The Witcher season three, volume two, based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s Time of Contempt, may not break new ground in terms of storytelling, but it compensates with a few breathtaking visuals and heightened action. For a show that has consistently battled criticism about poor writing, the concluding chapter for Henry Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia continues to be unnecessarily verbose. But that finale episode almost makes up for it.
The dreaded second war breaks out in the claim for the Continent. The old guard must fall to give way to the new order everyone keeps discussing on the show. There has been a three-season build-up to that narrative with very little catharsis till now.
Created by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, The Witcher, at its core, is reminiscent of fantasy stories like Dungeons & Dragons, Conan the Destroyer, and Xena: Warrior Princess from the 1990s and 2000s, with an upgrade in graphics. The pulp and camp remains. The Witcher has never been like the prestige fantasy dramas (like Game of Thrones) it was, unfortunately, but understandably, compared to when it first made its way to Netflix in 2019.
It may have floundered to find its identity in the second season, but this season harks back to plenty of season one themes that made it so popular. It is also the perfect way to clear the path for Cavill to bow out. He is given just enough screen time in the last three episodes to allow other characters to be introduced.
You are left wanting more Cavill, his gruff but caring Geralt would be a hard act to follow by Liam Hemsworth season four onwards, but, perhaps wisely, Geralt is no longer the centre of this story. The show is named after Geralt the Witcher, but it is firmly about the chosen one at this point, Ciri (Freya Allan). Everyone wants a piece of her, from Elves to common thugs. Even though Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) has more going on, Geralt’s purpose has shifted entirely to revolve around their adopted daughter.
Cavill gets his moments to shine as Geralt for one last time. Even though this is not the final season of the series, it feels like a farewell for obvious reasons.
As far as the monsters go, we get giant sandworms, ala Dune and giant scorpions who are spiritual reincarnations of the Scorpion King.
The show’s moody aesthetics, with backdrops of angry sand dunes, tempestuous seas, mournful greenery, and sombre musical choices, have always added to its drama. But it has never shied away from relying on familiar fantasy action tropes, leaving little room for novelty. However, diehard fans of the series will still find these episodes more intense, with nostalgic video game vibes thrown in.
The desert scenes in volume two stand out. As the young lion cub of Cintra faces haunting visions from ghosts of past, present, and future, a call to dismantle the system echoes through her heart. The visually stunning sequence with Ciri singing under an inky sky full of stars captures the theme of abandonment in her story quite beautifully. If only the reductive dialogues weren’t there to take you out of the zone frequently.
While most moments on this show are tinged with mawkishness, and the central plot continues to bloat by increasingly being more convoluted, some of the visual spectacles elicit awe. Jaskier, the Bard (Joey Batey), is back in his element. The emo-goth look is still there, but Jaskier provides much-needed levity in otherwise tense few episodes. His humour contrasts the intensity in the episodes gearing up for even higher stakes.
Diehard stans of Cavill may be shunning The Witcher from here on out, but fans of the series get more of what they have come to expect. In that respect, The Witcher remains consistent.
Amid more political intrigue, unlikely alliances, and startling foes, the finale bows out by setting the stage for the fourth season. Groundwork is also laid out for the spin-off with the Rats, a gang of teen outlaws Ciri finds on her quest to reunite with Geralt and Yennefer.
Will The Witcher be able to stand on its own without Cavill’s Geralt, played with reticent anti-heroic charm? Even though the sentiment is a resounding no right now, The Witcher has already introduced storylines that have shifted the power dynamics on the show. Only time will tell how much damage Cavill’s exit does to the show.
However, for now, you can enjoy The Witcher season three, volume two, on Netflix.