The Witcher’s second episode, titled “Four Marks,” does for Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) what “The End’s Beginning” did for Geralt and Ciri.
Yennefer is introduced as a young woman unaware of her powers, suffering the cruelty of her father and neighbors thanks to a deformity. She learns about her abilities – not to mention her worth – after meeting a warlock named Istredd (Royce Pierreson), who takes an immediate liking to her. All is not as it seems with this blossoming love, but it is nevertheless interesting that The Witcher chooses to flesh out this romance for Yennefer. She is destined to be Geralt’s true love, but first she must become someone in her own right. And some love scenes with Pierreson certainly don’t hurt.
Istredd is not the only person who helps her come into her own, for once she is taken in by the witches of Aretuza, her primary relationship becomes Tissaia de Vries (MyAnna Buring). Tissaia is a harsh teacher, but at times she becomes almost a warm motherly figure for Yennefer – and that complicated dynamic makes up the heart of “Four Marks.” In fact, it’s even where the title of episode comes from: Yennefer’s father sells his daughter to Tissaia for those four marks, less than the price of a pig.
Yennefer gets off to a rocky start in Aretuza. Understandably so, as she’s locked in a room alone to contemplate her situation. Chalotra plays this anguished side of her character quite well, and the transformation she makes by the end of the episode is all the more impressive for it. This does not refer to a physical transformation, which the posters have hinted at since before the show premiered, but rather to the increased confidence and near arrogance that stem from the mastery of her abilities.
Tissaia teaches her witchy charges that “Magic is organizing chaos,” which sounds like a theme for Yennefer throughout the first season. She is a woman whose life has been ruled by chaos, and she wants nothing more than to rule over it for once – and hopefully win love by doing it. The episode also introduces viewers to some of the other sorceresses who will be relevant in The Witcher’s future, such as Fringilla (Mimi Ndiweni), Sabrine (Therica Wilson-Read) and Triss (Anna Schaffer). Fringilla makes the biggest impression, but there aren’t many hints of her importance to non-book readers in this particular episode.
Yennefer struggles through her sorceress training, with Tissaia growing harsher at every turn, but her powers are no joke. It is merely her inability to shape those powers that keeps her from reaching her full potential. As the episode unfolds, her relationship with Istredd turns out to be partially engineered by their respective teachers, but it doesn’t lessen the formative aspect of the romance for either. On the other hand, she learns a particularly gruesome truth about Tissaia’s methods of providing conduits for Aretuza. That is a revelation that hardens Yennefer more than anything else.
Once more, The Witcher operates in different timelines without stopping to let the audience know which is when. This time is a little more ambiguous than the last, since Yennefer is so far removed from Ciri and Geralt for now, but it’s all the more irrelevant for that. The point of the episode is really Yennefer’s origins and growth, and by the end of it, viewers will be fully acquainted with all three leads before they are acquainted with each other.
For thoughts on the rest of the episode, go to the next page.