The Witcher quickly became hit fantasy show on Netflix, featuring Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, alongside stars Freya Allan, Anya Chalotra, Joey Batey and Mimi M. Khayisa, but for Season 2 (released Dec. 17) showrunner Lauren Schmidt shows us a deeper, paternal side of Geralt, and fixes some confusing aspects of the first season.
“I know that the timelines were a barrier for a lot of people in Season 1, people found them confusing,” Schmidt said to Yahoo Canada.
“The good news is that it was always the plan to go into one linear timeline for Season 2 because those timelines were just a way to get all of our characters on the same page at the same time, and now that they are, we get to see them coming together as a family. So think audiences are going to be relieved.”
The second season of The Witcher has a strong focus on Geralt acting as a father figure for Ciri (Freya Allan), the orphaned princess with mysterious powers. Cavill adds a lot of heart and more wisdom to the character, which was lacking in the first season.
The development of the relationship between Ciri and Geralt are some of the highlights of the first six episodes, which Allan pointed to as something particularly interesting to explore with Cavill.
“I felt an immediate need within Ciri to sort of be quite resentful…because I think she's feeling very bitter towards the world, but it was nice to have those moments of conflict between the two of them, and then to see it grow and evolve, and then figure each other out, and it becomes something more filled with trust and care,” Allan explained to Yahoo Canada.
“We worked as a team…making sure that the scenes felt in line with what our journey was going to be, and also we were discovering as we went along, which I think is the best way to do it.”
Ciri finally gets a sword
But gone are the days of Ciri just running through a forest. Geralt takes her to his childhood home of Witcher training, Kaer Morhen, where he can not only protect her but teaches her how to fight. For Allan, it’s this fight training that she has been eager to take on since landing the role.
“I think I was just excited to be given a sword,” she said. “I've waited a whole season to be able to do all that physical stuff.”
“I definitely wanted to kill every monster I encountered, which I couldn’t do, I wasn't allowed to do that quite yet.”
While Ciri finally gets her time to learn to fight, the weapon Allan actually used didn’t necessarily live up to her expectation.
“Initially I was training with this sword that was made of like a silver colour and they then sort of presented me the sword that I was actually going to be using, and it was just a wooden stick,” she revealed. “So I was kind of like, a bit disappointed in the choice of weapon but we’ll get there in the end, eventually I’ll have a nice sword.”
More mature story, characters in Season 2 of 'The Witcher'
We’re also reunited with Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) after the Battle of Sodden, and while we won’t spoil the trajectory of her character throughout much of Season 2, Anya Chalotra teased that this season we really get to the “core” of Yennefer.
“This season, she really gets to explore the best parts of herself, the most important parts, the parts which kind of give her purpose in life and we definitely reach a point where she's matured a lot,” she said.
“I was just really excited to have something taken from Yenn that defines her and explore what she's like without it.”
It’s that maturity that Chalotra speaks about in relation to Yennefer that’s a theme throughout the season more broadly. There’s a general sense of maturity overall in Season 2, compared to Season 1, not to say that it’s mundane (quite the opposite) but the story seems more refined and we’re able to establish a deeper connection to the characters.
This includes the development of the relationship between Yennefer and Fringilla, with both Chalotra and Mimi M. Khayisa calling out their scenes together as the “highlight” moments of the season.
“We were working in brutal conditions at the beginning of this season, it was cold and it was dark…but that was my favourite part,” Chalotra said.
“It was also my favorite part of filming Season 2, genuinely, because it was at the very start of filming and we just launched into actually this really meaty, beautiful relationship,” Khayisa added.
“To have time to just actually have a conversation and develop the core of the relationship, and the struggles of the relationship, I loved doing that with Anya.”
‘We wanted to make sure that Jaskier was the David Bowie of the Continent’
If you were hoping for another catchy tune from Jaskier (Joey Batey), coming off of the ear-worm “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher” tune, you may be disappointed because while there still is music, it definitely has a more serious tone, which Joey Batey described as “darker,” “more raw and personal.”
“The one thing that we wanted to do is ensure that we didn't do ‘Toss A Coin’ again, we wanted to almost distance ourselves from it and show Jaskier’s constantly changing artistic side,” Batey explained. “The best artists constantly change and shift with what's going on around them, with the world that they're living in and explore their artistic voice.”
“Bowie wouldn't be David Bowie if he didn't do this. So we wanted to make sure that Jaskier was the David Bowie of the Continent, constantly moving and adapting and changing to a darkening world.”
While we get to move forward in The Witcher story with the characters from the first season, there are a few new additions to the cast, including a favourite character from Andrzej Sapkowski’s books and video games, Vesemir played by Kim Bodnia, Geralt's mentor. Bodnia himself is actually a fan of the games but was particularly excited about bringing forward those more emotional elements of the story with Henry Cavill.
“Henry really wanted to go there and so it was so nice and his personality is so lovely, so it was very easy to…open up the emotional stuff in front of cameras,” Bodnia said. “We had some wonderful, lovely talks, especially [about] how we are feeling with nature and how we interact with nature.”
Game of Thrones alum Kristofer Hivju also joins the series as a Beauty and the Beast-type character Nivellen, who adds great humour and a touching vulnerability to the story when we first see him, all behind full prosthetics.
“When you have beasts they often only have one emotion and that is angry, and this is a different kind of beast, he is very, very human and he has all [these] tones in his emotions,” Hivju explained. “Everything is prosthetics but my face is captured with a camera all the time, and so that is CGI, but they took it very seriously and worked a lot to make it…emotional.”
“When I looking to the eyes of Nivellen I see my eyes and that is just beautiful work, I think.”
‘The Witcher’ showrunner says story for Season 3 is her favourite
As we continue through the series The Witcher, we’ll also be following how Lauren Schmidt navigates through and incorporates the source material, something the showrunner said she will constantly go back to.
“We always go straight back to the books as our main source but we know that we have video game fans who have found the show and then we have fans who've never heard of The Witcher before, or who may have discovered The Witcher from the anime film,” she explained.
“We also have to make sure that we are adopting something that suits television a little bit better.”
An example of adapting the books in a way that better suit a TV series, when reimagining the book “Blood of Elves” for Season 2 for the show, the decision was made to give Yennefer a new story, since she was largely missing until she meets up with Ciri in the novel.
“That’s what we will always look to do for any of our characters that we feel like don't have enough material,” Schmidt said.
“The good news is for me, when we head into Season 3, "The Time of Contempt," which is the next book in the series, is my absolute favourite and it's actually wonderfully adaptable to screen, so I can't wait to get into that.”