Let’s start with a beautifully executed downer.
Yennefer travels with Queen Karlis of Lyria, apparently on secondment bodyguard duty as they slowly travel on a track through a forest in heavy winter. It’s 30 years after the ball for Yennefer, who either doesn’t age or does it at a very reduced rate, like Geralt. I mean, she mentions it’s been 30 years, but you know it through the conversations she has and the way she reacts throughout her story line this week. She’s a woman that has given up everything for her ambition, achieved it, and when she got there found it was hollow and empty. Queen Karlis compares her own situation, and is sure it’s worse, talking about the responsibility and the burden of being a mother, and that she is, in the end, basically a mobile womb to her husband.
Then the journey takes a bit of a turn with swords slicing through the carriage and screams outside. There’s some quite stylish blood spray horror.
They get out of the carriage, and all the guards have been diced. One survivor guard looks over their shoulders until they turn and a very still guy and a large insect.
They run, and Yennefer uses her best talent, her portal ability, to get them the hell out. Stock is taken during their next short stop in the desert. Karlis is disabused of the notion that their assailant is a brigand – Yennefer points out he’s an assassin, and this is not happening by chance. There’s a couple more stops, where they get just about half a minute each time before the assassin turns up. They figure out they’re being traced, somehow, most likely though an object on Karlis’ person but they don’t have time to find it before he’s there again, somehow still fresh as a daisy when all this is taking a serious toll on Yennefer.
But I’ll wager it’s got something to do with the fact that the assassin stays still virtually the whole time. He takes one step, (which might be a step ‘in’) in the rainy section but other than that he doesn’t move for this whole extended chase sequence. Maybe it’s why he needs the insect.
On a barren hillside Karlis throws up, and then decides to tell her protector to “Get up you useless witch”
It’s fear and panic that’s talking from Karlis, but when you’re constantly deferred to, then ‘berate someone until it’s fixed’ can become a default reaction for anything that goes wrong. With Yennefer in this state and circumstance, it is a ghastly mistake.
Whoever set this up made sure they had a workaround for Yennefer’s portal abilities. Her trump card is only just keeping them ahead of the blade, her tank is low, her own life in danger and this bitch is acting like they’re sat in a court she’s still in charge of.
So the next time he shows up, Yennefer disappears.
I’d like to tell you something pretty, but I can’t. Queen Karlis in her desperation offers up her daughter as sacrifice, somehow under the impression she’s making some kind of deal. She emphatically isn’t and the assassin kills her, but before the insect kills the baby, Yennefer rematerialises, taking the insect’s head right off.
She sees the situation, forces the assassin back, and opens a portal, trying to save the baby. But as they pass through, the assassin throws a dagger that hits her in the shoulder and it doesn’t matter where it hits the baby, it hits, and it’s a big dagger.
The child is dead by the time she arrives at her next destination, and while Yennefer tries to save it, to bring it back, she is injured and depleted and she can’t.
When we come back, it’s sunset, and she’s healed her wound, but still cannot bury the baby yet. And then she gives a hell of a monologue.
She buries the baby.
Yennefer, gurl, you’re depressed, things are awful, but I think this might have bounced you out of that rut, and you did need to make some changes.
Cirri hypno-walked to the edge of a forest at the end of last episode and Dara got hit by an arrow trying to follow her. She comes to in a forest and rapidly meets up with some peeps. It’s very tense standoffish, but once the head of this group (Dryads, apparently) shows up, there’s much less of a physical threat. One thing to love about Brokilon Forest is the lighting. The multiple large light sources are disorientating and beautiful and the gold and green suffusion everywhere gives a slightly tropical feeling when we’re clearly in temperate climes. Cirri’s storyline gets the title card.
Brokilon Forest has a lot of style, and a little substance, but the storyline has to be scant with everything else going on this episode. The waters are a combination truth drug and PTSD treatment, and drinking is mandatory for the group.
The threat of a forced reveal (Chief Dryad appears to be well aware Ciri is lying about her name), has Ciri revealing her true identity to Dara that night. And for a young man that’s just found out his friend is the royal granddaughter of the woman that ordered the attack that killed everyone he ever cared about in a horrific way, Dara takes it, for me, far too amazingly in stride. For the motivation this character is given, this reconciliation with Ciri needed to be bumpier and take longer to feel real.
The next time we see Ciri, she wakes from a nightmare about the attack, and Dara has already drunk of the waters.
Ciri drinks next, but she turns out to have a wicked high natural tolerance and will have to do dabs. She’s taken to the source and drinks sap straight from the tree. Ciri goes vision quest and wakes up in a night desert to an American Gods Season 1 trip.
“What are you Child?”
I’m not mad at it, but the competition is strong this week, and it felt like we had very limited time for Brokilon Forest, and our characters here. World building remains quite strong.
The Main Stem
We open on Jaskier’s quest for a sophomore album in a really isolated inn.
He’s not down on his luck, he’s following Geralt and I love this scene. Everyone does well here.
