Title: The Witcher, Episode Six: Rare Species
Release Date: December 20, 2019
Streaming on Netflix
Created by: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, based on the series by Andrzej Sapkowski
Running Time: 59 minutes
Rare Species: Not Dead Yet
Geralt and Yen meet back up for Rare Species, and we spend the majority of the episode’s runtime with the two of them. That’s merciful since Ciri’s storyline has gone to shit. The episode begins with Geralt and Jaskier.
Spoilers below for episode six of The Witcher.
Geralt: You Win Some, You Lose Some
As they are wont to do, commonfolk are doubting Geralt will return from a job—in this case, slaying a basilisk. Despite Jaskier’s protestations, his employers plan to steal Roach until one of them is killed by a new arrival: an older man with two warrior woman bodyguards who has been looking for Geralt of Rivia. How convenient.
Turns out, the man is the excellently named Borch Three Jackdaws, and he plans to participate in a crown-sponsored hunt for a green dragon that set a hillside on fire and killed a couple of people. Borch, whose jerkin looks like corn, wants the witcher to join his team, currently comprised of him and his two Zerrikanian escorts, Téa and Véa (Zerrikania is a land to the East, known, fittingly, for its warrior women and dragon cults).
Geralt refuses, having no interest in messing with a dragon or killing creatures that tend to leave people alone as long as they aren’t bothering it. However, when he finds out that one of the other four teams comprises Yen and some derpy knight, he changes his tune. A dragon hunt it is. The other two teams are made up of a group of dwarves and shirtless dragon-hunters from Cinfrid called reavers. They’re jerks.
Two Jaskier notes: He is wearing what can only be described as a medieval tribute to Michael Jackson’s Thriller outfit, and he begins to introduce himself to one of the dwarves as “Julian Alfred Pankraz,” which is the character’s actual full name.
When the teams break for camp on the way up the mountain, they argue about Nilfgaard’s expansion, which serves as a reminder of the show’s season-long arc. Jaskier opines that Queen Calanthe won’t let Cintra fall to Nilfgaard as long as she lives, letting us know that Geralt and Yen are still trailing Ciri, timeline-wise (showrunner Lauren Hrissich admitted they made some mistakes and has said the timeline for season 2 would be more linear).
“Perhaps if their religious zeal had been tempered earlier by a stronger hand,” the country wouldn’t have basically turned into a militaristic murder-cult, Borch says, tacitly blaming Yen for abdicating her assignment to Nilfgaard when back at the academy. Throughout the conversation, Cavill tosses out some deliciously sour “hmm” s that are classic Geralt.
In the morning, the group finds that Yen’s dong of a knight had his throat slit while shitting in the woods, and the reavers have taken off their own way. Geralt’s band and the dwarves decide to take a shortcut, and Geralt chases Yen down to bring her with.
During this scene, everyone is trudging over some barren mountaintop with the sun at mid-height, and it makes you appreciate the care that was taken not just with the environment but the time of day at which the filming took place. The sun can’t have stayed there long, so they didn’t have long to get the scenes done in that light, but it created a powerful effect that evoked a long day of walking. I may not have mentioned the scene work in the most recent episode reviews, but it has remained strong and is probably the most consistently excellent part of the show.
When Geralt catches up to Yen, she admits that she wants the dragon for the healing properties of its heart, and we’re treated to this exchange:
Geralt: “Yennefer. Do not tell me you’ve traveled all this way for made-up fertility cures using dragon hearts.”
Yen: “They’re not made up.”
Geralt: “They are. And seriously—you? A mother?”
Yen: “You think I’d make a bad one?”
After that, the deal with Ciri gets referenced, and they keep talking about “a child surprise” as if it’s a thing, which is extremely awkward for everyone.
The dwarves’ path around the mountain turns out to be absurdly treacherous, and Borch and his escorts fall to their deaths. Oops. But not before making a comment dripping with foreshadowing.
In camp that night, Geralt and Yen make up. The show wants to convey that they care about each other but also fight a lot, so, with less space to work than a series of novels, it ping-pongs them back and forth between love and hate, but it does it at such a breakneck pace that it feels a bit forced.
Moving Yen and Geralt beyond the physical to a more serious relationship requires some blunt conversation, so they have deep conversations about how important they are to each other, and I’m sure all the couples’ therapists watching applaud.
Eventually, they find a dragon. It was fighting instead of running away because it had an egg that couldn’t be moved. It’s also teeny tiny, and it’s dead. Téa and/or Véa pops out to defend it. They aren’t dead?! Who could have predicted this turn of events? And then a gold dragon comes out speaking on Borch’s voice! What a twist!
The extremely obvious twist, set up in the first act when Borch said that gold dragons are the rarest kind and Geralt said they don’t exist, has played out. Though it isn’t stated, Borch’s true identity is that of the gold dragon Villentretenmerth, whose ridiculous name (in elder speech) means three black birds, hence his super-subtle person-name Borch Three Jackdaws. Because he’s perhaps the only remaining gold dragon, he usually goes around in human form to attract less attention, which he can do, why not.
But here, he found a green dragon he liked the look of, egged her up and wants to ensure that his daughter-to-be survives. Unfortunately for him and fortunately for us, the reavers show up, so we get a fight scene which has been disappointingly rare the past couple episodes. It’s not the best the series has offered, but it’s entertaining. Weirdly, Yen does all her fighting hand-to-hand rather than using magic. Geralt, however, does. The most notable part of the battle when Yen Geralt with “Now!” at which point they kiss, and he blasts a group of ne’er-do-wells with a supercharged Aard sign.
