Two years after its debut “The Witcher” returns to Netflix, looking every bit as brawny as its maiden flight and less messy structurally. Although the series developed a solid following (unlike some of the streamer’s other recent fantasy efforts that met the executioner’s ax), the show remains uneven and somewhat impenetrable to anyone not truly invested in it, which isn’t helped by the long layoff.
The new season operates on parallel tracks, following the travels of the title character, Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia, along with Ciri (Freya Allan), a princess who figures prominently in the fate of this fantasy world without fully understanding her destiny. The two finally came together as the first season closed, with the progression of that relationship becoming a central facet of season two.
Seeking safety and sanctuary, Geralt takes Ciri to his childhood home of Kaer Morhen, where she begin testing her powers. Elsewhere, there’s Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), who is facing her own challenges and crises, ensuring that the series continues to operate on separate fronts without clearly delineating where these convergent roads will end up. (Six of the eight episodes were made available to preview.)
“The Witcher” again presents a rich visual palette, in a world filled with magic and occupied by elves, demons and monsters as well as humans. Yet there’s still a plodding feel to the pacing, and little to break a sense of indifference toward characters outside the central trio.
The final episodes might rectify that, not that it really matters. Netflix has deemed the series a success, no small feat after its high-profile flops with other expensive sci-fi/fantasy bets this year, including “Cowboy Bebop” and “Jupiter’s Legacy,” neither of which earned a second season.
The recent onslaught of big streaming series with literary underpinnings (“The Wheel of Time” and “Foundation” among them) has fueled inevitable speculation about unearthing another “Game of Thrones,” which isn’t particularly fair.
With sword in hand, Geralt and company have carved out their own niche. As for making comparisons beyond that, let’s just say his eyes aren’t the only pale thing about “The Witcher.”
“The Witcher” begins its second season Dec. 17 on Netflix.