Who Will Become A Ringbearer In “The Rings Of Power” Season 2?

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR THE RINGS OF POWER SEASON TWO AHEAD!

New year, same niche interests.

Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power has been lingering in the back of my mind ever since its epic season finale, which saw the human Southlander Halbrand revealed to be the Dark Lord Sauron in one of his many fair-seeming forms. With his plan to conquer Middle-earth unknowingly set in motion by the characters of Adar, Celebrimbor, and Pharazôn, the stakes are higher than ever – and the only thing standing between Sauron and his ultimate goal is Galadriel, to whom Sauron’s ambitions were made terrifyingly clear when he offered her a place at his side in the new world he intends to build from the old one’s ashes. Heading into season two, the Three Rings forged by Celebrimbor will come into play, giving the Elves an apparent advantage over Sauron that the Dark Lord will seek to circumvent by approaching Celebrimbor in a new disguise and persuading him to create more Rings with his help; Rings through which he can control the other Free Peoples, Men and Dwarves.

The Three Rings of Power made for the Elves in The Lord Of The Rings, arranged in a triangle on a brown stone slab, viewed from above.
The Three Rings of the Elves | nerdist.com

With a grand total of nineteen Rings of Power floating around in season two (minus the One Ring forged by and for Sauron alone), audiences can look forward to appearances from the future owners of the Seven Rings made for the Dwarves and the Nine Rings destined to enslave Men. On top of that, the first season came to an abrupt end before the Elves gathered to witness the forging of the Three Rings could decide who among them should wield these precious artifacts, leaving open the possibility that multiple high-ranking Elven-lords and ladies will vie for a Ring of their own before they inevitably come to rest on the hands of Galadriel, High King Gil-galad, and Círdan the Shipwright. The books and posthumously published writings of J.R.R. Tolkien are largely unhelpful for theorists, offering only a vague account of how the Rings of Power were distributed – which means there’s no predicting how Amazon’s adaptation of this story will play out.

At one point, Tolkien toyed with the idea that the Rings of Power had originally all been made for Elven wearers, and that it was Sauron who later went amongst Dwarves and Men, handing out the sixteen Rings he had stolen from Celebrimbor’s forge when he sacked the city of Eregion. I can easily believe that Men, with their short lifespans and shorter memories, would fall for that trick, but it’s never made much sense to me that the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm, who promptly closed their doors in Sauron’s face after Eregion was sacked, would reopen them for any mysterious stranger bearing Rings that could only have been made in Eregion. I’ve always preferred the account passed down by the Dwarves themselves; that Celebrimbor himself presented a Ring of Power to King Durin III, making at least one out of the Seven a true token of friendship between Elves and Dwarves.

The identities of the other Ringbearers also eluded Tolkien, or else he never gave the matter much thought. It is generally assumed, for good reason, that the rest of the Seven Rings were given to the heads of the seven Dwarven clans (Longbeards, Firebeards, Broadbeams, Ironfists, Stiffbeards, Blacklocks and Stonefoots), but I do not believe that this is actually confirmed anywhere. It’s theoretically possible that two or more Dwarf-lords of a single clan each received a Ring, and that some clan leaders steadfastly refused to accept Rings at all. Seeing as the Dwarves were generally far more resistant to the corrosive powers of the Rings than Men or even Elves, it would not surprise me if that were the case. The names of the nine Men who became Sauron’s Ringwraiths were either lost to time or suppressed, all save one; Khamûl, the Shadow of the East, who was second-in-command to the Witch-king of Angmar.

That’s the story we’ve been told, anyway. Amazon intends to tell their own, and it seems to me that there are already a few original characters (i.e. characters invented for The Rings Of Power, who didn’t exist or weren’t named in Tolkien’s works) that have been set up in season one to become Ringbearers in season two, amongst them Durin IV and Disa of Khazad-dûm, Bronwyn and Theo of the Southlands, and Kemen of Númenor. The concept alone may offend some Tolkien purists, but allow me to lay out the argument for each of these non-canonical candidates.

