Title: The Witcher, Episode Five: Bottled Appetites
Release Date: December 20, 2019
Streaming on Netflix
Created by: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, based on the series by Andrzej Sapkowski
Running Time: 59 minutes
Bottled Appetites: All Pent Up
As is becoming tradition, we’re starting and ending Bottled Appetites with Ciri’s storyline, even though she barely does anything in this episode of The Witcher.
Spoilers below for episode five of The Witcher.
Ciri: Slogging Along
The first scene begins with some good old-fashioned man-butt. A doppler (shape-shifter) Buffalo Bills himself in the mirror. Nilfgaard wants him to dopple for them in their search for Ciri. Dopplers are usually benevolent creatures, and the most prominent one in Witcher lore, Dudu, is a friend of Geralt’s. Another is known to have replaced the head of Novigrad’s secret service, but since he has been improving the city, he’s been left alone. The show, however, takes pains to stress that this one’s not like other dopplers. He’s a mean doppler. Note the coin flashed by the black knight who lost Ciri in The End’s Beginning—it’s made of silver, like Geralt’s witcher sword.
The knight takes the doppler to a courtyard in a Tudor style city reminiscent of The Witcher 3’s Vizima. (If that’s where they are, it would be a bit northeast of Brokilon Forest, while Cintra is just to its south—Of course, they don’t name it, so it’s possible they were just using the look for inspiration, and that isn’t where they are intended to be.)
The Nilfgaardians have brought Mousesack there for the doppler to dopple, which will also infuse him with all the druid’s knowledge. After taking his appearance, the doppler kills Mousesack, though, of course, actor Adam Levy will continue on in the show as an evil replicant of his original character. We also see Fringilla, Yen’s classmate, who espouses her devotion to “the white flame,” which is another name for the Emhyr var Emreis, the emperor of Nilfgaard.
Over in Broccoli Forest, the dryads spotted and killed some Nilfgaardian spies. Some dryads are worried about Ciri’s power. Mama Amazon wants to protect and teach her, while the general—seems an unnecessary position in a group consisting of 12 people—wants to dump her and close ranks.
Though they don’t speak it, other dryads understand English, which is super convenient for dramatic purposes. There is no mention of the magic glowing desert tree from the last episode or what Ciri learned from it. Ciri’s storyline has gone downhill since the first couple of episodes and is honestly dull at this point. Give the girl something to do, creators!
Toward the end of the episode, Dopplesack comes to take Ciri from the dryads. He walks into the forest and shouts, “I’ve come for the girl,” which is a pretty weak explanation and also why enemies would be there, so it seems irresponsible that the dryad guards stop firing arrows and welcome him, but that’s what they do. He doesn’t say “I know her, she’s a friend,” or “ask her to vouch for Mousesack” or anything, just shouts that he’s come for her. It honestly sounds like a hostile declaration.
Mention of the law of surprise—a law as old as mankind, you know—sways the minds of Ciri and Mamazon, so Ciri goes with Dopplesack. Dara follows along because, as a well-rounded character, following Ciri is his only job.
They start playing a song called The Last Rose of Cintra over the credits, which is unpleasant and ham-fisted—all in all, an appropriate thematic choice for what Ciri has been up to. Maybe now that she’s been put back into a perilous situation, something will actually happen in her storyline.
Fortunately, Geralt and Yen fared better this episode.
Yennefer and Geralt: A Refreshingly Simple Tale
Yen has been receiving treatments from a man with a serious Alan Rickman (RIP) thing going on named Hemet. He runs an hourglass store(?). Since giving up the ability to give birth in exchange for her beauty, she has become obsessed with having a baby for whatever reason. It’s unclear how Snape is helping with that, but she needs money to afford his off-the-grid treatments, so she sets up shop in Novigrad City offering “correctives” to the townsfolk.
This is a risky endeavor as Novigrad is controlled by a religious cult called the Church of the Eternal Fire, which hunts down witches, but Yen is a brassy broad, and scarcity breeds need. A flaccid fellow comes to her seeking some magic Viagra. Finally. This is the power Yennefer has spent half a century dreaming of.
I wouldn’t have minded seeing another customer or two to get a broader sense of Yen’s magic, but the mayor and his goon come to put the kibosh on her dealings, so she turns herself in.
We switch over to Geralt, who has Jaskier with him, which bodes well for quality. Jaskier says, “let’s give it another decade” about their friendship. Writers have been playing extremely fast and loose with their extraordinarily messy timeline. I just came across this map/chronology for the show, which clears things up (and makes it obvious how awful a job they’ve been doing). It is currently sixteen years after Geralt and Jaskier first met in Four Marks, 25 years after The End’s Beginning, 50 years since Yen joined the magic school, and we are still seven years behind Ciri’s current timeline.
As they talk about destiny and the law of surprise, I find myself unable to forget that Cavill periodically sounds like he’s trying to do a dumb batman voice.
