Bottled Appetites

It’s happening! Episode 5 Bottled Appetites presents the first time two of the show’s protagonists actually meet. It finally brings a sense of cohesion that was sorely lacking from the series so far. This also presents the first real opportunity to dedicate an entire episode to a story without having to rush or cut corners. I am happy to say, Bottled Appetites, while still struggling to capture the nuance of its source material, nonetheless delivers an entertaining story and more importantly a good adaptation.

Ciri and Nilfgaard

Before we can get to the main story of the show, we must get the Ciri plot out of the way first. The episode opens with Cahir meeting a surprisingly malicious Doppler. The humanoid monster is a wonderfully creepy addition to the show’s expanding variety of freaks. There is good suspense being built around the exact nature of the doppler’s abilities. Sure it’s a one-dimensional chaotic evil character, but at least a unique presence. Cahir’s conversation with him still paints the Nilfgaardian as an overly generic bad guy. While the Doppler is disturbing enough, the homoerotic tension he shares with Cahir is an out-of-place choice.

The portrayal of Nilfgaard does not improve much from here on. Even as Fringilla and some scrotum boys make an appearance, the grandiose nature of the expanding empire is never put on real display. The story clearly frames the invading force as the obvious baddies. Both Fringilla and Cahir, clad in black leather, perform more like cartoon villains than actual personalities. It’s a shame that this polarizing portrayal paints the world as literally black and white instead of the complex grey of its source material. It makes me miss a degree of humanity from these characters.

Brokeback Mountain 2: Even Broker

Mousesack also makes a forgettable appearance, which is highly unfortunate since it should have been a touching send-off for the druid. He lacks substantial dialogue in his final moments and does not put up much of a fight. The lack of even attempted magic from the druid is a big missed opportunity especially after seeing him in action previous episode. On the note of magic, even though the show is not stingy with exposition, the significance of dimetirium is never explained. Neither is it explained why the doppler needs a running start to kill Mousesack. After the deed is done, the doppler’s transformation is an impressive effect. Adam Levy’s performance on both sides does a great deal to sell the transformation. The Doppler Mousesack (Doppsack?, Mouseler?) is an immediately distinct portrayal, projecting an unmistakably different vibe.

The Brokilon portion of the plot continues to be a cheap insult to the forest’s true mystical nature. The Dryads debating in elder speech does not add much to the lore or the plot either. The group of women just keeps standing around the same rock in different scenes, again making the setting lack any scope or visible production value. The lighting effect used in the first scenes is just plain annoying at this point. The absence of detail from this entire plot segment greatly undermined its believability. It feels like the action is only taking place while the camera is present, and the characters just stand around doing absolutely nothing when the audience is not looking. There is no explanation of what Ciri’s desert vision could have meant, even though it seemed greatly significant. It makes it clear that the sequence was just a blatant end-of-episode cocktease irrelevant to the narrative.

There is still no clear motivation for the Dryads, leaving them inconsistently oscillating between sinister and genuine. Suddenly giving the choice to Ciri to decide whether she wants to stay, also robs any tension from the scene. The princess’s dilemma of having to choose between safety and destiny is not explored in the slightest.

Towards the end of the episode, the plot returns to Brokilon. Since the passage of time is not well established in this arc, the scenes feel disjointed. It would have been nice to see some visible Dryad influence on Ciri by this point. A slight rustic makeover or some added character details could have made welcome additions. Doppsack’s appearance introduces some much-needed conflict to the plot. The druid’s uncomfortable behavior is way too exaggerated to be taken seriously. Leaving Brokilon is not put forth as a substantial enough decision. Ciri’s speech about family is straight out of a latter Fast and Furious flick and is way too sudden of an attachment to Dara. Speaking of, the young elf would clearly be a lot more reluctant to leave if the show hinted at the Dryad’s expectations for male visitors.

All in all this storyline bears little impact. A clearly obvious improvement would have been to leave the doppler reveal to the very end of the episode. This would have let the audience guess at Mousesack’s change in character. All the while capping off the episode with a much more suspenseful moment. As is, Ciri’s story has spent far too much time till this point, on far too little narrative development. It just makes me wish the subplot’s runtime was repurposed for Yen and Geralt’s much better A plot.

