Elves! Tree monsters! An actual witch! (Maybe? -ish?)
The Witcher Season 2 Episode 2 introduces several new players to the game board, which may eventually connect the Nifgaardian conflict to the Wild Hunt and the Continent's potential end-of-days.
Of the newcomers, I'm most intrigued by the creature in the hut, known as Voleth Meir (according to casting announcements made in April.) Not only does she wield incredible skills, but she also offers compacts like the devils of cautionary folktales.
Voleth Meir presents like Baba Yaga, living in the hut on legs, and behaves like Freddy Krueger, haunting her victims in their dreams.
She zeroes in specifically on the victim's deepest desires.
For Fringilla, that's righteous authority. She is a true believer in the White Flame of Nilfgaard, and Voleth Meir appears to her in the form of Emhyr var Emreis. Her dream of self-determination is understandable as she's spent her life being a pawn for Aretuza, outranked by nasty characters like Cahir.
Each sun sets on fewer elves. Our land is stained, our elders dead. Even our caves at the edge of the world have fallen to monsters. But we mustn't lose faith in a bright elven future. What has been need not always be.Francesca
Francesca dreams of a bright future for the elves, a defeated and betrodden population since the rise of humans. In her eyes, Ithlinne Agn aep Aevenien, the greatest of elven oracles, offers her that future in the form of a plan and a baby.
But when the creature's attention turns to Yennefer, we get a surprise. Her deepest desire lies not in something she's never had. It is to reclaim the power she was born with.
We had been led to believe that her dimeritium shackles had bound her powers. But, in actuality, her use of fire magic to save the North at the Battle of Sodden Hill burnt out her connection to Chaos, rendering her unable to perform even the slightest mage exercise.
(We'll be disregarding the fact her physical glamor remains in place, in case any Witcher lore purists are chomping at the bit to point that out.)
Voleth Meir purports to have the ability to restore her magical abilities. While Yennefer is smarter than her companions when it comes to pacts with monsters, but she's also more desperate than they are, having already known the power she seeks now.
Furthermore, the longer she is without her magic, the more she realizes her vulnerability to her enemies.
And she's made a lot of enemies in her life as a mage, a life that is many times the length of a typical mortal. In fact, I'd wager she's made more enemies than friends.
The brilliance of the scripting here is that -- even though the two plots are wholly self-contained, both geographically and tonally -- they sneak a Voleth Meir reference into Kaer Morhen.
Did you catch it? When Ciri's exploring the mini-museum, Vesemir points out the dagger used to kill Kief, one of the first witchers.
The demon that killed him was never truly defeated. It remains trapped in the woods, preying on the dreams of those who venture too close. Sound familiar?
It may have just been a script-writing flex, but it leads me to wonder if that dagger will come into play to combat Voleth Meir later. Vesemir will need to be consulted on that, I guess.
Vesemir is next on my Most Interesting New Characters list.
After the animated prequel feature, The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, we are far more familiar with the man who raised Geralt and the other witcher children who survived the attack led by Tetra.
Vesemir: Are you sure you're ready for this?
Geralt: I was in a cell beneath the city when Cintra was sacked. I heard it all. Fire, screams, and death. The same sounds that I heard here as a boy, hiding in the cellar, waiting for the humans to come for us. You were the last surviving witcher after Kaer Morhen fell. You and a batch of mutated orphans with nowhere else to go. Were you ready?
Geralt: But you protected us anyway.
Vesemir: No. I taught you how to fend for yourselves.
When Geralt brings Ciri to Kaer Morhen, it's probably more surprise than Vesemir and his pack have had thrown at them in decades.
In a foreboding echo of Nivellen's warning from The Witcher Season 2 Episode 1, Geralt and Ciri's arrival is another sign that the world is changing, that Kaer Morhen is no longer the haven it has been.
Granted, it doesn't help that Eskel brings a leshy into the keep, rooted in his shoulder, either.
Ultimately, it all leads back to the question of monsters and what makes them monstrous.
Eskel is a witcher, and all witchers are mutated in order to fight the monsters that appeared on The Continent at the Conjunction of the Spheres. Effectively, mages created witchers to be monsters capable of killing monsters.
The leshy is one of those monsters witchers were created to kill.
For a leshy to take root in and take control of a witcher is a monsters-wrapped-in-monsters scenario I'm still trying to get my head around.
Killing their fellow witcher to stop the leshy is bound to affect Vesemir and Geralt's sense of their own monstrousness.
Of all the choices made in this offering, Geralt offering Ciri the opportunity to train as a witcher is probably the most straightforward.
Part of it is drawn from Vesemir's emphasis on providing his charges with the ability to survive independently, but a large part is that this is the life that Geralt knows.
This is important. We don't kill out of fear. We kill to save lives.Geralt
He sees the anger and fear in Ciri, and, knowing she's on the edge of her powers, whatever they may be, he realizes that training will give her some sense of control to combat the anger and fear as well as actual control she'll hopefully be able to exert over her powers one day.
It's hard not to expect the worst with Ciri surrounded by rough-and-tumble witchers, but it appears that Vesemir did raise them with honor as well as a well-honed BS-meter.
It'll be interesting to see how the others may become involved with her training.
Eventually, of course, there will be things a young woman needs that men, even witcher men, aren't going to have a clue about.
Hoo, boy. They may prefer rock troll encounters.
Nowhere's safe now. You can't run from the world. You can't hide from it. But you can find power and purpose. A chance to survive the horror.Geralt
As the credits roll here, both Ciri and Yennefer are cut off from the world they know.
Although Ciri has more physical protections, she is still hiding her secrets which may prove more dangerous than any monster invasion.
Yennefer is wiser in the ways of the world but operating in a truly handicapped manner. Where will she find safety?
How do you think these plots will eventually dovetail?
Which newcomer got you most intrigued?
How will Voleth Meir's influence be felt?
Meet me in the comments to hash out your most significant questions!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.