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The Witcher Season 2, Episode 3 Review: “What Is Lost”

The following contains full spoilers for The Witcher Season 2, Episode 3. For a refresher, see our review of the second episode, or read a spoiler-free review of the first six episodes of Season 2.

I’ve watched close to a season and a half of The Witcher now, and in many ways I’m still not sure what to make of Yennefer of Vengerberg. Her current arc is best summed up in this episode’s conversation between Yennefer and her teacher, Tissaia, who quickly realizes that her favorite student has lost her powers.

“From the moment we met, you were trying to fill a void,” Tissaia says gently. “Power couldn’t do it even when you had it at your fingertips. What makes you think it’s the answer now?”

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“Because it’s all I have left,” Yennefer says tearfully.

This is meant to be the next part of Yennefer’s origin story – a sort of meditation on how women are made to balance ambition and family. With Yennefer deciding to embrace power at the end of the first season, the story now seems interested in seeing how she reacts when her magic is taken away from her, the ultimate point likely being that she doesn’t need either to be worthy of self-respect. It’s an interesting character arc on the face of it, but The Witcher has only occasionally managed to put me in her corner, even when her actions seem (mostly) justified.

Witness the third episode of Season 2, which features yet another major turn for our favorite witch. Fresh off the reveal that she lost her powers at Sodden Hill, Yennefer is back with Tissaia and the rest of the mages in this episode. While she’s seemingly no worse for wear after her experience with the elves, Yennefer is quietly hiding that she can no longer perform magic. She can’t even heat up the bath for an impromptu mage hot tub party. Tissaia, of course, immediately realizes the truth about her protégé — Tissaia’s mother-daughter relationship with Yennefer might be the most authentic one in the show — and gets her to confess what happened.

With Tissaia unable to help her get her powers back, and Aretuza treating her as a potentially unstable and dangerous element, she decides to trust the almost certainly evil Deathless Mother from the previous episode. I cannot foresee any possible way that this will go badly for Yennefer. None at all.

If Yennefer were in One Piece, this would be considered a filler arc.

It’s a painfully on-the-nose approach to Yennefer’s character development, and you can practically hear the episode groaning as the story strains to get Yennefer away from Aretuza and on the path toward what one presumes will be her reunion with Geralt. To that end, the loss of her power seems destined to be an apparently season-long inconvenience – one that keeps her retreading established ground as the show tries to move her wherever it needs her to go. If Yennefer were in One Piece, this would be considered a filler arc.

Elsewhere, we’re treated to a very perfunctory update on Francesca as a reminder that she teamed up with Fringilla. They’re all in what used to be known as Cintra now, and Nilfgaard’s rank and file apparently aren’t too happy about it. The Northern Kingdoms, meanwhile, now distrust the elves more than ever. All of this is important, but the bulk of it is conveyed in lengthy exposition dumps in grand council meetings. It would be helpful if The Witcher had an interesting antagonist to liven things up – a Tywin Lannister, perhaps – but Stregobor is the best the show can offer right now. Maybe Djikstra, the spymaster who is casually name-dropped in the episode’s finale, can fill that role?

Over in Kaer Morhen, Geralt is now training Ciri, who’s sporting new clothes and a new attitude. Now she growls and says “shit” as she smacks a straw dummy with a wooden sword. She tries to banter with Geralt and the rest of the Witchers. Having spent most of the series to this point as a passenger, she’s now officially Action Ciri. It wasn’t the smoothest of transitions, but it’s starting to feel like she’s coming into her own.

Her growth is put to the test by Lambert, who is increasingly cast as an antagonist within Kaer Morhen. When Geralt is busy, Lambert takes Ciri to a proper Witcher obstacle course. It’s appropriately intimidating, replete with spinning blades and other nasty implements. Ciri bravely steps into the obstacle course… and immediately gets smashed to the ground.

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“Our world is a dark one. Full of dangers. Is that what you want?” Lambert asks melodramatically.

While Ciri is getting brutalized in the training grounds, Geralt and Vesemir are trying to ascertain how their comrade was turned into a Tree Monster — apparently an uncommon occurrence with a Leshy. There’s a tender scene between the two where they put Eskel to rest, and Vesemir hints at how much he cares about the Witchers in his charge. Geralt, meanwhile, is sad about losing Eskel, with whom he was apparently close despite their testy exchanges in the previous episode.

It’s Ciri’s story that ultimately stands out the most at Kaer Morhen.

It’s Ciri’s story that ultimately stands out the most at Kaer Morhen, as she demonstrates her toughness in tackling Lambert’s obstacle course and bonds with Geralt as he dresses her wounds. These are the scenes that show Ciri coming into her own, earning the respect of the Witchers in the process. Even Geralt’s “so close” after she barely fails the obstacle course feels more paternal than critical. Later, he bandages her wounds, reminding her that great fighters have a tendency to end up in cemeteries.

Ciri’s training culminates in an encounter with the Leshy that turned Eskel, which lasts approximately 30 seconds before a bigger, stronger monster unceremoniously slices it in half. This is the third episode and counting with some kind of monster encounter, which I think officially constitutes a Trend. This battle turns out to be less about flashy Witcher signs and swordplay, and more about Ciri having the wherewithal to run and hide, showing that she’s slowly taking Geralt’s admonishments to heart.

The episode ends with Yennefer bailing out of Aretuza and hitting the road with Cahir, which is the sort of odd-couple pairing that should make for some decent character moments, contrived or not. It’s a mark of how much more conventional The Witcher is compared to its first season, which tended to stick to standalone storytelling while skipping erratically around the timeline. As I’ve mentioned before, it makes the overall arc more focused and easier to follow, but it’s also more prone to falling back on Netflix’s standard cliffhanger playbook — something it’s done twice now.

“Free yourself. Reclaim your power. Simply say the words,” Yennefer hears echoing in her mind as she prepares to free Cahir. How she follows through on those words in the episodes to come will say a lot about how this season – which seems destined to once again be dominated by Yennefer and Ciri – will ultimately unfold. But right now, I know which plotline I prefer.

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