Yennefer

We begin the main story of the episode with a couple of scenes focusing on Yennefer. The usual leap in her character circumstances is much less jarring than the previous ones. We can finally get a good sense of how she may have evolved in the time in between. This stage of Yen is about as close as we get to her book version, although the portrayal still lacks her natural grace and does little to highlight the contrast of her advanced age and young physique.

Yen’s scene with her fellow apostate mage performs well in establishing her new status quo and outlook. Her consultation with the aged couple is a nice touch of juvenile fun. The following confrontation with the mayor works well in showcasing her confident and brazen attitude. The scene tries but fails to provide the required setup for her coming activities this episode. The most striking change for me personally is that Yennefer has become an unexpectedly sympathetic character. Dropping the dramatic disillusionment of the previous episode for a more pragmatic and independent worldview serves her character well. Finally, I feel she has become a protagonist the audience can root for. Some of her dialogue does come off as a tad too edgy, pushing her temporarily back into emo teenager territory.

Yennefer: the bluder years

Her later conversation with Tissaia serves as a nice role reversal on the pair’s previous dynamic. The rectoress’ offer rings hollow since we never got a chance to witness Yen’s great talents with the arcane arts. This encounter also makes a point of finally clarifying previously hinted themes. Nilfgaard’s ascension and political background are made clear with a welcome reminder of Fringilla. Yen’s desperate quest to regain fertility is also finally stated. Calling it a “curse” is understating Yen’s willing consent to her infertility. The magic nature of the problem is not quite believable since we saw the reproductive organ simply removed and fried. The sorceress’s sudden insistence on bearing children is not only out of left field but also out of character for her. It is never fully explained why she wants it. Yen’s previous choice was representative of choosing between power and potential motherhood, akin to choosing between career and family. It was an on-the-nose metaphor that I disliked even back then. Now it seems Yennefer has realized true power stems from not having to choose, symbolically an ideal woman should have both a carrier and a family. On a thematic level, this motivation works quite smartly for her, too bad it’s not given more subtext in the show.

The latter half of her scene with Tessia paints Yen as much too brash and obsessive, again bringing the emo vibe to the forefront. The writing could have communicated Yennefer’s headspace without making her seem like an edgy rebellious 14-year-old.

Geralt

The story also does a good job of setting up motivations from Geralt’s perspective. Just as Jaskier, we find the witcher right as he is “fishing” for answers to his own problems. The chance meeting of the bard and the witcher in the middle of a forest comes off as a preposterously convenient way to initiate the story. The banter of the pair is still top-notch although it has a bit more of a hostile feel as they begin to bicker. Geralt is also much more brooding, his sleep deprivation has taken a visible and well-acted toll. His anger is a nice show of emotion for the otherwise stoic character. There is a fairly pleasing return to the topic of destiny, but it is never explained why Geralt has such an extreme trepidation about the subject.

During their dialogue, Jaskier offhandedly throws around timescales going as far as a decade. An admitted fault of the show is the lack of aging the bard displays. This all essentially removes the power of an overarching chronology. It would have been just as believable if their friendship spanned 1 year rather than 10. The lack of a clear timeframe also brings into question the degree of character development we should be expecting. Despite mucking up the already convoluted series of events, the sequence is another gratifying dose of the pair’s on-point chemistry.

The introduction of the Djinn comes at the best point within the discussion and lends additional momentum to the scene. Once the bottle is revealed the scene continues with a great mix of comedy and suspense, each beat perfectly hitting its mark. All accompanied with a superbly fitting soundtrack to underscore the tension. The Djinn itself being just an amorphous blob of smoke is a very anticlimactic choice. It’s not even clear what we are looking at for the first few seconds. Jaskier’s sudden endangerment is a very effective way to get the audience invested and leads to constant excitement in the scenes to come. Unfortunately, this urgency is now a bit in conflict with the remaining comedic elements.

A deviation from the books is that Geralt seeks out the Djinn consciously rather than happening on it by chance. It is never explained how he knew about the vessel’s location and seems to possess no other valuable insight on the Djinn either. It again makes Geralt looks unprepared, which is a cardinal sin for any member of his profession.

