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SYFY WIRE The Witcher

The Witcher Discussion: 'Rare Species' gives viewers a hefty dose of romance

By Alyssa Fikse & Jessica Toomer

Who doesn't love some good old fashioned romance? We enjoy a little softness between our monster fights here at SYFY FANGRRLS, and boy did The Witcher deliver in "Rare Species," Episode 6 of the first season. While a hunt for a troublesome dragon takes the forefront, the love (and sex) between Geralt and Yennefer gets a real upgrade from the frenzied hook-up after their dealings with Jinn. Even if this love affair is cut off at the knees by the time the episode is over, it is sure to spark some serious fanfic, so you can scour AO3 after you watch.

This episode also digs into the interesting idea of what is worth dying for and protecting, and Geralt is forced to do some major thinking. Is he doing the right thing by running away from his Child of Surprise, or will destiny come for him either way?

We're Alyssa Fikse and Jessica Toomer, and yes, "Toss A Coin To Your Witcher" is still stuck in our heads. 

Warning: This discussion contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 6 of The Witcher.


Joining The Hunt

Alyssa: As we continue watching The Witcher, the number of people willing to try and con Geralt astounds me. Here is a guy who has built up a real reputation for ass-kicking and LOOKS LIKE THAT, and the average dude is like, you know what? I am willing to take my chances. Apparently they fear no god or white-haired mountain of a man, and the jerks at the beginning of this episode are no different. Oh, he’s taking a little longer killing your hideous monster than you had hoped? Well, you might as well steal his payment and his horse! Poor Jaskier, bless him, isn’t exactly up to the task of defending their stuff, but luckily a man named Borch and his two warrior companions Téa and Véa arrive and end the thievery attempt just as Geralt emerges from the cave, monster head in hand. They have a task for our favorite witcher: a dragon hunt.

Jessica: Look, I love a good hunt but the thought of eradicating the only remaining dragon on the Continent does not inspire a sense of adventure in me. The losses we’ve incurred on the magical creatures front thanks to Game of Thrones are still too fresh. It seems Geralt agrees, or just thinks hunting dragons is a good way to get killed, because he refuses Borch over a couple of drinks and a nice pie until he learns that a certain bewitching sorceress is also on this quest. Dying for a dragon is one thing. Dying for the woman you not-so-secretly love? Total Geralt of Rivia move. 

Alyssa: Geralt may be hard as nails, but he’s also a huge softie when it comes to Yennefer. The four teams — the dwarves, the reavers, Yennefer and Sir Eyck, and Borch’s crew — hit the road, and the going is pretty rocky, but the teams are starting to get to know each other. Jaskier can’t seem to get his head around Téa and Véa’s devotion to Borch, but Borch absolutely gets a read on Geralt right away. It’s not hard to see that the Good Lord Hearteyes has it bad for Yen, and Borch seems to be more intuitive than most. On their quest, Jaskier stumbles upon a starving hirikka, and while the creature is a bit fearsome, he seems largely harmless. Even so, Yennefer’s Sir Eyck leaps forward and brutally murders the beast, proving that he is, indeed, a psychopath. Yikes.

Jessica: He chops the poor thing up like a tree. It’s truly disturbing to watch. White men who kill for pleasure really are the absolute worst. Yen’s playing along, acting like his devoted mistress, but even she can’t hide her disgust when the dude drops his “for kingdom and glory” act and slaughters that poor hirikka. She’s on this dragon hunt for herself, Sir Eyck is just a means to an end, but it makes things a bit more difficult when he meets his end while relieving his bowels after feasting on that creature he just straight-up murdered. I guess, in the end, the hirikka won? 

Alyssa: While Sir Eyck is sh*tting his brains out, the rest of the group discusses the growing threat from Nilfgaard (which I think puts us awfully close to the siege from the first episode in terms of timeline, I think), and Borch has the gall to insinuate that things may have been different if Yennefer had taken her original post there instead of Frangilla. Don’t put this on her, my dude! However, my favorite bit of this discussion is that while Geralt explains that yes, green, red, and black dragons do exist, the golden ones are a myth. I love when characters who live in magical realms refuse to believe in a particular facet of magic. It’s like in Harry Potter when Divination is just a bridge too far for Hermione. You go to a wizard school and learn how to make magical potions, but heaven forbid you read some tea leaves! Very similar energy to Geralt refusing to believe in golden dragons.

Jessica: You just know we’re going to see a golden dragon before this episode ends. Also, last episode, we were battling evil genies so maybe Geralt needs to suspend his disbelief if he’s going to continue to exist in this fantasy realm? Sir Eryck is murdered fairly quickly after his bout of diarrhea but Yen continues on with the group. While the Reavers head off around the mountain, the dwarves ally with Geralt and Borch and lead them to a shortcut. It’s a couple of rickety planks stitched together on the side of a mountain and there’s no way everyone’s making it across. 

