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The Witcher Season 2, Episode 7 Review: “Before a Fall”

The below contains full spoilers for The Witcher Season 2, Episode 7. For a refresher, check out our review of the previous episode, or see our spoiler-free review of the first six episodes of Season 2.

Over the course of the Witcher’s second season, it somehow never quite occurred to me that the Deathless Mother might be this year’s overarching villain. The Witcher’s version of Baba Yaga has mainly stayed in the background, occasionally whispering in the ear of Yennefer and Fringilla while bigger events have transpired elsewhere. In this, the penultimate episode of Witcher Season 2, she comes fully to the forefront, in the process revealing what this season is all about.

In essence, it modifies a plot point from the books – Yennefer being blinded during the Battle of Sodden Hill – and stretches it out over the entire season, adding a brand-new monster for good measure. The rest of the season – Francesca’s elves, Rience, even the exploration of Ciri’s heritage – is more about laying the foundation for next year, making it in effect one big sidestory. In other words, while a lot happens this year, relatively little is actually resolved.

The Witcher Season Two Images

As for whether it’s successful, I guess we’ll have to wait for the next episode.

In the meantime, “Voleth Meir” features a number of major developments for The Witcher’s various season-long storylines. Francesca loses the baby; Yennefer finally betrays Geralt one too many times, and Rience’s accomplice Lydia accidentally burns her face off. But it’s Fringilla – yes, Fringilla – who has this episode’s most memorable scene, using her Aretuza training to paralyze Nilfgaard’s top brass and enact some pretty terrible justice on them.

I’ve been on the record as saying I’m not the biggest fan of Fringilla, or really Nilfgaard at all. She was introduced as a fairly one-note (if dramatic) villain at the end of Season 1, then given comparatively little to do in Season 2. Now, based on the events of this episode, it seems as if she’s being set up as a major spoiler in the next season. If that’s the case, this episode is a good start, as it finally allows her to take the initiative, shedding additional light on her history and motivations in the process. Am I a Fringilla fan now? I think that remains to be decided, but at least she’s moving in sort of an interesting direction.

This is also a good time to discuss Francesca and the elves, whose story comes to a head in this episode. One reason they haven’t come up much in my reviews throughout this season is that they simply haven’t done much, only occasionally popping up to remind the audience that, yes, Francesca was still pregnant. With that behind them, they now seemed primed to seize control of their destiny, with even Dara ditching his Redanian spying duties to team up with Filavandrel and Francesca.

It’s both welcome and necessary to see Yennefer and Ciri together.

Beyond that, I don’t have much of an opinion on Francesca’s storyline, if only because it’s been such a sideshow this season. The Witcher is Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer’s story, and while I believe there’s room for more worldbuilding beyond them, I’m skeptical that it can all be crammed into eight episodes. Between Aretuza, Redania, Francesca, Nilfgaard, and the main character arcs, The Witcher has a lot of ground to cover in any given moment. It’s no wonder this show consistently feels so rushed and frazzled. If the untimely death of Francesca’s baby fails to land, it’s because of that.

Outside of those storylines, the rest of the episode tracks Yennefer, Ciri, and Geralt, with a smattering of plot points in-between, including appearances by Djikstra and Tissaia (who is now dating Vilgefortz, apparently). In particular, Ciri finally gets some quality time with Yennefer, giving her a chance to develop her powers in the same way that Geralt’s training helped her to develop her physical prowess. Yennefer casts herself in a big sister mold, which Ciri initially accepts, leading to a handful of bonding moments.

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It’s both welcome and necessary to see Yennefer and Ciri together this season, as their relationship underpins so much of the overarching story. But coming so late in the season, their interactions can’t help feeling rushed and underdeveloped, particularly given Yennefer’s ulterior motives. It makes me think that the entire Deathless Mother digression was probably a mistake, and that the story would have been better served focusing Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri’s relationship while building the world around them.

Making matters worse is that it’s hard to imagine Geralt or Ciri forgiving her after she knowingly betrays them to get her powers back. It’s been apparent since the beginning of the season that messing with Ciri is the one line that you can’t cross with Geralt. And sure enough, Geralt is pissed, teaming up with Jaskier and last season’s gang of foul-mouthed dwarves to track Yennefer down.

The episode attempts to soften the betrayal by having Jaskier, who had a chance to bond with Yennefer last season, go to bat for her (as usual he gets all the best lines, including, “You could hang portraits off my nipples right now.”) His comments lead Geralt to surmise that she’s under the influence of Voleth Meir, a demon who feeds on rage and despair, making it an extremely literal interpretation of the trauma Yennefer and Ciri have been dealing with this season. But even that knowledge isn’t enough to temper his visible anger when he finally catches up with Yennefer, his sword at her throat.

If there was one thing The Witcher absolutely had to get right this season, it was the dynamic between Yennefer, Geralt, and Ciri. Geralt and Ciri’s relationship has been handled well; Yennefer’s relationship much less so. I get the impression that The Witcher doesn’t have an especially great handle on the character beneath “all that rage… and hair,” as Jaskier puts it. Either that, or the show wrote itself into a corner in an attempt to liven up Yennefer’s story this season.

It’s time for the series to move on to bigger and better things.

Whatever the case, the stage is now set for a big season-ending confrontation with Voleth Meir. I look forward to it – it’s time for the series to move on to bigger and better things.

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