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‘The Witcher’ Season 1 Recap: What to Remember Before Season 2

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‘The Witcher’ Season 1 Recap: What to Remember Before Season 2

Two entire years and a whole anime spinoff movie have passed, but The Witcher is finally back. This week marks Netflix’s return of Geralt, Yennefer, Ciri, and yet another fantasy-based song that’s catchier than it has any right to be.

Whereas the first season of The Witcher was based on Sword of Destiny, Andrzej Sapkowski’s first collection of short stories, Season 2 picks up with a more direct narrative. Gone are the multiple timelines and the barely connected stories. They’ve been replaced by The Witcher’s own grand tale of destiny, a sweeping saga about how one lost girl has the power to either rebuild or destroy the entire world. We know it’s been a little while since you last cheered on Geralt during a fight. Allow us to lend your our services, free of coin. From what exactly a witcher is, to what’s going on with the Nilfgaard Empire, here’s everything you may have forgotten about The Witcher Season 1.

The Witcher
Photo: Netflix

What Is a Witcher?

It’s been two years since Season 1 premiered, so we’re going back to the very basics. Witchers aren’t a race, but a profession. In a world overrun by monsters, they are monster hunters for hire. Since The Continent is filled with monsters, you would think that would make witchers super popular with regular people, but you would be wrong. Because of the mutations required to turn a man into a pro monster killer, many view them as scary freaks of nature. Witchers also get a bad rap for their habit of charging people for eliminating bloodthirsty beasts. They aren’t knights in shining armor. They’re specialized professionals who are trying to turn a profit.

So how exactly does someone become a witcher? First, it’s important to note that before Ciri (Freya Allan) came along, all witchers were men. Most witchers are either orphans or sold by their parents at an early age. The “disposable child” vibe that sentence is giving off? It’s important for what’s to come. After going through rigorous training in swordsmanship, monster hunting, and potion making, witcher adepts have to endure the Trial of the Grasses. The incredibly painful test requires its subjects to absorb a special combination of a virus and other alchemical elements known as “the Grasses.” Successfully absorbing the potion permanently alters the physiology of these witchers in training, making them harder to kill and expanding their life expectancy. That’s the best case scenario. Most of the time, the Trial of the Grasses ends in death.

Death is actually a huge part of becoming a witcher. In addition to that first trial, potential witchers have to survive the Trial of the Dreams, the Trial of the Mountains, and the Trial of the Sword. As the anime prequel Nightmare of the Wolf showed, all of these trials are dangerous and often end with the horrific death of young boys. So yeah. Geralt (Henry Cavill) is an even bigger badass than you thought.

Vesemir in 'The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf'
Photo: Netflix

What Happened to the Witchers?

To get to the bottom of this particular question, we’re turning to The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. When Geralt’s mentor Vesemir (voiced by Theo James in the movie, and played live action by Kim Bodnia in Season 2) was a young witcher, he had a lot more brothers in arms and a lot more monsters to kill. It was a great time to be witchin’. But as the movie explores, there was a dark side to this profitable profession.

The reason there were so many monsters was because Vesemir’s own mentor, Deglan (Graham McTavish), was making them and unleashing them on vulnerable people. He would then send out his witcher brothers to kill the beasts he created and collect the profit. Deglan’s deception prompted the sorceress Tetra (Lara Pulver) to lead an army to the witcher keep of Kaer Morhen. The ensuing massacre resulted in the deaths of 23 witchers and 40 students, including children. That slaughter is why there are so few witchers when we meet Geralt.

But the lack of new recruits has to do with another life lost during this fight. In addition to all of these professional and student witchers, the mages who oversaw the mutation process were also killed. Because witchers only know the most basic forms of magic and because the instructions for the mutation process had been passed down from specific mages, the information needed to make new witchers was lost. When the timeline of  The Witcher starts, no one knows how to create new witchers.

The Witcher
Photo: Netflix

What Is the Law of Surprise?

Now that we’e covered Geralt’s whole deal, how is he connected to the princess of Cintra? To figure out this aspect of destiny, we need to talk about a little thing called the Law of Surprise. Put most simply, it’s a payment tool used in this universe. Occasionally, Person A will do a job for Person B, someone who can’t pay for Person A’s services. If that happens, or if a professional like a witcher doesn’t feel like figuring out how much he’s owed, they can invoke the Law of Surprise.

This odd law isn’t exclusive to witchers. When the Law of Surprise is invoked, whatever new thing a saved person finds when he or she returns home now belongs to the person who is owed. For example, if Vesemir saved a poor farmer from a vampire, Vesemir could invoke the Law of Surprise as payment. If the farmer returned home and found that two new sheep had wandered onto his farm, those sheep would no longer belong to the farmer. They would belong to Vesemir because they were a new source of riches that appeared unknown to the farmer while he was away. It’s a pretty cool payment tool when you’re talking about sheep and extra vegetables. That’s not really the case when you’re talking about people.

