The Witcher Witnesses a Terrible Death in “Dear Friend…” and “Voleth Meir”

We’re almost there, friends. As we approach the season’s climax, the pieces are starting to come together. In “Dear Friend,” we watch everyone start to connect the dots about Ciri, realizing who and what she is, or at least what she can do for them, and in “Voleth Meir,” the dominoes the writers have painstakingly set up over the previous six episodes start to fall. Vibes-wise, our central trio finally gets together, if all too briefly, and the found family energy radiates off them in waves. We also get the immaculate reunion of Geralt and Jaskier, some deeply chaotic dwarves, and one truly wrenching death.

 

Episode Six—“Dear Friend…”

Geralt and Ciri are leaving Kaer Morhen, still pretty pissed at each other. Geralt has correctly identified that Ciri’s desire to undergo the Trial of the Grasses is a self-destructive impulse, a punishment she believes she deserves if it kills her and a way to forcefully quiet the roiling emotions and trauma in her mind if it doesn’t. Ciri says Geralt doesn’t care about what she wants, only about keeping her alive. …Ma’am, yes? And??? Parenting a headstrong teenager is never easy, but parenting a headstrong teenager who has unprecedented magical abilities and is also a magnet for monsters, assassins, and opportunistic politicians alike makes for a pretty significant challenge, so yeah, I’d say keeping Ciri alive is a worthy goal here.

But before these two can clear the air (or the river, for that matter), the stone dragon from the monolith (a chernobog) swoops in on the attack, and—

NO

ROACH NO

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

[STATIC]

Screenshot: Netflix

At Kaer Morhen, Vesemir and Triss both know they fucked up bad. Triss, stating the obvious, observes that the mutagen they made from Ciri’s blood is much more dangerous than either of them anticipated. Reince strides in, neutralizes them both, and steals the vial of mutagen.

Fringilla and Francesca take a stroll around the gardens in Cintra (Francesca is heavily pregnant by now–what’s the gestation period for an elven baby, anyway?). Francesca observes that Fringilla is smaller, somehow, when Cahir is around and reminds her that she should be recognized for the good she’s done. Cahir, swooping in unwelcomely on horseback, tells Fringilla she needs to remember the reason they took Cintra in the first place: to get to Ciri.

After giving Roach a gentle and loving farewell (don’t look at me), Ciri and Geralt work together to bring the chernobog down for good. Geralt is, once again, such a good dad, telling Ciri he’s proud of her and that she’s courageous. She doesn’t think the chernobog meant to hurt her, still blaming herself for bringing down the monolith and unleashing new monsters on the world. She tells Geralt about the second group of men she killed, back in season one—“Only four?” he replies. “You’ve got some catching up to do.”

They’re headed for the temple of Melitele, a mother goddess, run by the high priestess Nenneke (Adjoa Andoh). They surrender their weapons (temple policy, like a coat check), and meet Nenneke, who, Geralt hopes, can help guide Ciri in controlling her chaos. Nenneke clocks that some of the phrases Ciri uses require “knowledge that’s been lost to time.” She dispatches Jarre, a student, to take Ciri to the library.

Geralt asks Nenneke what she thinks of Ciri: “I don’t see any side upon which you are not entirely fucked.” (I have known Nenneke for all of 90 seconds but I love her and would die for her.) Apart from her royal status, which makes her a sought-after political pawn, she’s a Child of Destiny: the stakes here are higher than they’ve ever been before. She tells him to find what Ciri is missing and help her find her balance. (Even the most straight-talking high priestess can’t resist being a little cryptic now and then.)

Francesca and Filavandrel discuss how battle training is going for the elves. Neither of them are true believers in the White Flame, unsurprisingly, but they’ll do what needs to be done to create a safe haven for their people. Filavandrel doesn’t trust Cahir—he’s skeptical, but he tells her he’ll do whatever needs to be done.