Alyssa: Yeah, this trip is fraught with physical and emotional risk. Before they take the mountain pass, however, Geralt and Yen have a pretty intense heart to heart. Geralt wants to know why she is so dead set on staying with the hunt even after the death of Sir Eyck, and she admits that she’s after the alleged healing qualities of the dragon. She wants her choice back, and she wants to have a baby despite the fact that she sacrificed her womb in order to gain her power. Geralt doesn’t handle this news well, almost mocking Yennefer for this desire. He reminds her that mutated beings like the two of them are made sterile for a reason, because the lives they lead are not fit for children. Yen doesn’t care. She wants what she wants and he can shut the hell up. Things get even dicier when Geralt accidentally admits that he has a child surprise, and Yen understandably can’t believe he isn’t stepping up in that regard. Despite their friction, they head along to the mountainside “path” together and that’s when sh*t really begins to go down. Literally.

Jessica: Poor Yen. Look, I don’t understand this all-consuming need for a child, but I definitely don’t want to hear Geralt mansplain why offspring are a bad idea. If this is what she truly wants in her life right now, who the hell is he to tell her otherwise? The Witcher was certainly not woke this episode. They continue on to the dragon’s lair and while I assumed poor Jaskier would be the one to careen down the mountain, luckily I was wrong. It was still brutal to watch Borch and his badass Amazonian guards sacrifice themselves so the group could carry on, but I would’ve had an emotional breakdown if our chatty Dandelion had bit the dust. That damn bard is growing on me. Geralt is pretty shaken up after he fails to save Borch — the two bonded over their respective mid-life crises — but Yen is there to help him bang the sadness away. These two have terrific chemistry and, Alyssa, you know sexytimes in luxurious glamping tents during dragon hunts are so my thing. But were you shocked to find out they’d been hooking up on and off for the past few years? Months? What even is time on this show?

Alyssa: Yeah, as much as I am enjoying this show, would it be so hard to toss us a “10 years later” chyron or something? I think it’s been years, and I really wish we could have seen more of this! I buy this romance on the strength of their chemistry, like you said, but I wish we had been there to witness it. What I did love about these scenes is that the creative team definitely understands the female gaze in a major way. While yes, Geralt’s action scenes skew more towards the male ideal, a musclebound Henry Cavill chilling naked in bed with his lady? That’s the female gaze, baby. Add in Geralt still being there when she wakes up and telling her that she’s important to him? This is the energy that I’m looking for from my Bumble dates in 2020.

Jessica: The Witcher has a real problem with time. I sincerely hope it’s an issue they can solve in Season 2. But for now, I’ll lay my frustrations aside and just appreciate the sight of Henry Cavill’s meaty thighs. He could crush my head between those ham hocks and I wouldn’t mind one. damn. bit. But I enjoyed this romantic interlude less for the sex and more for the character development. We got to see both Yen and Geralt express vulnerability — a rare thing with these two — and state their desires and intentions towards one another. They’re both guarded, damaged lone wolves but they’re slowly changing because of this relationship and that’s a really human, beautiful thing. And now I’ll stop before I become a pile of mush. 


A Question of Trust

Alyssa: While Geralt and Yen are off hunting dragons and giving us a mad case of the swoons, Ciri is having a bad time. She and Dara are traveling with the Doppler as Mousesack, and despite having absorbed all of Mousesack’s memories when he took on his appearance, the Doppler isn’t particularly good at faking it. Listen, man, you’re traveling with a couple of teens. They’re going to have some questions. It’s time to get a little better at hiding the frustration and contempt.

Jessica: Right? Dude has clearly never spent time with youths. He’s trying to lead them back to Cahir and the Nilfgaard troops but Dara just isn’t having it. His spidey senses are a-tinglin’. Poor Ciri is desperate to believe someone from her past survived the invasion and has come to rescue her but when she begins quizzing the Doppler on some basic facts, he fails her identity test miserably. I guess there’s a flaw in every system and the Doppler didn’t absorb Mousesack’s debilitating arthritis or his contempt for cold weather. Dara fights the Doppler off but Ciri’s command to kill him doesn’t go over so well and we’re left watching our little lion cub flee into the forest by herself once again. 

Alyssa: Yeah, Ciri just leaves Dara behind. Not a cool move from the lion cub of Cintra. It appears that Ciri is taken by Cahir, who tells her that she is the key and that she is important to the White Flame (which they still haven’t explained, by the way), but Ciri is eventually revealed to be the Doppler, who takes on Cahir’s form. He’s pissed that Nilfgaard didn’t inform him of who and what Ciri is before they ordered him to kidnap her, and he tells Cahir that he’s mad for clinging to his prophecy so tightly. I feel like if the Doppler is telling you that you’re insane, it’s really time to reassess your life. 

Jessica: Yeah, crazy recognizes crazy in this case. The two fight it out. The Doppler seems happy to kill Cahir and take on his identity because … power? Cahir eventually wins but it’s a knockdown drag-out fight that truly causes us to question who’s who and who should survive. After this betrayal, Cahir seems to suspect his whole crew because the Doppler manages to scurry away alive and really, he could take the face of anyone while back in the woods, Dara rescues Ciri (again), freeing her from her restraints and laying into her for being such a sh*te friend. I hate to see these two go their separate ways but maybe it’s for the best? Ciri is on a dangerous path that’s going to require her to get her hands dirty and Dara just isn’t made for that. Plus, while I have no doubt the lion cub of Cintra will survive — she’s too powerful and too important not to — but those around her seem to drop like flies and I cannot take more heartache right now. Not in this political climate.  

