The Witcher Season 2 Pokes Fun At Season 1's Biggest Misstep
Jaskier the bard will never turn down a compliment, but his pride can't handle criticism. The writers of the Witcher seem to handle it a bit better.
The world of The Witcher is a dark place with invading armies, dangerous creatures, ambitious sorcerers, and more. You have to find some light in all that darkness, though, and that comes in the form of the bard Jaskier. Last season, he gave us the best song in a streaming series in the form of "Toss a Coin (To Your Witcher)." In The Witcher Season 2, though, Netflix allowed him to poke fun at the very show he's in--while also acting as a voice for its writers. Minor spoilers follow for The Witcher Season 2, Episode 4, "Redanian Intelligence."
After a harrowing journey alongside the Nilfgaardian Black Knight Cahir, Yennefer literally crawls out of the sewer and hears a familiar singing voice through the floorboards from the tavern above. While plying his trade at the tavern and singing songs about how much Geralt sucks, we learn that Jaskier is also helping to shepherd elves out of Oxenfurt, where the attitude toward elves is turning from simply racist to downright deadly. Yennefer, both part elf and drained of her powerful magic following the battle of Sodden Hill, needs to get out of the city. Jaskier agrees to help, and that's where the show finds its opportunity to make simultaneously poke fun at and defend itself.
Jaskier attracts the attention of the man checking peoples' papers and charms him with a song. In this world, Jaskier isn't just another guy, he's a truly famous and infamous bard whose songs people know and have strong preferences about. Jaskier leaves the man smiling, but also left him confident enough to tell the bard how one of his songs could've been improved.
"It's a bit complicated," the man says. "Took me to the fourth verse to understand there were different timelines." He goes on to discuss how unrealistic it was that the bard would end up with two warrior women and how he saw the "dragon reveal" coming from a mile away.
One of the biggest criticisms leveled at The Witcher Season 1 was its confusing timelines. Throughout the series, we switched between Yennefer, Geralt, and Ciri's points of view. Yennefer and Geralt are much older than Ciri--most of a century. The Witcher stories are cagey about characters' actual ages, but Geralt and Yennefer appear to be about 75 years older than Ciri based on information provided in the books, and the show hints at this once the separate timelines become clearer. The show doesn't tell you that, though, until late into the eight-episode season. Many viewers were left confused or feeling played by the show as a result.
While the man watching the docks seems to be in the place of us viewers, though, Jaskier is a stand-in for the writers. The events the song references happen in Season 1, Episode 6, "Rare Species," in which Geralt, Jaskier, and Yennefer join a group on a hunt for a dragon. This trip is also where Yennefer finds out about Geralt's wish that bound them together, and when Geralt essentially blames Jaskier for all his misfortunes--leading into the song Yennefer originally heard when she came across Jaskier in the tavern.
Though Jaskier tries to tolerate the man's criticism, he ends up endangering the whole party of escapees to drag the man through the proverbial mud, calling him a scapegrace and suggesting that he could try writing his own songs if he wants to criticize others. It makes Jaskier look even more reckless than he already does because he's putting his own pride above the safety of people he's promised to protect.
It's a weird, funny, and very meta way for the show to address that Season 1 criticism. While the critic initially seems like a jerk for his criticism, Jaskier's handling of it makes him the bad guy.