Toss the Coin Again
The Witcher: Season 1 Rewatch
With the next season of The Witcher coming out soon it seemed like a good time to go back to the first season and see what could be gleaned from it. Anticipation is high for this next season, probably more so than for a lot of shows in part because the first season was so well received and because it's been two years since that last season arrived. That's an astounding time when you consider most shows get a new (albeit short) season within six to nine months of their previous debuting on streaming services. Netflix went the opposite route with this show but that only make the pressure for the second season to perform even higher.
When it came out the first season of the show became an instant smash hit. Tht said, it wasn't without its detractors, people that found the story confounding and confusing. Why? Because the first season was told with three timelines that all interlocked together in odd ways. There were three heroes, three points of view, each on their own timeline and, eventually yes, everything did align and come together, but it wasn't just one linear narrative. The season had itsown agenda at play and itwas going to tell its story its way.
I wanted to go back and watch the season again not only to refresh myself on all tha happened in the season (it's been two years) but also to see how things tied together and whether there were hints at how all the storylines played out if you were paying attention. This was something for pedant in me, to try and find flaws or enjoy the rich details that were sprinkled throughout. Thankfully, the season rewards those that go back and watch again because there are so many hints that interlock, things that tie together that, if you're paying attention, indicate just how expansive the whole timeline of the show really is.
The hints as to the different storylines comes early and, if I had to guess, I'd bet the creators of theshow thought they were doing enough seeding even in the first episode that people should have known what was going on. The season starts with Ciri at the Cintra Castle and it slowly introduces you to her world: the castle grounds, her grandmother Queen Calanthe (the Lioness of Cintra), and the impeding danger coming from the lands of Nilfgaard, their invading army on the cusp of coming into Cintra. While this storyline plays out, with Ciri eventually sent off on the run on her own (where she'll stay bogged down in, arguably, the least interesting story of the season) we also meet geralt, our titular Witcher, who is at the town of Blavakan, just doing some monster hunting for coin.
How do these tie together? Well, Geralt meets a briggand, a woman name Renfri, who talks about how she has power and fighting prowess. She's earned her place as a woman of some means, and she had to do it all on her own. She could have been a queen (which is true as she was a princess before she was cast out of her kingdom), and then she says, "young Calanthe just won her first battle." That Calanthe, the same Calanthe was see as an older woman, ruling her kingdom that is about to be destroyed.
Renfri, who has a touch of magic about her, also notes that, "the girl in the woods is your destiny." This is a line she says twice (once right before she dies) but it doesn't really come into being until much, much later. Decades later by the shows internal clok (although we don't realize that until much later, or which girl and which woods they're really implying). And that's the first episode, which already indicates just how twisty the logic of the timeline is really going to be. "Pay attention," the show tries to tell us, "because not everything will aign immediately."
In the second episode we're then introduced to Yennefer, a hunchbacked girl despised by her family and her town. She gets harassed by a couple of kids and almost beaten, and then she warps herself away from them without even knowing how she did it. She has magic within her, powerful magic, and, over time, she learns to control it and become one of the greatest mages in the land. The trick, which we only learn later, is that Yennefer's storyline begins before everything else we saw in the first episode. When eventually the show bothers to tie her in it's with two small nods. The first is a mention that "Princess Calanthe has been training for her time to reign," which, again, is a nod at the grandmother we met in at the start of the series, but now she's even younger.
The other nod is more direct, more to the point to get us to realize what's going on: Geralt, in the third episode, goes to a kingdom to fight a beast that's been killing the populace. There he deals with King Foltest, who shows up again a few scenes later as a young boy over in Yennefer's storyline. It's ashort, brief little cameo there and if you weren't payin attention then you weren't going to even realize it happened. Still, the show wanted you to know what was going on and at least pick up on how everyone was slowly circling each other.
It's he next episode, though, where we really get, full in our face, the reveal that the timelines are all over the place. Geralt ends up in Cintra, at a party to pick the husband for the Princess, and it's no Ciri we see but her mother, Pavetta. And now we realize where Geralt ties in to her story, how far bac he is, on hisown linear adventure, to reference to the not even born Ciri. Of course, then h gets tied to her direcly due to the "Law of Surprise". This is a rule introduced in this episode that says when one man owes another debt the other can claim the "Law of Surprise" and they are entitled to "that which you hae but don't yet know about." And his surprise, as it turns out, is that Pavetta is already pregnant.
From here the show shifts from just hinting about how the storylines tie together and instead focuses on destiny and fate. Gertalt is tied to Ciri and whatever else he may want (like going far from the kingdom and never claiming his prize) destiny will bring them back together. Nothing you can say or do will stop it and to actively try to rebuke the Law of Surprise will bring deth and ruin upon all you care about. We see this more than once as people fight against Geralt's surprise, most especially the Queen of Cintra as she tries to kep the teeange Ciri from Geralt and, via destiny's own hand, likely brings about the ruin of her whole kingdom. At least that's what's implied.
Of course, Yennifer eventually meets up with Geralt (and the two fall in love, at least for a time). And then Ciri has to go on the run while geralt does what he can to track her down. each piece on thisboard of destiny moves around as their timelines coverge and the characters come together by season's end. And, honestly, it's really satisfying the way it all ties together. The little hints are great but the big movs also show a meticulous quality to how the show is written. This is a well plotted and well executed season of television that is satisfying to watch again and again (I've watched it three times which, in my defense, it's been two years since it came out).
Which leads us to the real question: now that the characters have come together and we know how their fates are all aligned, which tricks can the show pull off for its second season. Can it still do the time-jumping trick or does it have some other twist up its sleeve. Going back and watching this first season again I have to say that I'm really primed for the next batch of episodes. And if they, too, manage to find a way to create this rich tapestry of a story then, well, that would be one truly satisfying way to meet expectations.