Henry Cavill’s final season as Geralt opens with five of the best episodes of the series to date.
Plot: As monarchs, mages, and beasts of the Continent compete to capture her, Geralt takes Ciri into hiding, determined to protect his newly-reunited family against those who threaten to destroy it. Entrusted with Ciri’s magical training, Yennefer leads them to the protected fortress of Aretuza, where they hope to uncover more about the girl’s untapped powers; instead, they discover they’ve landed in a battlefield of political corruption, dark magic, and treachery. They must fight back, put everything on the line – or risk losing each other forever.
Review: Few series these days carry as much fan anticipation as The Witcher. With Henry Cavill announcing his departure at the conclusion of this third season of the Netflix fantasy series, expectations are higher than ever for the saga of Geralt, Siri, and Yennefer. Facing massive viewers on the horizon, Netflix has divided the eight-episode third season into two volumes, the first of which comprises five episodes. Picking up from the conclusion of the second season, Cavill’s last journey as the White Wolf is full of action, blood, sex, and intrigue as these five chapters bring together the three main characters more than ever before with an ever-bigger cast of characters vying for control of Ciri as well as the vast continent they all reside in. The Witcher‘s third season is by far it’s most consistent and engaging, leaving the first volume at a point where the story is getting really good.
Season two concluded with Geralt and Yennefer rescuing Ciri from her possession by Voleth Meir. With Yennefer’s powers restored, the trio begins their quest to evade the Wild Hunt glimpsed at the end of the last season. The reveal that Ciri is also of Elder blood and the potential savior of the Elves puts even more factions on their trail. With Francesca (Mecia Simson) and the Elves on one side, Geralt and Yennefer must elude those who want them dead. Equally, Dijkstra (Graham McTavish), the high-ranking head of Redanian intelligence, and his spy Philippa (Cassie Clare) want to claim Ciri on behalf of their king, VIzimir (Ed Birch). This places the three on a road with few allies. There is also still a rift between Geralt and Yennefer carrying over from last season despite the Witcher’s request for his former lover to train Ciri in magic.
Through the first five episodes of season three, Geralt encounters fewer standalone stories than in prior seasons. The source material that The Witcher draws from includes novels and short stories, and the prior two seasons peppered in many of the “monster of the week” tales to pad the overall narrative. While there are still beasts to battle, this season of The Witcher feels far more connected with the driving narrative influenced by Time of Contempt, the second novel in the series by Andrzej Sapkowski. Fans of the books and, to a lesser extent, the video game series will have a good idea of where this season is headed once they start watching. This season, the tightness of the narrative puts extra focus on Ciri’s growth as a sorceress, with Freya Allan showing more and more presence as she grows as an actor. Ciri is a good blend of Geralt’s tactics and Yennefer’s subterfuge and represents a surrogate child to both of them.
The highlight of this season is the growing chemistry between Geralt and Yennefer. I was lukewarm on their interactions in the first season, and their time shared the following season improved. Season three offers Henry Cavill and Anya Chalotra the most time together ever, and watching the rift close between the characters is wonderful to see. While the character design of the creatures and the various supporting beings in this story is what many tunes in for, the main characters are by far the best element of this story. It is bittersweet watching this season, knowing that Cavill is bidding farewell to what has become one of his trademark roles, especially where the final scenes of the fifth episode and end of Volume One leave things. Regardless of how Liam Hemsworth comes into The Witcher, this season gives Henry Cavill his most layered character work in this series to date. Equally, Anya Chalotra is fascinating to watch as Yennefer changes from the unlikable version in the first season and the humbled version in the second into an amalgam that foretells just how vital her role will be to the consistency of The Witcher in the post-Cavill seasons.
This season is the first that does not boats an episode written by series creator Lauren Schmidt Hissrich. While she does not directly script any of this season, Hissrich’s vision is felt and delivered by veteran writers of The Witcher, including Mike Ostrowski along with Tania Lotia, Haily Hall, Rae Benjamin, Clare Higgins, and in Volume Two by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Matthew D’Ambrosio, and Troy Dangerfield. Netflix’s investment in the world of The Witcher is felt as the production values and effects work this season are better than ever. This season’s opening episode boasts some creative camera work in two significant battle sequences, which look even more impressive than the first two seasons. What I found most refreshing this season is that while the sexual and action elements of the story are still there, the dramatic character interactions are more engaging and far more nuanced. Sure, there is still comedy, thanks to the return of Jaskier (Joey Batey), amongst other new additions, but the overall feel of The Witcher finally feels like it has found its rhythm this season.
The third season of The Witcher opens with the best run of episodes the series has had so far and shows me just how perfect Henry Cavill is as Geralt of Rivia. I still have no idea how they will narratively adjust for the change in lead actor, but there are still three episodes in Volume Two that could address the shift. Or, The Witcher may pretend nothing happened and carry on with the vast amount of material left to be adapted. What I can tell you based on the five episodes I have seen, The Witcher’s third season is the best yet for the series, with a balance of action, drama, humor, sex, and monsters. All of the elements fans love about this series are back this season and work cohesively to deliver a fun and exciting new journey alongside Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer.
Part one of season three of The Witcher premieres on June 29th on Netflix. Part two debuts on July 27th.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/the-witcher-season-3-volume-1-tv-review/