(from left to right) Elrond, Durin IV, and Disa from The Rings Of Power. Elrond is the tallest of the three, dressed in silver robes. Durin has a long reddish beard, and wears red-brown armor. Disa is wearing a gray gown with gold jewelry, and her hair is down.
(from left to right) Elrond, Durin IV, and Disa | fantasytopics.com

Representing the prestigious Longbeard clan as the main Dwarven viewpoint character in the series, Prince Durin IV is the most obvious choice to receive the Ring of Power given to his father by Celebrimbor in the semi-canonical version of the story only sketched out by Tolkien. He is, at any rate, far more likely to accept the gift without questioning its origins than his father Durin III, who in Amazon’s retelling is deeply distrustful of the Elves and all their handiwork. The Ring, with its tendency to “inflame [the bearer’s] heart with a greed of gold and precious things”, would bring out the worst qualities in Durin IV, who unsuccessfully sought for six episodes to convince his father that the value of mithril (a precious metal coveted by the Elves, but only found in narrow crevices deep below the foundations of Khazad-dûm) far outweighed the dangers of mining it. With a Ring on his finger to assure him of his own infallibility, he would become insistent upon digging ever deeper in search of mithril, inevitably awakening the monster nestled in wait at the mountain’s roots.

I see these tragic events unfolding in Durin IV’s future as clearly as if they were already filmed, but whether his wife Disa make it out alive or not will depend entirely on whether she learns too late what Gandalf told Saruman in The Fellowship Of The Ring; that “only one hand at a time can wield [a Ring of Power]”, meaning that its bearer will soon become possessive of it and irrationally suspicious of anyone who offers to share it, even if only to ease the mental and physical toll it exacts. I fear that this once inseparable power-couple will break under pressure, and that while Durin is dragged down by the weight of his Ring to a dark and terrible place, Disa will be put in an extremely difficult position where she can choose to stick by his side, either for true love’s sake or in the naïve hope that she can make the Ring work for her too, or she can get out before she’s buried with him beneath falling monuments to their selfishness and greed, the only thing they ever truly shared.

We have yet to see any Dwarf-lords from the other six clans scattered across Middle-earth from the Ered Luin to the Iron Hills, and I doubt that The Rings Of Power will ever find the time or space to flesh out their stories anyway, but I imagine we’ll see the other Dwarven Ringbearers gathered in at least one scene, solely so that Amazon can replicate that iconic moment in the opening sequence of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship Of The Ring, where the seven nameless Dwarf-lords hold up their Rings as one. Personally, I’m hoping for a little more diversity in Amazon’s version, because if Galadriel can get grouped in with the “Elven-kings” in the famous Ring-verse despite being a woman (and explicitly not even equivalent to a king amongst her own people), then there can be some Dwarven-women among the “Dwarf-lords” mentioned in the next line.

That brings me to the next character I believe might be tempted to get her hands on a Ring – Bronwyn of the Southlands, a humble human apothecary who became unexpectedly crucial in deciding the fate of Middle-earth after leading her people to a victory against the Orcs that was only overturned when Orodruin suddenly erupted, forcing her to flee to Pelargir with her family and other refugees at the end of season one. Not only is she now acquainted with the Dark Lord Sauron (albeit in the fair form of Halbrand, long-lost king of the Southlands), giving her the means to obtain a Ring of Power, she also has the motive to want one: she’s in love with an immortal Elven warrior named Arondir who has been around since the First Age and will still be around long after Bronwyn’s great-grandchildren are dead, which is sure to pose a problem in their relationship as they start to wonder what’s next for them now that they’re comfortably settled down in Pelargir.

Bronwyn and Arondir from The Rings Of Power, standing at a forge while Arondir holds a black sword-hilt. He is wearing gray armor made from wood, with a leering face emblazoned on his breastplate. Bronwyn wears a simple blue dress and a heavy gray coat.
Bronwyn and Arondir | express.co.uk

By a complete coincidence, the nine Rings of Power given to Mortal Men have the side-effect of extending their bearer’s lifespan long beyond its natural endpoint, something that sounds really appealing until you realize that the Rings can’t do anything to preserve your physical body or your mind, but will continue to puppeteer your undead husk for centuries until even that has crumbled away and finally all that remains is an overworked and exhausted soul tied to the world by the Ring on its nonexistent finger. If that fate awaits Bronwyn, it will be far worse than dying of old age, for death would come as a sweet release after an eternity of numbness.

Frankly, I’ve always felt that Middle-earth needs more women who are morally ambiguous in all the ways that men have always been allowed to be, so I wouldn’t necessarily object to Bronwyn becoming a Ringwraith, but I do have concerns that if her story goes down this route, it might gradually become the story of Arondir’s attempts to save Bronwyn from herself, rather than remaining focused on her – very relatable, and extremely Tolkienesque – struggle with the fear of death, so I’d like to hear opinions from women about how (or whether) it can be depicted without that happening.