The elf healer the pair seeks out is a well-rounded member of the supporting cast. He offers some tolerable exposition and his entire presence adds more color to the lore. The problem is that this stands in direct conflict with the lore so far. Only basing our knowledge on what we have seen so far, it would suggest that elves are renegades, slaves, and undesirables. Yet here we have an elf as a respected healer, and nobody seems to take issue with it. It’s just another incongruity to the show’s world-building.

Yenralt / Gerafer

Finally, the plotlines intersect. Since the show has used half a season teasing this moment, it has a lot to live up to. Luckily the meeting delivers on most fronts. It is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of The Last Wish short from the book The Last Wish.

The orgy is an excellent if distracting setting. Eye-candy aside it’s just refreshing to see so many extras inhabit a single space, compared to the usual maximum 5 actors on screen. The naked mass also lends great support to both the comedic and erotic atmosphere of the sequence. It’s good window dressing but some of the performed acts are just baffling on closer examination. Luckily the average viewer won’t scrutinize the backdrop with such zeal.

Does Medium allow nudity?

Yennefer and Geralt coming face to face does not pack the initial punch I was waiting for, instead opting for a slow but witty burn. Yen’s overly seductive nature is much too sudden here, notably compared to her desperate attitude just a few minutes ago. Her introductory motivations come off as vapid and empty without hinting at her greater plan. The sorceress looks like she has been waiting for the witcher, but then acts surprised upon his arrival. Her instant attraction is not yet properly justified this early on. Geralt on the other hand brings just the right amount of flirtatious energy to the encounter. There is some offhand use of magic that continues to deconstruct the rigid rules which were so well established for the world’s sorcery.

As the pair share more scenes their dynamic improves, but there is still something off about it. Yen, who was previously so disillusioned with men, struggles to sell her burning fascination with Geralt. The bath scene is one of the most memorable ones the series had to offer, already gaining iconic status amongst witcher fans. Yen getting naked in plain sight and THAN asking Geralt to modestly turn around is a strange choice, which could have been helped by better camera angles.

Yen funnels her previous desperation into heightened hornyness. It could be reasoned she must seduce the witcher to charm him, but she still comes on much too hard. The main problem with the sequence is that while Cavil is splendidly gruff and beefy, Anya fails to produce the intended sexual allure even after several sweaty attempts. (or idk maybe Im just gay) Although the pair’s chemistry pales in comparison to the one Geralt shares with Jaskier, the duo of sorceress and witcher is still the best romantic relationship we have seen in the series so far. A lot of smart dialogue is produced, that is both entertaining and shines a light on their respective characters.

After their shared bath, it would appear the pair’s business is concluded. The story does not provide enough motivation to support Geralt sticking around. This does give him an opportunity to admit he cares for the bard, which is a nice character milestone to achieve.

Lamentably the rest of the sequence is a bit rushed, Yen’s ulterior motives concerning the Djinn are revealed much too fast. The way she charms Geralt lacks magical effects or build-up to be meaningful. I was uncertain about the ramification of the event, even while it played out. Now that Yen’s plan has been revealed it helps clear up some earlier questions but does not explain her actions in a necessary way. In fact, it is never clear how charming Geralt fits into her plans. Nonetheless, it’s a serviceably delivered twist.

The jail scene tilts back into the comedic side of the episode. Geralt’s rampage throughout town is well explained, but I wish the series actually showed some of it. The elf healer being in love with Yen is not expounded enough to be a substantial plot point and feels superfluous to the greater narrative.

Jaskier’s awakening is a comedic highlight of the already entertaining plot. As the ritual is prepared the story does take a more serious turn. Yen using the FORCE on Jaskier is the last nail in the coffin for the cohesion of the magic system. The temporary tattoo Yen whips up, complete with fallopian tubes, is a touch too on the nose for my taste. The ritual does not display the expected magical pizazz or flashy accouterments. Nonetheless, tensions continue to rise while Jakiser persists in injecting just the right amount of levity.

Yennefer using magic: circa 1027, Colorised

The reveal of Geralt holding the wishes is expertly delivered, outdoing even the book’s version. It’s a highly proficient moment of storytelling, nicely amplified by the editing and score. The guard bursting is a pertinently gruesome effect. The scars on Geralt’s arm are also a nice visual cue to illustrate the wishes.

