The Witcher season 2, episode 1 recap – “A Grain of Truth”

December 17, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Recaps
4

Summary

A pitstop on the road to Kaer Morhen reintroduces the world of The Witcher, providing a sublime standalone tale and a taste of things to come.

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4

Summary

A pitstop on the road to Kaer Morhen reintroduces the world of The Witcher, providing a sublime standalone tale and a taste of things to come.

This recap of The Witcher season 2, episode 1, “A Grain of Truth”, contains spoilers.


Of course, it opens with a monster killing a bunch of people. What were you expecting?

In all seriousness, though, “A Grain of Truth” represents a step in the right direction for The Witcher Season 2. While it’s the episode that feels the closest to the first season’s monster-of-the-week structure — basically everything that Geralt and Ciri get up to has nothing to do with the overarching plot — it still feels like a direct continuation of the Battle of Sodden Hill that capped off the previous outing in explosive fashion. The other bit of good news is that even its standalone elements really work, both as a simple story — a love story, no less — and as a showcase of stellar production design and VFX work.

The Witcher season 2, episode 1 recap

Following the Battle of Sodden Hill, Yennefer is missing, which is a point of concern for both Geralt and Tissaia. The general feeling is that she sacrificed herself to win the battle, but we later learn that she’s with Fringilla, and is about to be offered up to the Nilfgaardian Empire as a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card after the disastrous attempt to breach the North. That doesn’t happen, since both Yen and Fringilla are taken captive at the end of the episode by unseen enemies, but it tracks with a few other scenes that explain the state of the Nilfgaardian war effort and the general feeling of the Council of Mages who’re attempting to stave it off.

Cahir is being held captive by the Council, though nobody has been able to break him, and even Tissaia’s attempts — which include literally burying her fingers into his brain to pull his memories out — prove fruitless. So, the Nilfgaardian war effort remains a bit inscrutable for now, and Yen being missing only exacerbates the problem. More on this in subsequent episodes.

Most of the focus in “A Grain of Truth”, though, is on Geralt and Ciri’s journey to Kaer Morhen. Along the way, while having useful audience-reminding conversations about the Law of Surprise and establishing Ciri’s traumatic headspace, they happen upon a village that is ominously devoid of life. A mansion on a nearby hill is supposed to be occupied by a friend of Geralt’s, but when they get there he’s jumped by a terrifying monster with tusks and fur. This, though, is Geralt’s friend, Nivellen, now cursed to roam the halls of his manor as a monster for all eternity. This story is taken from the first short story collection, The Last Wish, and is pretty obviously a riff on Beauty and the Beast.

So, here’s the idea. Nivellen was cursed by a priestess of the Cult of the Lionhead Spider after vandalizing the temple as the leader of a gang of highwaymen, the responsibility of which he inherited after the death of his father. He still has all his faculties, but he’s hideous to look at and can’t die, despite his repeated attempts to take his own life. Naturally, Ciri bonds with him immediately, since both have lost everything, are lonely, and are haunted by their misdeeds. The gradual unraveling of those misdeeds forms the episode’s tension. Geralt knows something is up, though not quite what, while Ciri blunders into one misfortune after another by trusting Nivellen out of a need for companionship.

As it turns out, Nivellen is hiding a bruxa named Vereena. A bruxa, in Witcher lore, is a kind of vampire. She’s presented here as a very attractive young woman who nonetheless moves like a scary girl in a horror movie, and presents herself to Ciri during the night. When Geralt discovers her presence, they fight in an example of excellent VFX and one of the eeriest bits of body horror I’ve witnessed in a while (you’ll know when you see it!) After the battle, during which Vereena is killed, the real truth of the arrangement comes out.

Nivellen was cursed not for trashing the priestess’s temple, but for raping the priestess, and the conditions of his curse meant that he had to lose his true love in order to be saved. And Vereena was his true love. He found her injured and tended to her, and she decided of her own volition to stay. Each night, given his immortality, he allowed her to feed on him to quell her urges, but she ended up slaughtering the inhabitants of the village anyway, which he conveniently ignored. It’s about as bleak as love stories get, and Geralt eventually walks away in disgust, but Ciri learns several important lessons from the encounter, including the need to listen to Geralt. It doesn’t do much for her self-esteem, though. People die everywhere she goes, and she’s so angry at the world that she feels as if she could burn it down without even necessarily meaning to. It doesn’t bode well for the Continent, but it certainly bodes well for another season of The Witcher.

You can stream The Witcher season 2, episode 1, “A Grain of Truth”, exclusively on Netflix.

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