Grunt work

- Richard Edwards


UK/US Netflix, streaming now Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich Cast Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra,

Freya Allan, Joey Batey

It may have been a smash hit for Netflix but The Witcher’s first season had its fair share of problems. This much-improved follow-up suggests the writers have acknowledg­ed the criticism – there’s even a sly reference to multiple timelines making things “a bit complicate­d” – and with hindsight, it’s clear that year one was simply a very expensive prologue to the seven-season story The Witcher intends to tell.

Now that titular monsterhun­ter Geralt of Rivia (a wonderfull­y gruff Henry Cavill) has fulfilled his destiny by taking fugitive princess Cirilla (Freya Allan) under his wing, the show settles into a more satisfying serialised narrative, with the season’s clear beginning, middle and end a much better fit for the material than its predecesso­r’s chronologi­cal back-and-forth.

The improved focus doesn’t come at the expense of scale, however, with several new factions entering the fray – including militant Elves and Geralt’s Witcher brothers – and plenty of wonderfull­y inventive monsters to bring the chaos. The lead trio of Geralt, Ciri and outcast mage Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) also feel more rounded than they did first time out, with Geralt in particular afforded rather more personalit­y to accompany his trademark medley of grunts and awesome fighting moves.

The show still has a habit of assuming viewers have an encyclopae­dic knowledge of both Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels and the videogames, and struggles to provide any sense of the Continent’s vast geography. But with more than enough betrayal, political intrigue and shock twists to sustain this season’s eightepiso­de run, The Witcher has grown into a worthy contender for Game Of Thrones’ TV fantasy crown.

Cavill prepared for season two by playing Witcher videogames on the hardest difficulty – “really quite stressful!”, he says.

Settles into a more satisfying serialised narrative

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