Bronwyn’s son Theo has a rather more straightforward motive for desiring a Ring of Power. Ever since Waldreg stole the mysterious sword-shaped key that Theo had been using to stab himself so he could get high on blood loss and used it to activate Orodruin (why was the key shaped like a sword, anyway? I still have far too many questions regarding the key, the keyhole, and Sauron’s bizarre plan to anti-terraform the Southlands for there to ever be good enough answers), Theo has spoken about feeling powerless without it and wanting revenge on the Orcs to fill the gaping void in his life. While Sauron might not allow him to go that far, he can offer Theo something else – an even stronger drug that will silently kill off the parts of him that are good and innocent, reducing him to a vacant vessel ready to be filled with Sauron’s malice. The alternative, in my opinion, is that Theo becomes the King of the Dead, and either way he’s going to be trapped between life and death for a long time before getting peace.

Kemen, the weakly rebellious son of Pharazôn, is by far the least interesting and least sympathetic character who could potentially end up wearing one of the Nine Rings, but I have to believe there was a reason for writing him into the series, and this is the only one that makes any sense to me. Throughout the first season, in the few and far-between glimpses we caught of Kemen and his father interacting, we watched with second-hand embarrassment as the young man almost reluctantly matured – though only after his puppy-like attempts to please his father (“I was only trying to be clever”) were met with contempt. Kemen’s guilty anger emboldened him, and he thwarted his father’s imperialist agenda by blowing up a ship intended to set sail for Middle-earth, although he barely made it out of the conflagration alive. In season two, I expect Kemen to go to even greater lengths to sabotage (and at the same time, subconsciously impress) his father, and it would be most ironic if he only succeeded in enslaving his will to the Dark Lord.

Besides Kemen, it’s possible – though very unlikely, in my opinion – that another Númenórean, Eärien, will become a Ringwraith. I personally believe she will be lured to the dark side not by promises of power or eternal life, but by the opportunity to build the Temple of Morgoth in Armenelos where Sauron and Pharazôn will sacrifice prisoners-of-war and members of the Faithful arrested on false charges of treason, including Eärien’s own family. I will support her every step of the way, mind you, no matter what unspeakable crimes she commits to become the greatest architect in Middle-earth for one brief shining moment before it all comes crashing down around her, but for that climax to be truly satisfying I believe Eärien must surely die in the building she designed to last for centuries, like Thomas Andrews going down with the Titanic.

Earien from The Rings Of Power, a young woman with brown hair wearing a dark orange gown styled after Ancient Greek garments
Eärien | bt.com

With the cast of The Rings Of Power expanding in season two, there’s a very strong chance we’ll soon meet other future Ringwraiths from Númenor, Middle-earth’s Southlands, and the currently uncharted regions of Rhûn and Harad. But I don’t know anything about these characters, and Tolkien left nothing for me to work with, so this is where I must sadly end. Of course, there is one more Ring, one of which I have not yet spoken, but that One was made for the Dark Lord’s hand alone, and it was only by chance (which some might call the divine intervention of Eru) that it was cut from his finger and later lost in the murky waters of the Anduin, only to be picked up by a hobbit or something akin to one, anyway. For the record, however, I do believe the One Ring will be forged in the season two finale, concluding Sauron’s irreversible descent into darkness.

So…which of the characters I’ve mentioned will actually get their hands on a Ring of Power when all is said and done, and which will become corrupted, transforming into horrible Ringwraiths? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Genshin Impact’s Dehya And Mika Revealed For Version 3.5!

A long time ago, in the summer of 2022, when the cast of playable characters from Genshin Impact‘s then yet-to-be-released region of Sumeru leaked, I took one look at the line-up and committed right then and there to pulling just one – Dehya, whose name, rarity, Elemental type, weapon type, skills, and abilities were all unknown to me at the time. She was just a “tall female” character with what looked like cat-ears protruding from her head (we now know that’s just how her hair bunches up in the back), but I knew from the moment I saw her that I would burn through all my hard-earned Primogems for her.

Official artwork of Dehya from Genshin Impact
Dehya | attackofthefanboy.com

For me, it came down to the fact that Dehya was the first (and for a while the only) character from Sumeru that we knew for sure had brown skin…although brown, in this case, is arguably only relative to the other characters from the region, who have an even more blindingly pale complexion than those from Mondstadt (the region of Teyvat inspired by Renaissance-era Germany). I am sure this came as no surprise to many, but I had not long been playing Genshin Impact at the time of those leaks and when I had inquired as to why there were only two dark-skinned characters in the entire game, I had been assured by other players that “in Sumeru, there will be diversity!”, so I was deeply disappointed to realize that HoYoverse wasn’t even being subtle about their egregious colorism, the use of orientalist stereotypes in their designs, and the general appropriation of SWANA (Southwest Asian and North African) cultures in their worldbuilding. To this day, they have not officially addressed any of these issues, and that is in no small part due to a fandom that aggressively suppressed the backlash with harassment and abuse.