While working for Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May), Geralt lifted a curse that had been placed upon Calanthe’s daughter’s lover, Duny (Bart Edwards). When asked how Duny could ever repay him, Geralt jokingly enacted the Law of Surprise. Well, no one realized that Princess Pavetta (Gaia Mondadori) was pregnant, binding Pavetta and Duny’s unborn child to Geralt. That child was Ciri. Destiny works in mysterious ways.

THE WITCHER, Henry Cavill, 'The End's Beginning', (Season 1, ep. 101, aired Dec. 20, 2019).
Photo: Katalin Vermes / ©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

What Is the Conjunction of the Spheres?

The multiverse, it’s not just for Rick and Morty and the MCU. This universe-altering event occurred roughly 1,500 years before the events of The Witcher. Once upon a time, the worlds of monsters, elves, and humans were separated. That changed when these realms collided, combining the creatures of these realms and introducing a force known as chaos magic. As you may have guessed, this event was known as the Conjunction of the Spheres.

Currently, not much is known about why this Conjunction happened or if it could happen again. That’s what The Witcher: Blood Origin is for.

Is There a Map of The Continent?

There sure is. Over the years, there have been in-game maps, fan-made maps, and even a map that appears in Andrzej Sapkowski’s original novels. But when it comes to this complex universe, Netflix always goes the extra mile. There’s currently an interactive map designed specifically for the Netflix series.

Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and Fringilla (Mimî M. Khayisa) in The Witcher Season 2
Photo: Netflix

What’s Going on with the War? What Is Nilfgaard?

Any time someone in The Witcher universe mentions a war, they’re talking about the misery created by the Nilfgaardian Empire. Located in the southernmost part of The Continent, the Nilfgaardian Empire is the biggest oppressor of the Northern kingdoms. The invasion of Ciri’s home kingdom of Cintra happened due to Emperor Emhyr var Emreis’s need for expansion. That first war was thwarted by the events of the Battle of Sodden Hill, which is right when The Witcher Season 2 picks up.

In Sapkowski’s novels, the war with Nilfgaard is a long-winded, series long tragedy. But, because diving into this war may spoil some of the finer parts of The Witcher‘s future, we’ll gloss over the parts to come. All that you need to know is that this feud is composed of three major wars, the first war ended with the Battle of Sodden Hill, and that the elves are involved. Yes, we said elves. Which brings us to….

The Witcher Season 2
Photo: Netflix

How Do Elves Fit Into This World?

According to the elves, the first humans appeared on The Continent after the Conjunction of the Spheres. In the process of this huge event, the human realm was destroyed. Elves see themselves as the first to inhabit this world and view humans akin to an invasive species. From their perspective, humans entered this realm, devastated the landscape, and either dominated or destroyed all other species in their path. Originally, the elves planned on waiting out the reign of humans, as humans have much shorter life expectancies than elves. But the longer they waited, the more powerful, populous, and destructive this race became.

When the events of The Witcher begin, the elves are at a generational crossroads. Most of the older elves want to continue to wait out the humans, while the younger elves, who have spent almost their lives dealing with human shenanigans, want to attack the Nordlings (a term used for inhabitants of the North kingdoms). Many of those younger elves join bands of guerrilla troops known as the Scoia’tael and eventually partner with the Nilfgaardian Empire to fight the North. If you’re going to start a war, it’s better to have a buddy, you know?

Aside from the general bloodiness and horror of war, there’s another reason why you should feel conflicted about elves. Despite their long lives, elves are only fertile in their younger years. That means any young elf that dies in this senseless war of invasion also represents a major blow to the future of the elven race. No wonder Geralt doesn’t want to get involved in politics.

You know how the elves don’t really like humans? That feeling is now mutual. For years, humans didn’t think much of elves one way or another. There are even many children who have human and elf parents, including Yennefer, who is a quarter elf. But as the tensions between elves and humans grew, so did the violence and prejudice. Most of the normal humans we see in The Witcher are communities that have been whipped into an anti-elf fervor. They’re afraid of forces like the Scoia’tael, and they’re taking it out on innocent people.

Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) in The Witcher Season 2
Photo: Netflix

What Role Do Sorceresses and Mages Play in This World?

There’s a reason why so many sorceresses hook up with so many witchers. They share some pretty important common ground. Like witchers, sorceresses and mages were largely unwanted children, have long life spans, and they had to endure deathly trials to acquire their powers. To that end, Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) wasn’t an anomaly. Controlling chaos always requires natural ability, near-endless training, and great sacrifice.