Reince shows Lydia the vial, but she wants Ciri whole and alive. Reince wants to meet her employer. He’s planning on extracting Ciri from Nenneke’s temple, but she tells him he’ll need a crew.

Istredd, who cannot leave well enough alone, arrives at Codringher and Fenn, Legal Services, to find a very good cat as well as the proprietors (Simon Callow and Liz Carr, respectively). Codringher asks if Istredd is acting on Stregobor’s behalf, which serves primarily to establish that these two are information brokers. Istredd says “I need to know what a witcher, a monolith, and a mysterious girl have to do with Nilfgaard.”

Yen has arrived at the temple and is watching Ciri from the shadows (as a sidebar, do we know… how Yen knew to head to the temple? I assume the Deathless Mother sent her but the details there were somewhat elided). She walks in through a random unlocked door in an attempt to remain inconspicuous and finds Geralt, who senses her before he sees her. It’s an anticlimactic reunion, but in a way that feels perfect for these two loner fuck-ups. They’re both overcome at the sight of one another, and oh, what a reunion kiss. Ciri interrupts them, and Yen realizes her life has just gotten a lot more complicated.

Our main trio are sitting down for a meal and chatting about unicorns. Geralt is ~gazing~ at Yen and listen I just love his face so much, have I said that already? Yen lies that she’s at the temple hiding from the Brotherhood. Ciri very pointedly goes to bed to give these two some alone time—Geralt’s “dear friend” designation isn’t fooling her.

Francesca’s giving birth (in the historically common upright birthing position!) and Fringilla is at her bedside, talking her through it. Once born, the baby isn’t breathing—but Fringilla takes her and cradles her, encouraging her to breathe. And it works! She didn’t use magic, she tells the elves, “just warmth.” Fringilla announces the birth to cheers in the corridor, a genuine smile on her face. Later, amidst the elves’ celebrations, Fringilla and Cahir talk about their aims. Fringilla is trying to do something with a higher purpose, but Cahir is still thinking about Nilfgaard. What will happen when the elves decide they don’t need Emhyr’s help? He drops the news that Emhyr is coming to Cintra, and soon, and Fringilla hears the Deathless Mother’s voice again–“they” will take her power, and her freedom.

Screenshot: Netflix

Geralt and Yennefer have a heart-to-heart about how they’ve grown and changed since last they saw each other in season one, at Cairngorn. She tells him he hurt her, and he says he knows. He tells her she was part of changing his mind about claiming Ciri. She tells him about Jaskier, and Reince seeking information about Geralt. He can tell she’s nervous and asks again why she’s here. She’s trying to heal wounds, she says. He asks if she’s still trying to have a child and she says no. Anya Chalotra’s facial expressions here are a wonderful bit of character work: the ability to bear a child was Yen’s driving purpose in the first season, but it’s been pushed out of her mind by her need to reclaim her magic. At the same time, she is trying to “have a child,” in a sense–if by “have” we mean “steal” and if by “child” we mean “Ciri.”

Ciri finds a book with Ithlinne’s prophecy and recognizes it as the words she recited at the end of season one (“Verily I say unto you: the time of the sword and the ax is nigh”), but she’s distracted by blood on the floor—Jarre’s been wounded by Reince and his horrible little posse. Geralt and Yen come to her rescue—Yen takes Ciri and Geralt tells her he’ll find them when the fight is done. This fight scene is a LOT of fun, especially since Geralt doesn’t have any weapons and has to improvise with the bits and pieces of furniture and magical detritus at hand.

Yen and Ciri are trapped in an adjoining room, with Reince doing his best to burn through the door. Yen teaches her the first spell she learned at Aretuza, and coaches her through opening a portal. Geralt, having taken care of the rest of the posse, arrives just in time to see Yen walking through and implores her to stop with SUCH PAIN in his voice. She replies “I wish I could.”

Codringher, Fenn, and Istredd determine that the elves built a warrior to destroy, a curse cast on Calanthe’s bloodline. Calanthe, it seems, hid her elven heritage because she knew she was a carrier for this warrior: Ciri.

