrival of Yennefer, who has basically cut a deal with the Deathless Mother — the witch in the woods from episode two — to bring her Ciri and get her powers back. Meeting up with Geralt and Yennefer at the temple, she tries to act casual, taking most of the air out of her big reunion with Geralt and undercutting her initial meeting with Ciri. It should hit much harder given that the trio’s relationship is ostensibly the emotional fulcrum for the entire series, but what should feel momentous instead just feels awkward as the group sips tea and… chats.

For me at least, the scene was a reminder of just how little chemistry Geralt actually had with Yennefer in the first place, despite the show’s protestations to the contrary. The two managed to spend all of two episodes together, and while it resulted in what seemed like some pretty decent sex, I was never entirely convinced by Geralt’s apparent infatuation with Yennefer. It was a weakness of both the anthology structure and the abbreviated season, which never gave their supposed romance much room to develop. Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer’s “found family” dynamic is intended to be the foundation for the series, so it’s disappointing to see their first real meeting fail to land.

As usual, Ciri owns the episode’s best scene, which comes when she lights candles with Nenneke in the memory of Mousesack and Roach, and wrestles with the memory of her grandmother. Any good “found family” story needs a toxic blood relation, and Calanthe fits the bill as well as anyone with her love of beer, blood, and racism. Nenneke consoles Ciri and provides the needed clue to advance the story: Calanthe might have hated elves because of a hidden personal connection.

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The true nature of Ciri’s powers has been one of this season’s big threads, and one that has mostly been successful, even if it’s mostly just talk for now. One of the episode’s other sub-plots involves Istredd hanging out with a pair of Princess Bridge castaways as he delves still further into the mystery of the monoliths, which also connects to Ciri’s powers. Lots of important characters sipping tea and hanging out in libraries in this episode, which may explain why it feels so slow at points.

In an attempt to regain some momentum, The Witcher bookends this episode with another fight. Rience — the “fire f*cker” mage who probably should have been introduced at least an episode earlier — tracks Ciri to the temple after a brief confrontation with Triss and Vesemir in Kaer Morhen, bringing with him several thugs to deal with Geralt. A brawl breaks out, filled with slow motion hits and close-up shots of teeth flying out of heads. I think it’s intended to capture the energy of the now-classic single shot fight from the show’s very first episode, but it actually makes me think more of the modern Mortal Kombat’s intentionally ridiculous fatalities (some people might find that description appealing, I don’t know). Anyway, it’s an unexpectedly poor effort for a series generally known for its strong fight scenes, its persistent slow-mo coming off as laughable rather than dramatic.

If the season is ultimately a disappointment, this is the episode I’ll blame.

When the dust settles, Yennefer has run off with Ciri, Francesca has her baby, and multiple characters have made the connection that Ciri might be an apocalyptic superweapon. In that context, a lot happens in this episode. But it all manages to feel terribly disjointed as some plots lag and others rush to catch up. It’s an episode that the show badly needed to get right in order for the rest of the season to fall into place; instead, it fumbles multiple critical moments, most crucially Yennefer’s momentous first meeting with Ciri.

There are still plenty of interesting places for The Witcher to take its growing number of plot threads, but I’m less confident than before that I’ll be satisfied with how it all wraps up. If the season is ultimately a disappointment, this is the episode I’ll blame.

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