The first season of Netflix’s live adaptation of The Wizard it was a careful balancing act. Somehow, it was the service’s response to game of Thrones, a gory fantasy epic with a story that spanned a continent (and many years). But, according to the source material, it was also a lot of fun. There were creepy monsters to hunt in every episode, great comic relief in the form of an annoying bard, as well as steam room scenes and an entire orgy. I had everything.
Season 2 attempts to up the fantasy stakes by focusing on some of the biggest and most existential questions about The Wizard universe, from the origins of monsters to why the screams of a young princess create earthquakes. The result is a show that has a more ambitious and epic feel and also loses some of the personality that made it a hit in the first place. These issues mirror the trajectory of the books, but feel more pronounced in a live-action series where a lot depends on the characters and their performances.
Note: This review is based on the first six episodes of The Wizard season 2 (there are eight in total) and contains light spoilers.
The story begins right after the events of the final episode of season 1, in which two major things happened. One, Geralt (a monster hunter mutant played by Henry Cavill) and his ward Ciri (a princess with strange powers played by Freya Allan) finally found each other after spending the last eight episodes seemingly running in parallel across an entire continent. At the same time, a great battle ended after the wizard, and Geralt’s on-and-off love interest Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) channeled some dark forces to temporarily defeat an entire army. These events left the cast in some interesting places, which is right where season 2 begins.
Many things are happening. At first Geralt, always the lone wolf, is now a father figure and takes Ciri with him to Kaer Morhen, a secluded place in the mountains that serves as a base of operations for warlocks, to keep her safe and plot their next. movement. Ciri takes this opportunity to train. After spending the first season almost entirely as a victim on the run, he wants to become strong enough to defend himself. Yennefer, meanwhile, is a prisoner of war who is now fighting a very personal loss.
In the midst of all the individual matches, season 2 of The Wizard tries to address some important questions that define the universe. At the center of all this is an event, often discussed in passing, called a conjunction. Essentially, prior to the conjunction, there were different realms or spheres that kept humans, elves, and monsters apart. But the conjunction saw them forced to come together, creating the world as we know it in The Wizard. So many things are related to this event – the sudden appearance of new monsters, Ciri’s powers, the existence of warlocks in the first place – that it serves as the connective tissue for almost everything that happens. (If you’re looking for even more backstory, I highly recommend the animated prequel movie. Nightmare of the wolf, which provides great context for the story of the witches and monsters).
It’s interesting to see these bigger questions at stake, but the best part about this complicated setup is that it allows you to see the main cast from new perspectives. Geralt has become such a father, focused almost entirely on Ciri’s well-being, even if it means annoying the other warlocks who just want to kill things and sleep through the winter. Ciri puts a dramatic turn on an incredibly determined budding warrior, while Yennefer is forced to deal with life after losing a defining part of her life. I’m not going to spoil too much about Dandelion (Joey Batey) other than saying that he’s no longer a carefree bard, more like a despised lover after his split from Geralt. (Seriously, wait until you hear their new hit song.)
This season also brings the woefully underused magician Trish Merigold (Anna Shaffer) to a much more prominent position and turns the seemingly heartless Fringilla (Mimi Ndiweni) into a surprisingly understanding leader. At the same time, The Wizard introduces some key new faces. Among them: Geralt’s mentor and father figure, Vesemir (Kim Bodnia), who is desperate to stop the witches from going extinct, a dark wizard named Rience (Chris Fulton) tasked with finding Ciri, and Nenneke (Adjoa Andoh), a priestess who helps. Guide Geralt through this new territory (for him).
So yeah, there is a lot going on, but it’s actually a bit easier to keep things in order this time around because unlike Season 1, everything is happening on the same timeline. (The show even pokes fun at last season’s complexity with a big, self-conscious joke.) I miss the build of Monster of the Week 2019, but season 2 works because its core mysteries are so interesting, and the changing perspectives on the main cast help make it feel different from what we’ve already seen. It’s not just more of the same. And the show still offers a lot of what I want from a Sorcerer history. There are terrifying monsters (including one particularly haunting vampire in the first episode), at least one sad death, and that’s it. Sorcerer-Specific kind of tragedy that makes you feel bad when a giant insect monster is killed.
But the missing parts turn out to be very important. The Wizard it’s full of political intrigue and fantasy drama, but a central part of the appeal is also all the sex and pranks. Season 2 is missing both. We still have Geralt’s dry, sarcastic banter, but I definitely realized how important Dandelion’s comic relief was once it was almost completely gone. It’s great to see a new side of the character, but I wish he didn’t take all the jokes with him. Similarly, for a franchise in which virtually every iteration, from the video game to the anime to the live-action series, is closely related to the image of an amateur man in a bathroom, it’s remarkable how asexual this is. season. The Wizard is one of the rare dark fantasy stories where sex is fun and lighthearted, rather than frequently tied to violence and rape. Now it is practically non-existent.
Don’t get me wrong – I still got through the season insanely fast because I just had to see what happened next. The second season has a lot of momentum that keeps it moving forward, along with an even fuller cast than before. But it also seemed like the show was slowly drifting away from much of what made it so different. I love watching Geralt split monsters and accidentally get caught up in political turmoil as much as anyone. But a few laughs along the way would be nice.
The Wizard Season 2 debuts on Netflix on December 17.