As a result, I have only pulled for a single five-star character from Sumeru – Cyno, who I ought to clarify is probably only brown-skinned by Genshin Impact‘s very low standards. He’s lighter even than Dehya. In my pursuit of Cyno, I successfully obtained several copies of Candace, currently the darkest-skinned of the three non-white playable characters from Sumeru and – by a total coincidence, I’m sure – the only one that’s a common four-star unit obtainable for free through the permanent Standard Banner, immediately making her less desirable to the majority of Genshin‘s player-base due to her lower base stats. But even Candace is light in comparison to Xinyan, a four-star character from Liyue who released near the start of the game (who just so happens to be my Main DPS and the only character I’ve ascended to Level 90).

Well, now the first drip-marketing for Dehya is finally here, and – despite her already being light-skinned, as I mentioned earlier – HoYoverse felt the need to brighten her official artwork to the point where she essentially appears white, although we know for a fact that her in-game character model has a significantly darker skin-tone. I can’t say I’m surprised, because they’ve done this before with Genshin Impact and their other games, but I will never not be disappointed when they attempt to advertise their few brown-skinned characters as lighter-skinned than they are in the hopes that players will be more incentivized to pull for them.

Dehya from Genshin Impact, standing with her hands on her hips in front of an archway. She wears ripped black pants with a large gold belt, and a red-and-black top with an exposed midriff. Her right arm is heavily armored.
Dehya | pockettactics.com

I will not be going over Dehya’s leaked kit and playstyle in detail at this time, as that information is currently subject-to-change anyway. If you’ve played the Sumeru Archon Quest, you already know she wears a Pyro Vision on her belt, and carries a claymore. That’s pretty much all I can say, but I can tell you that the leaks are out there if you want to get a clearer idea of the role Dehya plays for her party and start farming the Ascension Materials she’ll need (not all of which, I will warn you, are yet available to us). If you’ve seen the leaks, I urge you to at least be considerate in the comments below for those who haven’t and don’t wish to be spoiled.

As for Dehya’s role in the story of Genshin Impact, I don’t expect her to have that much lore significance, but that’s not an issue for me. I honestly appreciate that there are smaller-scale character stories woven throughout Genshin Impact that keep us firmly grounded in the human drama unfolding across Teyvat even as the conflict between the gods becomes cosmic in scope. I only hope that Dehya’s Story Quest brings back the fan-favorite NPC Dunyarzad Homayani, Dehya’s employer and closest confidante (and the other half of Dehyarzad, the most popular fan-pairing involving Dehya). Those two had terrific chemistry in all their scenes together, and I need more of their adventures now that Dunyarzad is presumably recovering from the effects of Eleazar and itching to explore the world.

The four-star character set to be released alongside Dehya in Version 3.5 is Mika, a cartographer from Mondstadt whom I’m sure I will obtain several times over despite the visceral loathing I have for his bland design and grating personality (if you don’t recall, we were introduced to Mika in Version 3.1 during a limited-time event, and he was so awe-struck in the protagonist’s presence that he basically hid behind Kaeya the entire time…mind you, this boy is a fully-fledged Knight of Favonius and a member of Grandmaster Varka’s expedition to Snezhnaya who apparently interacted with the high-ranking Fatui Harbinger Capitano). Again, his kit is out there if you want to take a look, but you’ll probably get him through the Standard Banner eventually, whether you want him or not.

Mika from Genshin Impact, reading aloud from a letter in the Knights of Favonius headquarters. He has short fluffy blond hair with distinctive tufts like a bird's, and wears a blue coat and gloves.
Mika | gfinityesports.com

So how are we feeling about the drip-marketing for Dehya, and which of these two characters do you intend to add to your team in Version 3.5? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Everything We Learned From The Genshin Impact Version 3.4 Special Program

As we all sort of suspected going in, the hotly-anticipated announcement of Genshin Impact‘s annual Lantern Rite Festival, which has coincided with the Chinese New Year early each year since the game’s launch, was the highlight of the Version 3.4 Special Program. Despite having an overwhelmingly large number of new events to promote before the upcoming patch (some of which, in my premature opinion, deserved to be the centerpiece of their own separate patch), as well as limited-time banners for new and old characters, alternate skins for Lisa and Kamisato Ayaka, and even an expansion to the region of Sumeru, the HoYoverse developers returned time and time again to Lantern Rite throughout the livestream, hyping up what they promise will be an unforgettable experience for nostalgic veteran players who have experienced this magical event twice before and are yearning to return to Liyue, and for newer players who have heard the stories of Lantern Rite and desperately want to see it for themselves.