Under the pretense of needing help getting some shuteye, Geralt fishes up a bottle with a djinn in it. They’re quarreling while dealing with powerful magic and don’t take it seriously, so Jaskier appears to be the one that summons the djinn. It’s a cliché, but after the first wish, Geralt notices a slash on his arm to indicate that he made the wish, not Jaskier. The show is cleverly using audience expectations against them here.
We soon learn that the only mage is the one trapped in the mayor’s house. It’s her! Obviously, Geralt has caught up to Yen, which could be fun. The two have a long history/future of tumultuous relations, so I’m intrigued to see how their meeting goes. Judging by the character introductions we’ve seen so far, the show isn’t going want to waste any time in getting them into their schtick.
Meanwhile, Yen is in the mayor’s house with Tissaia, whom she hasn’t seen in a long time. She tells Yen that Fringilla helped the rightful heir in Nilfgaard restore peace (questionable). She tells her that since making too much noise and the brotherhood will come for her. That’s an interesting bit of foreshadowing.
We haven’t had enough man-ass yet in Bottled Appetites, so the mayor is naked as Geralt and Jaskier enter his residence. He is seemingly under a spell from Yen.
I’m legitimately excited right now knowing Geralt and Yen are about to meet up.
Geralt enters on an orgiastic scene straight out of Caligula. Masks and nudity and licking and writhing and smoke and food abound, with Yen at the head wearing a mask and watching it all. I’m not sure if that scene is in the books, but it effectively sets the tone for who Yen is: controlling, cold, lustful.
Learning that he is a witcher, she asks, “what little spells” he “can cast with his hands.” She says her safeword to end the spell, and all the townspeople snap out of it and leave, embarrassed. It’s obvious—except to Geralt—that Yen wants the djinn’s wishes for herself. He will realize it in a few scenes too, but not until after some more Geralt bath fun, sexy verbal sparring, and incredibly clever jokes about satisfaction.
Just as he cottons on to her scheme-hatchery, though, he starts to fall under her spell. Drat. As he falls asleep, he recognizes the scent of her perfume: lilac and gooseberries. The pairing is Yen’s signature scent, and it makes frequent appearances in Witcher lore.
Geralt wakes in the dungeon being tortured by the mayor’s goon. He outs that he has the djinn’s wishes by using the second to Scanners his captor’s head. Another slice appears on his arm to indicate that two wishes are now gone.
Bottled Appetite’s climax features Yen looking like she’s giving birth in reverse as she tries to trap the djinn in her belly to increase her power while Geralt tries to heroically save her. The only way to weaken the djinn enough that it doesn’t kill her is for him to make his
final last wish, but he is hesitant because he doesn’t want her to merge with the creature.
The show does as well as it can with the scene, but I think it’s an apogee that works better in written form than visual. There is significant dramatic tension but there just isn’t a lot to show and most of what happens is the two of them talking and thinking about what they want to do. Yen writhes around nakedly and they add a lot of swirling winds to up the sense of action, but it still doesn’t translate perfectly.
They saved each other, as upon the use of his last wish (which we don’t get to hear), Yen portals them out of the collapsing building. As they say, one climax begets another, so they immediately start having sex.
By the time Yen thinks to ask what Geralt wished for, he’s asleep! Because he just had sex! Oh, Bottled Appetites, you cad!
While executed a bit eye-rollingly, this adaptation of the classic story effectively sets the scene for the Geralt-Yen relationship: steamy but stormy.
Verdict: Geralt and Yen’s storyline is pretty much a straight adaptation of the short story The Last Wish (from the book The Last Wish, which hit the NYT Best Sellers list recently, 27 years after its publication). It works really well. While not uneventful, Bottled Appetites is less frantic than the first four episodes have been, which works as a great pallet-cleanser. It’s not quite a side-story because it is still working the characters toward their destination—Geralt and Yen needed to meet, for example—but it feels more self-contained. I don’t think watchers unfamiliar with The Witcher will suffer, which has been an ongoing problem for the series, and it’s not constantly trying to fit mismatched pieces of a grand puzzle together and jumping around to different timelines. It’s just telling a compelling story.
Ciri’s storyline, unfortunately, has stagnated dreadfully. The character is doing nothing. On the plus side, we didn’t spend much time with her.
Bottled Appetites’ Line of the Episode
Tissaia: “I gave you all I could give. What more do you want?”
- Geralt and Yen, together at last
- A simpler episode focus and less jumping around really refined the show’s purpose
- It felt like Bottled Appetites was focused on making a good episode of television rather than being clever, hiding and revealing secrets, or smashing together puzzle pieces
- Bringing back people from Yen’s past (Fringilla, Tissaia) in a subtle way worked
- The subversion of obvious tropes was effective
- Ciri has been ruined
- The show has shown it can do combat so well, but it refuses to
- The timeline is a goddamn trainwreck and the show didn’t handle it well
- The decision not to give visual cues for characters as times change is mind-boggling—Jaskier, for example, goes from his 20s to his 40s during the season’s run and looks exactly the same. I don’t need CG aging technology, but give him a beard and a different haircut or something.