Triss portals in to see Tissaia at Aretuza, panicked. She tells Tissaia Ciri could destroy the world.

 

Spare Change:

  • Geralt grime check: He has clearly not had a bath in a minute; we’re backsliding, grunge levels increasing by the minute.
  • Apparently Geralt’s heartwrenching farewell prayer for Roach was of Henry Cavill’s own invention.
  • Ciri’s dry little “I do in fact read” remark to Geralt when he’s impressed she knows who Melitele is is a nice little echo of Geralt’s own “Yes, I’ve read books before” in the previous episode.
  • Codringher and Fenn (and their office, cat included) have a pronounced whimsical Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett vibe that I very much enjoy—you wouldn’t be surprised to see Aziraphale or the Librarian wander out of the dusty stacks.
  • The interior of the temple of Melitele is equal parts the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the hippest LA yoga studio you’ll never be able to afford.
  • Geralt introduces Yen to Ciri as “my dear friend,” which, judging by the look on her face, Yen is 10000% never gonna let him live down.
  • Ciri lighting candles for Roach and Mousesack is a nice moment—she hasn’t had a second to grieve her extensive losses.
  • Dijkstra’s owl is the go-between allowing Dara to report back to Redania—so Dara also gets some time pondering the owl this episode.
  • Simon Callow, who plays Codringher here, has a great track record in genre TV—he played Charles Dickens in a couple episodes of Doctor Who as well as the Duke of Sandringham on Outlander, among others.

 

Episode Seven—“Voleth Meir”

Geralt is frantic, looking to retrieve his weapons and pursue Yen and Ciri, but Nenneke insists on giving him some straight talk before he leaves about how Ciri needs more than he can give her. She asks if he believes Yen means Ciri harm. “I wish Yennefer knew of the balance you spoke of,” he replies, “But I learned my lesson about Yennefer and wishes.” Brutal. Nenneke opens a portal for him.

Yen and Ciri have portaled to the cabin of the family who took Ciri in at the end of the first season–the same place Ciri had her first dream about Yen. They find the family burned to a crisp, which Yen identifies as Reince’s work. (Poor Ciri—this really is an insane amount of trauma for a teenage girl.) Ciri’s afraid Reince might have captured Geralt, but Yen tries to reassure her that if that’s the case, they’ll keep him alive to try to lure her to Cintra. They set off for Cintra (which, of course, is where the Deathless Mother wanted her to bring Ciri).

In Cintra, Hake, one of the generals, says he suspects Redania will have sent a spy, and he’s salty about the number of refugees pouring into Cintra from a security standpoint. Fringilla says they need to rebuild their army, and Cahir agrees, but they need to ensure soldiers’ allegiance—the elves have been unreliable about showing up for training. Hake is a horrendous dick who’s started executing suspected spies, and Cahir is on edge due to Emhyr’s imminent arrival, and they’re both threatening to steamroll Fringilla.

Screenshot: Netflix

Jaskier is in a cell, singing to some mice and needling the guard, accompanying himself on the spoons, because you simply can’t keep a good bard down. In strides Geralt, knocking out the guard and unlocking the cell, and it’s not a drill, folks, THE BOYS ARE BACK! IN! TOWN!

He greets Geralt with a “Fuck it,” and a hug, and Geralt replies “I’ve missed you too.”

Francesca and Filavandrel are discussing what to name the baby and settle on Fiona, which a) okay now they’re just fucking with me and b) Fiona was one of the names on the Cintran royal family tree, so there’s a connection there. Fringilla bursts in, trying to prove her backbone, because Hake and Cahir have clearly gotten to her, and takes the elven leaders to task for the elves’ failure to show up for training. Filavandrel is immediately prickly, telling her he never intended to fight for Nilfgaard (which, fair!), and that the birth of his baby makes him want to focus on rebuilding, rather than dying in someone else’s war. Francesca, ever canny, clocks that this is really Cahir talking, not Fringilla. Fringilla says the bargain they made in the Deathless Mother’s hut is working, but will only keep working if their bond remains strong. Francesca understands, but motherhood has changed her priorities—it’s family above all else now.