Lanterns rise over Liyue Harbor at night in Genshin Impact
Lantern Rite | forbes.com

If I recall correctly, I started playing Genshin Impact near the tail-end of last year’s Lantern Rite Festival, and hadn’t even finished the Mondstadt Archon Quest and unlocked Liyue before the celebration had wrapped up (otherwise I might have gotten Beidou, once my most coveted character, for free, without having to spend Starglitter in the shop as I ultimately resorted to doing). So as you can imagine, this is an exciting time for me. And this time around, I plan to not only participate eagerly in all the minigames, but to choose wisely between the nine Liyue four-star characters who will all briefly be available for free as an event reward. Feel free to help me decide, in the comments below, whether to go for Xinyan’s C3 (yes, I use Xinyan as my main DPS, what about it?), Beidou’s C1, Yanfei’s C5, or my very first copy of Yao Yao, the new Dendro healer, since I’m saving for Dehya in Version 3.5 and won’t be wishing on any of the banners where Yaoyao will receive a drop-rate boost.

I’ve got to say, I’m cautious of selecting Yaoyao, because for the past few months I’ve gotten away with rotating between just two Dendro-reaction focused teams (a Hyperbloom team, consisting of Dendro Traveler, Collei, Barbara, and Kuki Shinobu, and a Burgeon team where Shinobu is swapped out for Yanfei), and I don’t know if I have a spot for Yaoyao. Barbara and Shinobu already do enough healing, separately but especially together, to prevent the occasional Dendro Core explosion from doing much harm to my other characters, and Yaoyao’s damage output is probably too minimal (at least without high investment and Deepwood Memories artifacts that I’d rather be putting on my Collei) to make her Dendro-spitting leporine sidekick a valuable asset to either of my two teams. That said, she does have the ability to sneak up on Crystalflies without them immediately ascending out of reach, which is a point in her favor.

Yaoyao will debut in the first half of Version 3.4, appearing on Alhaitham and Xiao’s limited-time banners, before being added to the permanent Standard Banner in Version 3.5. Keep that in mind before impulsively throwing your precious wishes at either character’s banner in an attempt to get her! Although participating in Lantern Rite will reward players with wishing currency (and, in an uncharacteristically generous move on HoYoverse’s part, ten Intertwined Fates ready to be spent on the banner of your choice will be provided to each and every player as a reward for logging in daily), it’s probably safer to wait unless you actually want Alhaitham or Xiao, because summoning a five-star character at the wrong moment can completely wreck your plans. I’ve already mentioned that I intend to skip Alhaitham’s banner, but let me go into a little more depth.

First and foremost, I committed to pulling Dehya and Cyno from the moment it became depressingly evident that they would be Sumeru’s only two nonwhite five-star characters. I was just barely successful in my attempts to obtain Cyno, and I would ideally like to do even better on Dehya’s banner, picking up either her signature weapon or a second copy of her, just to prove how much she means to me. Secondly, Alhaitham’s playstyle is very similar to Keqing’s, right down to his Elemental Skill allowing him to teleport across the battlefield and deal Dendro DMG on impact, which would be great if I enjoyed playing Keqing, but she was my very first five-star and to this day I only ever bring her out when I’m having difficulty reaching the top of a tall building. I wouldn’t intentionally pull for a character just like her unless he could do more for me in a Hyperbloom or Burgeon team than Dendro Traveler can for free. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I dislike Alhaitham. Not only do I find him pretentious and catty, but I’m still annoyed that his character model has proper muscles while Itto has sticks for arms. It’s not fair, HoYoverse.