Presumably, the prior night in bed, they had worked on that team attack where she would kiss extra magic into him? Extremely unclear. But they use it just the one time, and it’s handy. Also, dragon-Borch burns a dude to death with fire breath.
The dragon CG is mediocre, as has been the case with most of the monsters we’ve seen. It’s fine, whatever, though you’d think a show about a monster hunter might want to make sure it can supply a few good-looking monsters.
When the battle is over, Geralt and Yen waste no time in starting up a new row. Such is their way. Borch uses his dragon-wisdom to let Geralt and Yen know that they won’t work out. Geralt takes his frustration out on Jaskier, because he’s a big mean jerk, and tells his only friend to leave. Jaskier does, which is a shame for all of us.
Ciri: I’m Starting to Root for Nilfgaard
Ciri begins her part of Rare Species following Doppler-Mousesack, who removed her and Dara from Brokilon Forest and the dryads at the end of the last episode. They seemingly walk from Brokilon Forest to Narnia, but nobody is concerned. Dara, not an idiot, is questioning the fake Mousesack, but fortunately for the latter, Ciri is dumb.
Ciri brings up Skellige, where Mousesack lived before coming to Cintra, and talks of ice skating with Crach an Craite. I want to digress here for a moment.
Because of choices the show has made, the timing would have to be a bit different, but that’s a particular reference from the books/games—though the details are a bit odd. What Ciri says is they would ice skate with Crach an Craite. Crach an Craite is the nephew of the Bran, a Skelligan king. We actually saw him as a child in Geralt’s storyline in episode four, Of Banquets, Bastards, and Burials, as a potential suitor of Ciri’s mother, Pavetta.
In the lore, Ciri would often visit Skellige (the homeland of her grandmother’s husband) as a child, and was good friends with Crach’s son, Hjalmar. A notable story from that childhood included him challenging her to a race on skates, which she won—he fell and broke his jaw, trying to keep up with the younger Ciri.
I’m not sure why she mentions Crach’s name instead of Hjalmar’s in the show. It would be a weird mistake to make. Is it possible she just means that they ice skated with the whole an Craite family, represented by paterfamilias Crach? Perhaps, but the significant story is her beating Hjalmar in a race. Did they just want to reference the character they already introduced instead of mentioning a new one? Maybe, but The Witcher has never been shy about throwing gobbledygook names of places and people at the audience. Regardless, that’s what Ciri is talking about when she brings up ice skating in Skellige.
At this point, Dopplesack gives a wrong answer about missing Skellige, and Ciri catches him in a lie. This is confusing for two reasons: 1) Why is Ciri suddenly not an idiot? 2) When the doppler took over Mousesack’s form, he claimed to have all of his memories and knowledge. He would know that the druid had arthritis and hated the cold. Is the idea just that he was annoyed and didn’t want to think about how to answer the question? Because you can’t trap someone by asking them a question, only the real version of them would know when the fake version knows everything the real version does. That trope doesn’t make sense in this situation.
In her continuing quest to be inconsistent, a suddenly bloodthirsty Ciri demands that Dara kill the fake Mousesack and says she’ll do it herself when he so much as hesitates. Unfortunately, she’s incompetent, so instead, what she does is get Dara injured and then run away, abandoning him for like the third time. What a bizarre series of choices Ciri has just made.
The doppler catches Ciri, ties her up, and then goes to confront the Nilfgaardian knight for sending him on this mission without all the information. That goes poorly, as the knight kills him and a roomful of innocent people in case they’re dopplers.
Dara saves Ciri (again) but is finally fed up with her chicanery. He yells at her for repeatedly putting him in danger, she announces that she’s done apologizing (did she ever apologize in the first place?) and the two go their separate ways. This should work out well for her.
What did you think about the episode, Rare Species? Let us know in the comments!
Verdict: Rare Species was like a weaker version of the last episode. It still had a lot of the same feel of a stand-alone story, which I think is effective: Unlike the first four episodes, which were frantically trying to stitch together an overarching story, it was doing its own thing with just a few ties to the main plot. However, it just wasn’t as well-written an episode as Bottled Appetites. Ciri is in shambles. She’s a bumbling idiot, and watching her storyline is tragic right now. Geralt’s is faring much better, but the predictable twists and deus ex machina are a little tiring, as is what I mentioned about the Geralt-Yen relationship. It feels like they’re trying to put it in fast-forward. We did get a solid fight scene this week, which was nice.
Rare Species’ Line of the Episode:
Jaskier: “You have the most incredible neck. It’s like a sexy goose … gosling.”
- The episodic storytelling style works well
- Jasker+Geralt+Yen is a winning combination
- A fight scene! Finally!
- Beautiful cinematography
- Did the actress playing Ciri wrong somebody at the network?
- Geralt and Yen are a stormy, love-hate relationship, but let it breathe a little
- If you’re going to go in on single stories, I’d like to see some more detail: (Who are the Reavers? Who are these dwarves? What’s the deal with dragons? Where is this knight from? How did Yen meet up with him?)
- Extremely predictable twists
Nick Zazulia is a trained journalist and an untrained gamer who gravitates toward anything with strong customization and management, whether it’s an RPG or a sports sim. He believes that FFVIII is better than VII, Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is criminally underrated, and dogs and cats are equally deserving of our love.