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The Yennefer Scene In The Witcher Season 2 That Went Too Far

Contains spoilers for "The Witcher" Season 2

On "The Witcher," Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) has a brutal and generally unforgiving life. Originally cursed and ostracized by her community for her elvish blood, Yennefer is further outcasted from society thanks to being born with a hunchback and an awkward gait. Her family later sells her to the passing mage Tissaia (MyAnna Buring), the headmistress of Aretuza, an academy for female mages. Tissaia senses an untapped potential in the brow-beaten Yennefer, though her new life at Aretuza is, at first, little better than the one she had.

Ambitious to a fault and craving great power, Yennefer uses a combination of guile, intimidation, and cunning in Season 1 to finally learn to adroitly use magic, while at the same time transforming her visage into something beautiful, though at great personal cost. Season 2 picks up after Yennefer taps into the forbidden magic of fire, which saves the day and stops the Nilfgaardian advance, but leaves her bereft of the magic that defines so much of her existence. Once again, Yennefer is put in a place where she is willing to do anything to get her power back, and that sets the stage for a scene that had even the most stringent of Yennefer fans worried.

Yennefer agrees to child sacrifice

The scene in question starts to build in the second episode of Season 2, "Kaer Morhen." This episode sees Yennefer, Fringilla (Mimi M. Khayisa), and Francesca Findabair (Mecia Simson) invoke a supposedly ancient elvish deity. But when they do, the apparition conjured whisks the three away, and offers each of them their hearts' desire, though it is implied there will be a cost. Both Fringilla and Francesca agree, but Yennefer initially refuses. However, Yennefer is later captured and about to be executed when she invokes the litany that summons the "Deathless Mother" (Ania Marson), who promises to return magic to Yennefer in exchange for a young girl whom she doesn't recognize.

Yennefer reluctantly agrees, and the desperation in her eyes is palpable. This is a pretty big sacrifice that would make even the evilest person wince, but Yennefer is willing to do anything at this point in Season 2. She eventually comes across her target in a Faustian twist of fate: it's Geralt's adoptive child, Ciri (Freya Allan), whom he is caring for and training following the events of Season 1. The Deathless Mother feeds off pain and suffering, and, had Yennefer sacrificed Ciri, there would have been tremendous pain for both Geralt and herself.

To a degree, Yennefer's actions shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. In Season 1, audiences saw how Yennefer reacts to a world that treats her with cruelty before she transforms. After she changes, with the physical traits society once shunned her for now fixed, she goes on to embrace her power as a sorceress, using her magic for both good and ill.

Yennefer's decision about Ciri is a polarizing one for The Witcher fans

Yennefer's shocking turn, however brief, left fans of "The Witcher" polarized. Her ability to toe the line between hero and villain is something of a feat, but it illustrates she is prone to making darker, more selfish decisions even if she eventually changes course and does the right thing. This behavior is what makes her such a complex and compelling character.

It was this complex nature that had fans reacting right and left on Reddit. Many expressed how upset they were with this scene and its implications on her character arc in Season 2. On the subreddit r/netflixwitcher, Redditor u/headin2sound wrote, "Really disappointed in Yen this season [...] [D]id not like that Yen was planning to sacrifice Ciri to get her powers back. This really puts a weird strain on their relationship from here on out." 

Redditor u/hadtoomuchtodream rebutted, saying, "But then Yen warned Ciri, and later sacrificed herself for her. Plus Geralt loves her, meanwhile, Yen is so impressed and enamored by Ciri that all will be soon forgotten. It's hard to hate someone who actively and obviously adores you."

Additionally, u/Friendisaster acknowledged that the show develops Yennefer and Ciri's dynamic differently than the way it develops in Andrezj Sapkowski's "The Witcher" books. There, Yennefer has a more friendly, almost maternal stance and helps Ciri learn about her magic. As we see in this particularly divisive Season 2 scene, Yennefer's actions lay the foundation for a different tone in her relationship with Ciri. Friendisaster writes, "In the show, she doesn't know Ciri and she's desperate to get her powers. People make stupid decisions when they're desperate so I get what they were trying to do here. Would I have preferred if they kept the book version? Yes."