Official artwork of Alhaitham from Genshin Impact, depicting the character - a tall man in black sleeveless clothing with short silver hair, wearing headphones made from gold and turquoise - standing in front of a white and green background
Alhaitham | yardbarker.com

My opinion of Alhaitham could change, if his first Story Quest answers any of my burning questions regarding the Sumeru Akademiya and its relationship with the Dendro Archon following the Sumeru Archon Quest that left off with Alhaitham serving as Acting Grand Sage of the Akademiya under the leadership of Lesser Lord Kusanali. I still don’t understand how or by whom the region is truly governed (and I can’t even begin to guess where the mysterious Temple of Silence fits into all of this), but that’s where Alhaitham’s Story Quest has the potential to be illuminating on multiple levels and why I’ll be extremely disappointed with HoYoverse if their writers drop the ball. At least I know that I can always count on the writers who brought us the poignant Golden Slumber World Quest, so I’m happy to hear that Golden Slumber is receiving an extension in Version 3.4, with fan-favorite NPCs Jeht and Benben returning as our guides into the new Hadramaveth Desert region.

There, Jeht hopes to find the legendary Eternal Oasis mentioned in the Flower of Paradise Lost Artifact set description; an evergreen garden of purple padisarahs built by King Deshret to house the body of the Goddess of Flowers after her death, now buried deep beneath swirling sands that form a vortex miles-high. In the wind-whittled ruins that cling to the canyon-walls in the Hadramaveth Desert, various Eremite tribes who claim descent from the Goddess of Flowers have scraped by for centuries, believing that each day they inch closer to the discovery of the Eternal Oasis where time stands still and death has no power. Whether Jeht will make it that far remains to be seen, but the trailer outright confirms that the Traveler will arrive at a place matching this description, with birds suspended in mid-air and fish frozen under glassy water like some kind of immersive Natural History Museum exhibit. Be sure to complete the Golden Slumber World Quest soon if you haven’t already, so you can be one of the first to piece together the untold story of the Goddess of Flowers.

Speaking of powerful yet mysterious women associated with purple flowers, Mondstadt’s very own Witch of the Purple Rose, Lisa Minci, is getting her deserved moment in the spotlight with a new alternate skin set to be released in Version 3.4 as a reward for participating in the Second Blooming combat event. The challenges seem pretty straightforward to me, but it’s not every day that Lisa returns to Sumeru since graduating at the top of her class and immediately thereafter retiring, yet here she is, dressed up for the special occasion in a personally-commissioned outfit evocative of those worn by students at the Sumeru Akademiya. I’ll be interested to learn if there’s a quest associated with this event, since there was a time when Genshin Impact theorists believed that Lisa might have gone off the radar in part because of what she learned at the Akademiya. Maybe now, with the corrupt sages banished to the forest, it’s time for her to make a comeback?

While Lisa’s alternate skin will be free, a new alternate skin for Kamisato Ayaka named Springbloom Missive will only be available through the shop, and players will need to be prepared to spend real money if they want to dress the Inazuman noblewoman in the pastel-colored finery of a lady from Fontaine (as seen in the illustrations of light novels popular with Inazuman readers). Ayaka, who already has the distinction of being Genshin Impact‘s most profitable character, with record-breaking sales on her rerun banner, is now the first limited five-star character to receive an alternate skin, even before characters with larger fanbases like the Archons. There’s no denying that HoYoverse recognizes her worth to the company. Ayaka will appear wearing this skin in the Warrior’s Soul event hosted by the Yashiro Commission, described as a series of challenges that will limit players to using their normal attacks, in which the act of parrying will significantly boost your damage output.

While you’re in Inazuma, stick around for the Almighty Arataki Extraordinary and Exciting Extreme Beetle Brawl, an event that allows players to finally share in the joy of pitting Onikabuto beetles against one another and strategically maneuvering them through a series of epic duels, something that Itto has been hyping up for ages. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see Itto returning in a new event so soon after his first canonical interaction with Gorou during the Akitsu Kimodameshi event (will he mention Gorou?), but I wish it wouldn’t be completely overshadowed by Lantern Rite. This event sounds like fun! I want it to be recurring, and I haven’t even played it yet.

Yaoyao from Genshin Impact, a small girl with large golden bells in her hair, wearing a green vest over a white shirt with puffy sleeves
Yaoyao | pcgamesn.com

Have I missed anything? Besides the announcement of Alhaitham’s new signature weapon and a new boss battle beneath the Hadramaveth Desert with a giant flying sandworm named Setekh Wenut that will almost certainly provide Alhaitham’s Ascension Materials, I mean (full offense to Alhaitham, but I already hate fighting the Ruin Serpent that I actually need to level up Kuki Shinobu, a character I use regularly; I’m not willingly fighting a flying variation on that same abominable idea, all for a character I never intend to pull). If I have, drop it in the comments down below, as well as any thoughts, theories, and opinions you wish to share!

