The following contains spoilers for The Witcher, episode 5, “Bottled Appetites.”
With The Witcher’s first season more than halfway over, it’s satisfying to see that several of the plotlines are finally starting to cross over with each other. It’s clear that the first season has spent nearly all of its time establishing our main characters and the world they inhabit, not so much on delivering a central conflict over the course of the eight episodes. Not only do we see some of our heroes meeting each other for the first time in “Bottled Appetites,” but we’re able to see just how wonderful of an actress Anya Chalotra really is as Yennefer.
Since her debut in episode 2, Yennefer has been a character whose motivation and origin are compelling but hasn’t been given an opportunity to truly shine. Her transformation was one of the strongest and most visceral moments of episode 3, but her true potential has finally been reached in “Bottled Appetites.” In every scene she’s in, be it having an impromptu reunion with Tissaia (MyAnna Buring), her bath scene with Geralt (Henry Cavill), or just the look on her face while she’s waiting for Jaskier (Joey Batey) to wake, she’s in charge and in complete control of herself and her actions.
She’s a far cry from the woman that we saw in episode 2, covered in pig slop and beaten by horny teenagers. Now she’s confident, going toe to toe with Cavill’s charisma and stopping at nothing to get what she wants. While she does have several scenes earlier in the episode, her first meeting with Geralt during the orgy is where her character’s full potential is truly realized. With a single look, Chalotra is able to establish a compelling dynamic between the two of them. Up until now, we’ve always seen Geralt as being the most powerful person in the room, yet here comes Yennefer who’s able to play him like a fiddle without even trying, enchanting him and removing him from the equation while she tries to harness that djinn’s power to cure her infertility.
As far as central conflicts go, the djinn plot was enjoyable and allowed for Geralt to show that while he may be a surly person, he’s still an honorable man that does care about others. After he accidentally curses Jaskier, he does whatever he can to try to cure him and even goes back to save Yennefer despite her entracing him to attack council members who opposed her and leaving him to rot in a prison. Yet he tries to save her not only because he’s repaying a debt he owes her for saving Jaskier’s life, but because he couldn’t leave her to doom herself. Yennefer may be confident in her abilities, but her overconfidence nearly gets her killed and it was Geralt’s knowledge of djinns, as well as the realization that he had one wish left, that saved Yennefer, himself, and the town. While we didn’t learn what this wish was, the result of it allowed everyone to survive the djinn’s wrath. Geralt may be hated by people, but more often than not he’s the smartest man in the room due to his copious amounts of experience.
It was incredibly fulfilling watching two of our three protagonists finally come together, but the show continues to drag with Ciri (Freya Allan). While her story did have some advancements, those were attributed to the supporting characters around her rather than her own actions. Mousesack (Adam Levy) is killed by a doppelganger in service of the Nilfgaardian army who enters Brokilon Forest in an effort to ultimately capture Ciri. It’s a sound plan and one that gave us a solid cold open, but it doesn’t do much to make her scenes compelling.
Back at the beginning of the show I stated that it was a bold move casting a first-time actress as such a prominent character in the series, but I still have no idea if she’s a good actress or not. She’s had so little to do in the grand scheme of things that Ciri feels like an afterthought at this point, which is by design. According to the lead writer Lauren Hissrich on Twitter, Ciri was meant to be introduced and teased this season and for her to become more integral in future seasons. It’s because her importance comes later in the series and introducing a fundamental character so late would have invalidated the earlier seasons. I understand their intention and it probably was the best decision to make, but the result is a storyline that is, as of now, all build-up with no payoff.
On a more positive note, “Bottled Appetites” was probably the best that The Witcher has ever looked from a technical perspective, with the orgy scene in particular being a well-shot affair. Tight close-ups, sharp lighting, and a constant focus on Yennefer made me entranced with what I was witnessing. I’ll attribute this mostly to the director of this episode, Charlotte Brandstrom, who has worked on several television shows throughout her career, most recently on Outlander and Counterpart. She’s very adept at composing a shot. However, the CGI still looks a wee bit dodgy, mostly with Yennefer’s markings on her body, but everything else was good bordering on great.
While “Bottled Appetites” may not have been The Witcher at its best, it was easily at its most compelling. Cavill and Chalotra have a spark between them that’s very rare and helped them deliver their best performances so far, as well as develop their characters significantly. The same can’t be said for Ciri’s contributions to the show, but with three episodes left, maybe we’ll finally have Ciri meet Geralt and see where The Witcher wants to take us for the other planned six seasons.