After an unfocused second season, the Netflix fantasy series gets Geralt back in fighting shape.
The Witcher returns for its third season, Henry Cavill’s final run as Geralt of Rivera, Witcher, before Liam Hemsworth steps into the White Wolf’s big boots. Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich introduces yet another tonal shift to the series, which has suffered a bit of an identity crisis since its bombastic first season. After the uneven season two and the head-scratching prequel spinoff Blood Origins, Season three takes a step back from intricate political intrigue to deliver a more straightforward narrative.
After Yennefer’s (Anya Chalotra) turn at the end of Season two, she, Geralt, and Ciri (Freya Allan) are stuck in a rinse and repeat pattern of hiding, training, and running. While Ciri’s slowly learns the secrets of magic, Geralt and Yennefer’s fraught relationship develops more steadily via letters she leaves for him every morning. Everyone loves a good epistolary romance! And Ciri is still the wider world’s most wanted. Faerie Queen Francesca (Mecia Simson) believes her to be the savior of the fae, Vizimir (Ed Birch) wants her for an alliance with Cintra, and Dijkstra (Graham McTavish) is still searching for her on behalf of Ciri’s father, King Emhyr (Bart Edwards). And aside from her sentient pursuers, Ciri remains a magnet for gruesome monsters (there is one in particular this season that may result in actual nightmares).
While these first five episodes offer plenty in terms of action, tension, and intrigue, there is something to be said for the simplicity of traveling from town to town killing monsters for coin like a more fantastical version of The Incredible Hulk. We get some of that back here, and not so much that it feels like a retread. Season three plays things safe, relying on the family dynamic between Geralt, Yennefer, Ciri, and Jaskier (Joey Batey)—even going so far as to give Jaskier an admirer-turned-love interest in Prince Radovid (Hugh Skinner). With that said, for all of Radovid’s love, Jaskier is not an iota more bearable than usual.
Geralt and co.’s conundrum is this: with nowhere to go, they must make an alliance somewhere to keep Ciri alive. But accepting help from one party could be enough to kick off a war with another. Standing in the ruins of Shaerrawedd, Geralt tells the story of Aelirenn, a faerie ruler who died leading her people on what amounted to a suicide mission. “Neutrality won’t get you a statue,” he tells the starry-eyed Ciri, “but it’ll certainly help in keeping you alive.” But how can they stay neutral while seeking the protection of an ally?
Season three takes a step back from intricate political intrigue to deliver a more straightforward narrative.
Yennefer’s solution is to reestablish the Mages as the true neutral party, enlisting a reluctant Tissaia (MyAnna Buring) in calling a conclave and helping with Ciri’s magical education. It’s a brilliant bit of set-up, to have so many rival factions in one place, each with schemes of their own, all secretly gunning for the grand prize of Princess Cirilla of Centra. Doubtless blood will be shed, but viewers will have to wait for the second half of season three to see it. Until then, they’ll have to content themselves with Geralt of Rivera’s Formal Doublet if they want to see a real tragedy.
Season three of The Witcher may not break the mold, but it is a good time with heartwarming family dynamics, political intrigue, queer love, and one truly gross monster.
The Witcher Season 3: Volume 1 is currently accepting coins on Netflix.