“The Witcher: Blood Origin” – Netflix’s Messy Fantasy Epic Is Getting Bashed For All The Wrong Reasons

SPOILERS FOR THE WITCHER: BLOOD ORIGIN AHEAD!

No point in delaying the inevitable, so here’s the harsh truth: I did not particularly care for The Witcher: Blood Origin. The live-action limited-series, set a thousand years before the events of The Witcher in a world populated by Elves, was originally intended to have a full six episodes, each an hour long, in which to tell the story of how Elves, humans, and fearsome monsters from Slavic folklore first collided during the Conjunction of the Spheres and were stranded on The Continent – a tale that could easily have been as epic and stirring as the first trailer promised. Alas! We shall never know if, in its original form, Blood Origin earned those descriptors, because at some point late in production two entire episodes were scrapped at Netflix’s bequest and their contents were hastily scattered across the remaining four. The spilled blood and guts of this once grand series are on full display in the unappealing final product, which has been served up as an appetizer to The Witcher season three.

Sophia Brown as Eile in The Witcher: Blood Origin, riding a white horse
Éile | gamesradar.com

I have to imagine that Blood Origin‘s world, story, and characters were all fully fleshed-out in the episodes we lost forever, and that its commentary on “progressive reformers” who play at being revolutionaries while merely redecorating the inherently oppressive systems in which they remain caged was probably once effective, even timely. Perhaps the few, faint glimmers of originality still just barely visible in these four hectic episodes shone a little brighter before they were buried under layers of muck. Whatever the case, I can regretfully only pass judgement on what I actually watched: four hours of dull exposition, shallow political intrigue (my favorite fantasy trope, which I usually eat up), confessions of love and betrayals both rendered meaningless by the lack of any semblance of build-up, and a grand total of two or three minutes dedicated to the actual Conjunction of the Spheres, shoved in almost as an afterthought. Blood Origin is bad, but what’s worse, it’s incredibly boring.

And absolutely none of that is due to Henry Cavill suddenly leaving The Witcher, yet his name keeps popping up in eye-catching headlines for reviews of Blood Origin, and in a recent flurry of hyperbolic think-pieces predicting the quick death of the franchise. Without Cavill, critics write, The Witcher has nothing going for it. But what of the best-selling novels and critically-acclaimed video games, you ask? Tragically, they’re all meaningless now, without Cavill. And Blood Origin, a self-contained prequel which never starred Cavill in the first place but inconveniently comes hot on the heels of his departure, while his fans are still in mourning? Well, obviously it just shouldn’t exist. After all, what’s the point of anything Witcher-related if it doesn’t feature the second or third-best actor in the main series?

The visceral negative reaction from critics to the very concept of a Cavill-less Witcher prequel is…interesting, given that similar critiques were not leveled against Nightmare Of The Wolf, an animated Witcher prequel released last year that ended up with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes while Blood Origin was stamped with a humiliating 33% rating. I’m not denying that there’s a difference in quality between the two, but the fact that Nightmare Of The Wolf was led by a white man while Blood Origin has a diverse ensemble cast spearheaded by a Black woman cannot be entirely discounted. Professional critics know exactly what they’re doing by attributing Blood Origin‘s faults to the absence of a white male lead; they’re trying to get clicks from the recently riled-up group of embittered book and game purists who believe, without any proof for their claims, that Henry Cavill walked away from The Witcher in protest of changes to the lore – including increased representation.

And sure, Cavill’s name is easy clickbait, but it’s not like Blood Origin doesn’t have a stacked cast of its own. Academy-Award nominee Minnie Driver provides her enchanting voice to the role of The Narrator, a nameless yet powerful Elven sorceress who even appears briefly in both the first and last episodes alongside Joey Batey, returning as the immensely popular bard Jaskier in a small but crucial role that allows him to once again belt out a catchy, profanity-laced song over the closing credits. And among Blood Origin‘s main cast stands the legendary Michelle Yeoh, TIME Magazine‘s 2022 Icon of the Year who stands perfectly positioned to become a first-time Academy Award nominee and winner in the new year for her starring role in the wildly successful sci-fi dramedy Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Michelle Yeoh as Scian in The Witcher: Blood Origin. She is standing in a desolate rocky landscape, wearing a gray-green coat over a gray tunic and holding a sword with both hands, smiling down at it.
Scian | sea.ign.com

