The Netflix Witcher franchise has been on life support since the release of season two and the Blood Origin prequel. With the departure of Henry Cavill after season three, I wasn’t looking forward to the new season. I had little faith in the creator’s ability to adapt one of my favourite fantasy epics; after binging all five episodes, I’ve left with the overwhelming feeling that this was tolerable.
Picking up right after the events of season two, Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer are on the run as the continent moves around them, chasing the ashen hair girl and making political moves to boost their position in the upcoming war. Despite expecting the worst, I enjoyed returning to Henry Cavill’s incredible portrayal of Geralt, Anya Chalotra’s Yennefer and Freya Allen’s Ciri. Joey Batey continues to steal every scene by adding a light-hearted touch to this otherwise serious and dark affair.
The writers have listened to the loud criticism and followed the source material from Time of Contempt, the second novel in the Witcher Saga; however, they continue to add unnecessary elements and characters to the core plot that go nowhere. The prime example is the introduction of their original character, Gallatin, played by Robbie Amell, who is making his best Geralt impression for some reason, with a character arc dropped just after I learnt his name. Let’s not talk about what they’ve done to Keira Metz. I’m equally baffled by the changes in the Redanian subplot. Radovid’s aging and lineage change don’t have a clear purpose other than to give Jaskier, the most notorious womanizer on the continent, a love interest. Monoliths and Magic remain nouns loosely thrown around to avoid explaining the finer points of the Witcher lore.
The core plot of Time of Contempt remains intact as part one ends with one of the major twists in the Witcher saga, revealing an unseen major player to this point and pushing the story to its second act. When the season sticks to adapting, I can’t help but enjoy myself. Each core character gets moments to shine, whether it be Jaskier’s humour, Geralt’s brooding, or some tender moments between the core cast. I enjoyed the large majority of this season. Henry Cavill’s physicality and movement during action sequences remain one of the best elements in the show, despite some truly awful CGI monsters. With numerous references and easter eggs, including a nod to Season of Storms I wasn’t expecting, it’s baffling how the writers give avid witcher fans these nods but continue to butcher other lore elements.
This show still has a heartbeat when the season follows plot points directly from the novels. It’s clear why this franchise and its characters are loved by many, including myself. The original content sometimes confuses and infuriates as plot points go nowhere or add unnecessary complexity to an already complex fantasy world. The season may be incomplete, but I’m optimistic for part two.
The Witcher Season 3 Part 1 is streaming now on Netflix. Part 2 will be released on July 27.
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