Screenshot: Netflix

Tissaia and Vilgefortz have successfully taken over co-leadership of the Brotherhood, but a visit from Dijkstra threatens to undermine their newly-claimed power. Dijkstra tells the council of the newborn elf child, which sends Stregobor and Artorius into paroxysms. “Only you could see a threat where everyone else sees a baby,” Tissaia says to Stregobor. Dijkstra also tells Tissaia that he knows Triss has returned from “Temeria” (really Kaer Morhen, of course) by way of sowing discord among the mages.

Reince is back with Lydia, telling her of the fight with Geralt. He still wants to meet her employer, and plays mind games with her about whether or not she really has her boss’s ear (it’s too easy with this woman). He gives her the vial of Ciri’s blood so she can use it for blood tracing purposes, but when she tries to use it, it kills her.

Screenshot: Netflix

Jaskier and Geralt arrive at a hot spring and Jaskier is eager for a bath (“I’m beginning to smell like a Nilfgaardian’s ballsack”). Jaskier gets his shirt off and oh my god he’s RIPPED, who knew??? I guess smuggling elves and shredding ballads day in and day out is good for the muscle tone. They catch each other up on what’s happened since they split at Cairngorn—Jaskier tells Geralt about how Yen saved his life and that she lost her magic, and Geralt is alarmed. “She muttered something about forests and mothers and huts, and then she just sort of disappeared.” “Turn your back to the forest, hut hut?” Geralt says, realizing with horror that she’s in league with the Deathless Mother (who I apparently should have properly been calling the Voleth Meir this whole time). She’s a demon who feeds on pain, and the first witchers entombed her in her hut (remember also that Vesemir told Ciri a version of this story in “Kaer Morhen”), and Geralt knows now why Yen has taken Ciri. They need to get to Cintra as soon as possible.

They meet up with the dwarfs from season one’s “Rare Species”—their company is providing security on the road, but they’d much rather tag along with Geralt on another adventure (shades of The Hobbit here). They give him a spare horse—he says “you’re not my usual type, but you’ll do.” A new Roach!

Ciri and Yen find a destroyed bridge, and, with no time to get to the next one, Yen uses this as a magical teaching opportunity for Ciri. As Ciri tries to work the spell, she’s straining, trying so hard that she starts bleeding from the eyes, and Yen pleads with her to stop, but she’s stubborn. When she fails, she screams in frustration, and just like that, they find themselves on the other side of the river. Ciri apologizes, but Yen, impressed, says “When you have power like this, never apologize.”

Screenshot: Netflix

Tissaia has told Vilgefortz about Ciri, and Vilgefortz is being extremely normal about it, demanding all the information she and Triss have. He says Ciri has the potential to end all war forever, unless she falls into the wrong hands (sounds like bullshit to me, but okay).

Fringilla portals in to talk to her uncle Artorius, who’s pissed she dares to show her face in Aretuza. She says she’s there as family, not as an ambassador. She may need to get out of her current situation, and quickly: she can’t get the elves to fight for Nilfgaard and is afraid of Emhyr’s reaction. Artorius registers that the birth of Francesca’s baby is actually a good thing for the north, as it’s made the elves less inclined to give their lives for Nilfgaard. He speculates on how she could be welcomed back into the fold of the Brotherhood and says dismissively that she never should’ve thought she could effect any change in Nilfgaard. Her face hardens.

In Cintra, Dara’s talking to Dijkstra’s owl. He’s uncomfortable about spying for Redania and doesn’t like betraying his people—he wants out, and wants to focus on rebuilding with the elves.