Yeoh’s character in the Witcher universe, a darkly humorous Elven warrior named Scían, may not earn her any Emmy Awards buzz (you want to receive recognition as an actor and be in a big-budget escapist fantasy, your best bet is still Westeros), yet nor is she reduced to her skill with a sword. Make no mistake, her fast-paced action scenes are a highlight of each episode, but something that I think casting directors often fail to take into consideration is that Yeoh can be a true team-player until you throw her into a fight opposite a relatively inexperienced combatant: and this is something that comes across clearly in the brief glimpses we catch of Scían off the battlefield, at peace, bickering with her traveling companions or joining in their merrymaking. Heck, I’d even argue that Yeoh ought to be invited to jump onboard the main series (one of the perks of playing an immortal Elf is that you can just do that), if she’d be open to it after the poor reception to Blood Origin.

The rest of the cast is also quite good, but with over a dozen major characters squeezed uncomfortably into these four episodes it’s impossible for them all to make an equally strong impression. Sophia Brown does so, proving particularly convincing as a good-natured bard named Éile whose songs inspire uprisings wherever she goes (shoutout to lyricist and composer Bear McCreary, whose score for the series is beautiful, with heavy Celtic influences), and Mirren Mack brings a unique ethereal swagger to the role of Empress Merwyn, though to be fair she receives considerable support from her breathtaking wardrobe of haute couture gowns (including several pieces designed by Iris van Herpen) and quirky hairstyles, which change from scene to scene. But the breakout star is Francesca Mills as Meldof, a foul-mouthed queer Dwarf whose memorable introductory scene convinced me to binge-watch episodes two through four despite all my reservations about the series.

Unfortunately, you will have to sit and suffer through the entire first episode if you want to meet Meldof, and that is a labor-intensive task I can’t in good conscience recommend to anyone just looking for a fun escapist fantasy to throw on, unless you know going in that you’ll be bombarded with solid blocks of expository dialogue in practically every scene and shouldn’t expect to catch anyone’s names amidst all the very serious discussion of peace treaties and food shortages until somewhere around the forty-minute mark (and that is being extremely optimistic). Look, I’ve enjoyed badly-written fantasy stories in the past. I have even put some out into the world. And that’s why I sat through Blood Origin‘s first episode praying that something so riotously bad would happen that I could at least have fun with the series. I didn’t expect it to be a tough ask of a franchise notable for putting an amusingly gory twist on classic fairytales.

Even in terms of production design and creature design, two areas in which The Witcher has always stood out from the competition, Blood Origin plays it safe, opting for dull familiarity over bold swings of its own (say what you will about The Rings Of Power, it was unmistakably different from Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings in every possible way, and I appreciate that even more now). The Continent pre-Conjunction of the Spheres, though quite literally shiny and new on the surface, is actually depressingly similar to the Continent of Geralt’s time, as we soon discover. Elves are just humans with pointier ears: they even violently oppress all the same marginalized groups that will still be oppressed a thousand years later, including women, queer people, Dwarves, and just about anyone in a lower social class than their aggressively elitist aristocrats and monarchs, who are also imperialists to boot. Every unique aspect of Elven culture and cosmology that seems worth exploring is brushed aside. Elven magic is loosely-defined and, whenever wielded onscreen, shockingly generic; lightning, fireballs, and the like. Balor’s Beast, the first monster on the Continent, evaporates its victims bloodlessly as part of a general effort to tone down the series’ violence that only reduces the stakes lower than they already were.

Mirren Mack as Empress Merwyn in The Witcher: Blood Origin. She wears a white gown made of butterfly wings. Her face is painted white, and the area around her left eye is painted magenta. She has gold leaves in her hair, which is tied up.
Empress Merwyn | netflixlife.com

I have few kind words left for the series myself, though as always, nothing but support and positivity for those who genuinely adored it – especially those who simply enjoyed the representation, including one of the franchise’s first significant deaf characters and its first queer couple. The online discourse around Blood Origin has left me in this weird place where I feel strangely inspired to defend the series despite everything about it that I did not like, and I suspect it’s because so many purists, Henry Cavill fans, and straight-up bigots have been seizing upon this opportunity to try and bring the whole franchise down. I for one do not want that to happen. I enjoy the main series immensely, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed Blood Origin too, if Netflix hadn’t intervened to ensure that there was nothing left for anyone to enjoy. Hopefully, there is a future for some of these characters in The Witcher moving forward (well, we already know of one or two who will return, but I’m really only referring to Scían, Éile, and Meldof), so we can leave this disappointing chapter in the past while preserving the few parts of it that actually worked.

Series Rating: 4/10