This is a bit of an odd episode, in that it’s mostly focused on team-ups between characters who haven’t shared a ton of screen-time: Istredd and Geralt, Yennefer and Jaskier, Ciri and Vesemir.
We start with Rience, a mage who has been trapped in a deuterium prison for a decade, who is allowed out if he can capture Ciri, though who he’s supposed to capture her for remains unclear. Rience is a torture-happy fire mage, and he seems able to control it even though that same kind of magic burned out Yennefer’s entire ability to do magic.
Ciri seems barely interested in Triss’s magic lessons, but becomes fascinated when she finds out that she may carry the key to making more Witchers. She clearly idolizes Geralt, and there’s an obvious subtext regarding her fear of not being capable of defending herself.
As to why Vesemir is willing to possibly try out the formula on Ciri, it’s true that she asks for it and it’s true that he’s done it to other children to make more Witchers. You can understand his desperation for more of the only family he’s known, especially as he ages. But it still seems reckless to likely kill the one with the bloodline necessary for more, given that few of the children ever survive to become Witchers. This plotline could have been improved by making it Ciri trying to sneak in to get the formula, rather than an old man who should know better trying to use it on her.
Istredd, Yennefer’s non-Geralt romantic interest from Season 1, spends some time with Geralt, who wants to know about the destruction of the stellacite monolith. They investigate and find a massive chasm heading into the earth. Their discussions tend to lead towards more lore questions relating to how the Witcher universe was created, and what the Conjunction really was. I’ve always appreciated the use of science in this setting, and Geralt and Istredd seem like scholars of different scientific branches.
Even when Istredd mentions Yennefer and that he loved her, Geralt doesn’t show much jealousy. The turning point is when Istredd mentions that Yennefer is still alive after the Battle of Sodden. Cavill plays Geralt close to the chest, even more so this season than in S1, but that moment he seems to really come alive without losing Geralt’s closed-off nature.
Yennefer and Jaskier have, again, the best dynamic of the episode. Despite not truly liking each other, Jaskier helped her out in the last episode, and Yennefer got off the boat to Cintra once she thought he was in trouble. Jaskier is captured by Rience and tortured with fire magic. Yennefer should not be a match for a mage without her own magic, but she’s clever, and he’s arrogant, and she knows exactly how his magic works and how to play him. It’s a short action scene, but it’s very much in-character.
Her rescue of him ends up getting her captured, which gives the Deathless Mother she met back in episode 2 the opportunity to re-open her offer. While she still has no magic, she is allowed back into the Deathless Mother’s hut, an easy escape from the guards who had captured her. The Deathless Mother can’t give her magic back directly, and Yennefer outright states she doesn’t want to be indebted, but there is a trade, which we’ll get into in the next recap.