Over dinner, Hake is gloating: he’s so certain that Emhyr will be disappointed in Fringilla’s leadership that he expects Emhyr will have her executed. Fringilla walks in and freezes the entire scene–she’s paralyzed everyone with nightshade and walks up and down the line of generals, and then pulls out a knife and STABS ONE OF HAKE’S EYES OUT OH MY GOD. The Voleth Meir’s voice encourages her, telling her to cement her power, and she walks up and down the table, nonchalantly and brutally killing the diners one by one. (What a setpiece!) She tells Cahir she’s never going back to the dungeon, and leaves Cahir alive with express instructions to tell Emhyr she was justified in killing the traitorous generals.

Yen and Ciri have arrived in Cintra, and they’re a stone’s throw from the shattered monolith. Ciri tells Yen that she was the one who broke the monolith and Yen has a very clear moment of “Oh fuck, I may very well be in over my head on this one.” Yen tells Ciri to trust in her magic above all other things, but Ciri’s afraid that chaos controls her rather than the other way around.

The closer they get, the more Yen hears the Voleth Meir’s voice. Ciri touches her arm, and they speak telepathically: “That door mustn’t be opened. You know that.” Yen, who’s been slowly realizing that she’s made a horrible mistake, says she thought she had to do this, but that it’s not too late for Ciri to run. Yen clearly wants to make things right but Ciri says “I don’t trust you” and the power in her words words opens another chasm in the ground between them, one that stretches right to the walls of the keep. Soldiers pour out of the city and rush them, and both women fight but one has no magic and the other is an untrained teenager. In rushes Geralt in full mama bear mode, if mama bear had a scrappy bard and a troupe of chaotic neutral dwarves behind her.

Geralt orders Jaskier and the dwarves to take Ciri to Kaer Morhen. Yarpen asks, “The girl—yours?” Geralt, looking directly into Yennefer’s eyes, confirms: “Mine.” I would not get between this man and his daughter for any amount of money in the world.

Geralt commands Yen to say the words that conjure the Voleth Meir. As she does so, Francesca has a nightmare of an assassin killing her baby and wakes to find Fiona dead, cradled by a distraught Filavandrel. Their anguish allows the Voleth Meir to escape—which, Geralt says, shouldn’t be possible, unless she’s had her fill of pain and desperation.

 

Spare Change:

  • Geralt grime check: Yarpen points out that Geralt smells like shite, so there’s your answer.
  • Yen’s insistence on referring to Reince as “fire fucker” is so funny to me.
  • I really hope we get more time with Nenneke in the future—she’s good for Geralt and a delight to watch.
  • Tissaia and Vilgefortz are lovers, and you know what, good for her, he’s a fox, stupid little manbun notwithstanding.
  • “Good sir, you would not know talent if I shoved it up your—Geralt!” Joey Batey’s delivery remains unparalleled.
  • We get a nice scene of Yen and Ciri sizing each other up with regards to a certain white-haired slab of Kobe beef. Ciri says “He’s the father I never had. When I’m with him, I don’t feel alone anymore.” She asks Yen what was between her and Geralt, and Yen replies “Longing, regret, hope, and fear.” Ciri: “So you love him too.”
  • Shirtless Jaskier is a very nice surprise here but once again: whither shirtless Geralt???? I need sustenance, please.
  • A short scene between Dijkstra and Vizimir illustrates how little Vizimir cares for the political intricacies of the Continent. It’s Dijkstra who’s driving the bus here.
  • Jaskier advocating for Yen (sandwiched between insults, of course) is an interesting moment—they had a real connection a few episodes ago. He observes that people do stupid things when they don’t believe they have any other choice.

[Please note that comments will be temporarily closed over the holiday break, but will be open for discussion on Monday, January 3rd.]

Emily Hughes wants to talk to you about scary books. As the site editor for TorNightfire.com, she’s dedicated to bringing the good word about horror to the masses. You can find her writing at Tor.com, Electric Lit, Thrillist, and Brooklyn Magazine. Formerly the editor of Unbound Worlds, she now writes an occasional newsletter about horror fiction and tweets bad puns @emilyhughes.

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