Yen’s ritual sadly remains a low point of the episode. There is a clear lack of production value put into the scene. The Djinn never taking physical form is an obvious cop-out, making its presence questionable. Geralt deciding to go back for Yen is a heroic moment but could have used a bit more build-up. When Geralt enters the ritual, the mood of the scene begins to unravel. Without any resources put into the set, the entire affair feels cheap and overexaggerated. The wind effects and tinted shades, fail to produce a sense of presence for the Djinn, making the whole sequence lack both stakes and urgency. Yen’s contorting body with tits flopping around calls to mind a scene from Scary Movie, more than one from The Exorcist. It quickly boils down to a shouting match with Geralt, that is way too intense for the established mood. The content of the dialogue also bears no significant meaning. Yennefer contradicts all her motivations in refusing Geralt’s offer and comes off as plain stupid by the climax of the scene. The Djinn possessing her finally leads to a bit of visual storytelling, but it's too little too late. At this point nothing can salvage the overall cheap presentation and lack of tension that permeates the proceedings. The resolution of the scene strikes completely futile. In this instance, the rare faithfulness of the adaptation is actually to the detriment of the narrative. Not hearing the wish does not strike the emotional cords it aims for, and just leaves the audience confused rather than intrigued.

Jaskier and the elf do not produce the appropriately devastated emotional reaction to Yen and Geralt's supposed death. Due to the anti-climatic resolution to the Djinn plot, there is still a sense of unresolved tension between the witcher and the sorceress. In contrast, their final interaction emits an unearned sense of familiarity. Based on the character traits revealed Yen should be much more furious about not achieving her goal. The argument de-escalates into cute bickering, yet the sudden makeout session lacks an emotional setup. The sex scene is about the least sexy thing I have seen. Their supposed emotional bond is not represented at all. It feels like two horny teenagers going at it in the backseat of a Toyota Corolla in a McDonald’s parking lot at 3 am. It’s certainly not the passionate budding romance I anticipated.

My last wish would be a 6 piece chicken McNuggets

Jaskier and the elf peeking through the window is an excellent gag to end on. The subsequent pillow talk between Yen and Geralt feels unnecessary and sidelines the entire conflict of the episode. The exact nature of the wish is also dismissed without much consideration, leaving insufficient motivation for the audience to speculate on it.

Final thoughts

  • The cardinal sin of this episode is that the extended setup we received regarding Yennefer’s character, does not come into play at all. There would have been very little context lost if this was the audience’s introduction to the sorceress. The episode would have been just as enjoyable without the show spending so much time and resources detailing Yennefer’s background. It’s incredibly disappointing to see the series struggle so hard to get us invested in Yen’s character, only for the backstory to seem irrelevant by the time the plotlines finally intersect.
  • Upon further examination, there is a possible plothole introduced into the events. While the exact verbiage of the titular “Last Wish” remains a mystery to this day, there is likely a prerequisite need for Geralt to be familiar with Yennefer’s childbearing ambitions. As far as I can tell this motivation is never revealed to the witcher in the show.
  • Ciri’s plot is both weak and unnecessary. Could have used those 10 minutes added to Geralt and Yen’s story.
  • The setting of the main plot is still lifeless and artificial. There are only two brief establishing shots of the town. Most of the plot is relegated to interior settings and remote forest ponds. The environment lacks identity, but at least the supporting cast brings a bit of life to it.
  • Yen’s conflict with the Mayor is poorly explained and sidelined for comedic value.
  • Yenralt is a good couple by the show’s standards, but still lacks believability and could use a touch more emotional maturity added to its passion.
  • The Last Rose of Cintra is a proper good song and deserved better than to just score the end credits. It could have been incorporated into this or another episode to greater effect. It’s also a surprising amount of exposition to deliver through a musical number.

I rate this episode a nice tall refreshing jug of apple juice.

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An unsophisticated critique of all things witcher. Currently suffering through the Netflix adaptation. Written by Marcell Sarosi. Edited by Robert Simola.

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The Bitcher

The Bitcher

An unsophisticated critique of all things witcher. Currently suffering through the Netflix adaptation. Written by Marcell Sarosi. Edited by Robert Simola.

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