Alyssa: I really hope that Dara finds his way back to the narrative because I have become quite fond of that elf boy. But I agree that it’s definitely for the best for Dara, because Ciri is clearly prioritizing Number One right now. Like, I get it that she is dealing with a lot between her unknown powers and being on the run, but seeing a white girl toss aside a black boy once he was no longer useful was a very bad look. Run far and run fast, Dara. You don’t need Ciri’s mess. Because a mess it is. We get a look at Cahir and the wreckage that he’s made trying to find the Doppler as Frangilla tends to his wounds. A lot of the stuff with Nilfgaard adds up to allusions and mentions of the mysterious “him,” so we don’t get much in terms of explanation. What we do get is more proof that the Nilfgaardians are zealots determined to bring about “the time of the sword and the ax,” and nothing about that phrase is comforting.


Startling Revelations

Jessica: “Comforting” is not a word I’ll ever use to describe this show, but while Ciri’s tangling with ominous prophecies and cult-leaders, Yen and Geralt are squaring off against literal dragons. They find the cave where a female green dragon has been guarding her egg. She’s dead, but the baby is still alive. You know who else is alive? Téa and Véa. Oh, and Borch, who is actually a rare golden dragon. You know, the one Geralt insisted didn’t exist. It makes so much more sense now as to why these kick-ass women would be hanging with the guy. I’d be his groupie too if I knew he could turn into a majestic fire-breather on command. Borch didn’t want to hunt the green dragon, he wanted Geralt to dissuade others from hunting her because that baby is the last of its kind. We’re gifted a truly weird, CGI dragon fight — I guess Borch can communicate telepathically when in his original form? — but the bigger message behind this quest is the idea of legacy and how that takes shape. A thoughtful meditation for a show like The Witcher but don’t worry, it comes with bloodshed and betrayal. 

Alyssa: Yep, this fight was truly rad, and I loved watching Yennefer and Geralt as teammates instead of adversaries. Also, I didn’t know that sharing a kiss mid-sword swing deserved a full-page write-up in my Romance Dream Journal, but that bit of cheesy sweetness amidst the blood really worked for me. Add in a "he saves her, she saves him" moment, and this fight was everything I wanted for these two. So, they kill the reavers and save the egg. Huzzah! Happiness all around, right? Wrong. Not even getting the blood pumping with some bad guy slaying can help Geralt and Yennefer truly work through their issues.

Jessica: Well, we find out that Geralt used his final wish with the djinn to save Yen’s life, but the way he did it makes Yen question whether her feelings for him and their constant meet-ups are real and pure coincidence or the result of magic. Honestly, I really liked that Yen went off on Geralt for his blatant disregard for her own autonomy. She knows how magic warps and infects better than anyone and so, the use of it to keep her with him, however well-intentioned, just isn’t cool in her book. She’s been manipulated and used for a long time and believing that Geralt has done the same to her is enough to prompt angry confrontations and allegations of child abandonment. 

Alyssa: I get that Geralt wasn’t left with a lot of options with the djinn, but binding Yennefer to him in this way was a questionable call for sure. As you said, Yennefer has had to fight for the right to make her own choices since day one, so Geralt stepping in and making this huge choice for her feels like a betrayal. So just like that, sexytimes are over and these two are on the outs in a huge way. The second break-up of the episode almost hurt me more, though. Yennefer leaves and Geralt is left to grapple with that loss and the knowledge that if Nilfgaard is coming, he really needs to go find and help Ciri, and that is just too much emotional turmoil for the witcher. Instead of handling his feelings like an adult, he lashes out at Jaskier, blames him for all of his troubles, and effectively ends his friendship with the well-meaning bard. Badly done, Geralt. Badly done.


What's Next

Jessica: I am not ready for the bleak mid-winter that next episode’s lack of Jaskier will bring. This show shines when it leans into genre tropes you wouldn’t think make sense in a fantasy setting, like the buddy-cop comedy origins of Jaskier and Geralt’s friendship, so I truly hope their rift is mended and soon. I also hope Ciri finds someone to take care of her or learns how to do it herself because homegirl cannot catch a break. But mostly, I’m curious to see where Yen goes from here. She didn’t get the magic fertility cure, she broke up with her boyfriend, she’s not tied to any court yet she knows about the terrible things Frangilla is doing in the name of Nilfgaard. Will she take up a cause or continue to do her own thing? 

Alyssa: I think Yen is just as lost as ever, so I’m ready for her to find out who she is and what she wants now that some doors have been shut. I think there are a lot of different directions that she can take here and they’re all pretty interesting. At this point, I’m pretty willing to follow her to the ends of the earth. I’m also ready for Geralt to step up and go help Ciri. C'mon, man. You can’t hide from destiny forever. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors', and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.