The set is amazing, I believe in that inn. We start with the great rolling Welsh oratory of the councilman‘s story. Jaskier (yay!) is at his most charmingly self-assured, and I am now just completely bought in to Cavil as Geralt (his line reading of ‘fuck off, bard’ is stand out brilliant).
Toss a coin to makeup and wardrobe (Jaskier’s been doing well, I see). The extras are pretty great, too, to the point where I think I might have an idea what Silkimore guts smell like, and that maybe this barman didn’t deserve this look, Geralt.
Jaskier doesn’t just need material, he needs a bodyguard for a big shinding. As ever, he starts by gilding the lily until the lily falls over and through the floor, but catches Geralt by remembering to always get to what his audience wants. And then we cut to a Geralt in a bathtub, but not the Geralt in a bathtub that was promised, not yet.
But, twitching our ears at Jaskier’s mention of Cintra, we do get to go to the party, where we get to put a stake in the timeline for Geralt and Ciri – Geralt and presumably now Yennnefer are around 15 years behind Ciri the recently conceived.
The mystery of why they cast grandparents so young gets solved- they’ve got to play a spread of ages. Calanthe seems pretty monumentally selfish in her… late thirties? She’s a woman who appears to have found security on her throne in strength, to the degree of a PhD in homicide.
She believes she has to betroth her daughter, for the security of the crown. Cintra seems to buck pretty hard, I don’t think elf racism central is ready for a porcupine king consort, and to a woman like Calanthe, daughter Pavetta is going to look weak. But Pavetta, while gentle and romantic, proves as unyeilding as her mother. She’s also quite interesting to watch while her mother (possibly not the subtlest of diplomats) tries to recruit Geralt.
In Nilfgaard watch the King is over, the Usurper rules, but there’s still an (exiled?) royal family.
Neither they nor Nilfgaard are held in high regard at this point. Certainly no one’s trembling at the thought of a southern army. Mousesack is met and is good people.
He’s the jovial one that’s surprisingly good in a fight, and the surly one likes him because he does the right thing. I’m ready to believe that right now.
The star is the fight scenes once Porcupine knight shows up, and Geralt knows something’s up from Calanthe’s reaction, but he doesn’t move until the knight invokes the Law of Surprise.
I love how Calanthe looks a little taken aback at what she has unleashed and I am retroactively far angrier about Eist’s death. Finally Calanthe steps in, starting by kicking her own guy in the chest, then she saves and makes significant eye contact with Eist.
She’s persuaded to stop the fight when she crosses swords with Geralt – Which is just an excellent time to stop a fight. We go around the room, the law of surprise is explained -“Fate take the wheel”. Even Geralt, who does not believe in fate has a code.
She’s not taking this and the focus is all in on Calanthe in the next few moments from some interesting lens choices to our POV and we know she’s still going to try to kill Porcupine Knight. The answer to what will finally stop Calanthe is ‘Apocalypse level shit’ and it is provided by her daughter, And the answer to what can stop her daughter when the whole room is being torn apart is Geralt of Rivia after drinking something orange, Mousesack in support.
Calanthe comes around, everyone who wants to get married gets married, Porcupine Knight gets his face back. Everything is going story book until Porcupine Knight ( I want to say Duri?) asks Geralt to name a reward for saving him. And Geralt, because he can’t think of anything says Law of Surprise. And then he taunts fate a bit. And Pavetta’s pregnant. We have a Child of Surprise Squared.
At the end Geralt still doesn’t believe in this. He saw a girl with access to great powers but with little control try to save her lover. Mousesack saw fate, and he cannot persuade Geralt otherwise. Mousesack stays, and Geralt leaves, apparently intent to never return.
At the end of Geralt’s storyline a neat transition takes us to Ciri’s timeline, but not to Ciri. In the city, Queen Calanthe’s body is found, surprisingly complete for the height she fell from. “Mistress, I’ve found her” calls an acolyte.
To Fringilla, remember Fingilla? The young lady that was supposed to go to Aidern until Yennefer torpedoed it? The one that got thrown to the rampant King of Nilfgaard?
She was quiet that one. Didn’t seem that much to her past her powerful Uncle. But, Oh, look at her now. She’s got her own team of acolytes. Whatever went down in Nilfgaard she survived it, and it looks like she has thrived. An acolyte cuts a rectangle of flesh from Calanthe’s arm, eats it, looks like something is wrong, goes into a fit, and then Fringilla just guts him which is disturbing already but she’s also really efficient at it. She uses his viscera to determine where Ciri is. While Yennefer’s been getting underemployed, passive and existentialist, Fringilla rides with New Nilfgaard and is doing deep, dark and disturbing shit and then walking away like this was her Tuesday project status meeting.
As it may well have been.
Oh, Yennefer, you have about 15 years but you might want to start right now. There’s a class reunion coming and I am increasingly stoked for it. Also…
Mousesack lives 🙂