When you take into account how much they’ve sacrificed to get where they are and how society once abandoned them, the sketchiness of chaos wielders feels more understandable. Sorceresses and mages often act as advisors to kings and other great rulers. The most powerful rulers have courts of chaos uses, though it’s not unusual for each ruler to have one specific sorceress he or she prefers. Having a sorceress or mage at your side is incredibly beneficial to rulers. It gives these kings and queens the ability to spy on their rivals and orchestrate more elaborate plans of attack.

Because of how essential they are to rulers, mages are trained to guide kings and queens as much as they’re trained in magic. Most sorceresses and mages are actually like Geralt in that they don’t particularly care one way or another about politics. But because they have a direct influence over how The Continent operates, mages often choose the option that benefits them most. That being said, from time to time they do become emotionally and morally invested in the politics of normal humans. That’s what happened during the Battle of Sodden Hill, which saw many chaos wielders including Yennefer, Triss Marigold (Anna Shaffer), and Tissaia de Vries (MyAnna Buring) fight against Nilfgaardian forces.

Geralt (Henry Cavill) hugging Ciri (Freya Allan) in The Witcher
Photo: Netflix

How Did The Witcher Season 1 End for Geralt?

Toward the end of Season 1, Geralt returned to Cintra to claim his Child Surprise. That child surprise, by the way? That was Ciri. But with her daughter and son-in-law dead at sea, Queen Calanthe wasn’t ready to relinquish her only heir. She tried to trick Geralt with a fake Ciri, but he saw through her ruse. When Geralt tried to fight back, Calanthe proved why she’s called the Lioness of Cintra and locked him in prison.

That may have been a good move for Geralt. He was able to escape prison and Cintra before Nilfgaard attacked. While he was escaping, he defended a merchant from a group of undead monsters, an attack that led to him being injured and losing consciousness. There were a lot of half-awake dreams about the mother who abandoned him, but Geralt eventually pulled through only to find himself at the merchant’s farm. That farm was precisely where Ciri was, reuniting the witcher with his Child Surprise. See? Destiny.

Ciri (Freya Allan) in The Witcher
Photo: Netflix

How Did The Witcher Season 1 End for Ciri?

While Geralt was trying to find Ciri, Ciri was trying to find Geralt. Unfortunately, Geralt escaped before the invasion of Cintra, leaving Ciri alone to defend herself. She was tracked by the Nilfgaardian army commander Cahir Mawr Dyffryn aep Ceallach (Eamon Farren) but managed to defend herself with a powerful scream. That scream destroyed something called a monolith and created a chasm, which is something that wasn’t important at the end of Season 1, but will be later.

After fleeing, Ciri found refuge with some old friends. They led her to a woman who took Ciri to her farm. That farm was the same one that was housing a barely conscious Geralt. The two bound by destiny finally met in the woods, which is where Ciri asked Geralt an all important question: Who is Yennefer?

Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) in The Witcher
Photo: Netflix

How Did The Witcher Season 1 End for Yennefer?

When it came to the battle between Nilfgaard and essentially the rest of The Continent, Yennefer wanted to stay neutral and look out for herself. Instead, her mentor Tissaia changed her mind. That’s how Yennefer came to be part of the Battle of Sodden Hill.

It was a battle that seemed all but destined to end in a Nilfgaardian victory. At least that was the case until Yennefer channeled the power of forbidden fire magic. Through her control of fire, Yennefer was able to win the First Northern War for the Northern territories. It was a standoff that ended with an estimated 30,000 casualties, including 14 mages. Heading into Season 2, many believe that Yennefer was among those dead, but we know better than that.

Jaskier (Joey Batey) in The Witcher
Photo: Netflix

How Did The Witcher Season 1 End for Jaskier?

There’s one final main character whose story needs to be addressed. Throughout The Witcher Season 1, Jaskier the bard (Joey Batey) served as the ever-entertaining companion to the grumbling Geralt. He was even there when destiny and a Djinn bound Geralt to Yennefer. But you know what they say: there’s always trouble in threes.

While the three of them defended a dragon’s egg, Geralt admitted the truth to Yennefer. His third wish to the Djinn bound their destines together. Yennefer, angry and believing that her love for Geralt was artificial, abandoned them. That’s when Geralt turned on Jaskier. In what can only be described as a major dick move, Geralt blamed the bard for every bad thing that had happened to him lately, including his Child Surprise, the Djinn, and Yennefer leaving him. He then ended his tirade with, “If life could give me one blessing, it would be to take you off my hands.” Ouch.

Jaskier took the hint and left Geralt. So heading into Season 2, Yennefer has dumped Geralt, and Geralt has dumped Jaskier. Who’s ready for the mastermind behind “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” to go full-on tortured artist?

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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