“You can’t outrun destiny just because you’re terrified of it. It’s coming.”
Geralt attends a party with Dandelion and things go awry. Ciri drinks the Kool-Aid in Brokilon. And Yennefer gets into a whole heap of trouble with a mysterious assassin and his awesome spider companion. This episode also clears things up a bit, regarding the timelines.
If the previous episode showed one typical kind of Witcher quest (the action and detective kind) this episode showed the other popular sort of quest; the comedy kind. At least at first. It begins when Geralt’s new best friend Jaskier explains how he has made a lot of enemies in the past, thanks to “hiding his sausage in the wrong royal pantries” as Geralt puts it. He is subsequently hired by his bard friend to protect him at an upcoming ball he’s performing at. Geralt agrees, out of necessity more than anything else. And the Witcher is a grumpy outcast at the very best of times, and it’s great fun seeing him pushed into this environment.
The event, as it happens, is a banquet in honour of Princess Pavetta (Gaia Mondadori). Who is the daughter of Queen Calanthe of Cintra, and Ciri’s mother. If you’ve not wrapped your head around the timelines yet, this episode makes it a whole lot clearer. Geralt’s adventures with Jaskier are taking place way before the events in episode one, and the subsequent things that have happened to Ciri. Calanthe is still alive, Cintra hasn’t been razed to the ground, and Nilfgaard are still friendly(ish). It’s not clear when Yennerfer’s story is taking place, but we do know is jumped ahead 30 years, probably putting her at the same time as Geralt.
The banquet is a melting pot of different factions and families. There are the slimy dudes from Nilfgaard mixing with the rowdy vikings of Skellig. Mousesack is there too, offering wise words to our Witcher. It’s already decided that Pavetta will be married off to Crach an Craite, and she’ll be happy with it as it could “be a lot worse”. It touches upon something the show has been dealing with; the treatment of women in this world. Fantasy is usually pretty crap for women, and the women in The Witcher know it. And they’re not going to stand for it. But sometimes, there’s not much they can do. Especially in the face of tradition. But things take a turn when a mysterious knight arrives. And it takes another turn when we discover that this knight looks like an unnerving mix of Sonic the Hedgehog and Bannakaffalatta from that crap Doctor Who episode.
As it happens, Pavetta and this stranger, Lord Urcheon of Erlenwald, are in a relationship. Thanks to an ancient tradition called “The Law of Surprise”, they have to get married or risk screwing up destiny. The Law of Surprise is a payment one can demand from another, and usually takes the form of “What you find at home yet don’t expect”. Most often, your dog has had a litter of puppies or you’ve got more crops than you realised. But sometimes it can be a child. Pavetta is one of those children, owed to Urcheon after he saved her father. Calanthe is less than pleased about this and things get out of hand, as Urcheon starts fighting off the soldiers of Cintra. Luckily, Geralt comes to his aid, refusing to kill him as the queen demands.
Geralt’s portion of the episode is based on the short story “A Question of Price” from the first book, and it ends up following it pretty closely, after a few changes. Pavetta reveals her extremely powerful gifts and Geralt saves the day, invoking the law of surprise himself. Little did he or anyone else realise, Pavetta is pregnant and Geralt has unwittingly intertwined his own destiny with that of the unborn child. Ultimately in this show, it all comes back to destiny. But Geralt wants absolutely nothing to do with any of it. But, as we watch Ciri get further and further away from Cintra on her quest to find him, we know that destiny is coming whether he likes it not.
As I predicted, Ciri is in Brokilon. And she is greeted by the dryads. They look a little different to how I expected, less plant-like and more human. But they still look cool, and ultimately they’re not all that important in the grand scheme of things. They want Ciri to drink some magic water that will help her forget her troubles, which I’m a little suspicious about. After it doesn’t work, they give her tree sap straight from the source. This doesn’t seem to wipe away her memories so much as send her on some trippy vision quest. We’ll see how that goes, but I’m hoping Geralt will arrive soon. We learn that the Nilfgaardians that laid siege to Cintra have located her and are on their way to Brokilon.
Elsewhere, Yen’s work in court is not going exactly as she thought. When we catch up with her, she’s accompanying an unhappy queen named Kalis through the wilderness by stagecoach. The queen has become a mother recently, though it’s a girl, which is not ideal for the king. After the two women have a short conversation around which of them has it shittier, the coach is attacked by a mysterious man and a kickass insectoid. This is where the show really starts showing off it’s budget, as Yen opens a portal which allows herself, Kalis, and the baby to get out of there. What follows is a cool chase scene that sees them go from location to location, from snow to sand to rain, as they try and escape. It’s a breathless sequence, and feels like something from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, as Geralt goes across time and space towards the end of the game.
But of course it can’t have a happy ending. Yen confirms the assassin was sent by the king to kill the queen and his unwanted baby daughter. And sadly he does just that, slitting the throat of Kalis and stabbing the baby. It’s grim, made even worse by Yennefer’s inability to save the girl, another reminder of what she gave away for her life of beauty. And the monologue she gives to the corpse is a good reflection of Yen’s current thoughts. Her optimism has gone in the thirty years since we’ve last seen her. She tells the dead girl that’s it’s better to die than live as a woman in this world, that she’s managed to beat the game without even playing. It’s a nihilistic outlook but it gives you an idea of the sort of character she is when Geralt meets her. Which I’m thinking is going to be very soon. Probably the next episode.
Another episode, another home run. The show manages to adapt another complicated short story and keep it consistent with the world it’s building. It once again proves that the casting is spot on, for all three main characters (and Dandelion!). And it continues to be very watchable. It’s not like anything else I’ve seen, it’s so…strange. Yet it’s so compelling and enjoyable. Bring on episode 5.
Reviewed by Jack