Henry Cavill Flees A Sinking Ship

We all deserved better. Henry Cavill deserved a better series to lead than The Witcher. Fans of the games and books deserved a show that tried harder to succeed as an adaptation, rather than push the political agendas of its creators.

Cavill’s co-stars deserved another season with Cavill as the star, given how glowing they’ve all been about his dedication to the role and the story.

And Netflix (and its shareholders) deserved a show that could actually rival Game Of Thrones, rather than a mediocre, generic fantasy that is—alas—utterly forgettable by the end of its wildly disappointing third season. It didn’t have to be this way.

The final three episodes of Season 3 are out now on Netflix after an inexplicable delay following the show’s worst episode of all time—an episode so dreadful that I actually urged the streaming giant to go back in and fix its appalling editing.

I think that made me like the next three episodes a bit more when I first watched them, though my opinion soured considerably on a second viewing. Spoilers ahead.

In the sixth episode, all hell breaks loose at Aretuza after what I can only describe as a very confusing coup carried out by the Redanians. For all this show’s politicking, they’ve done a very poor job at communicating the sides of this conflict, and how there are mages loyal to the Northern Kingdoms and mages loyal to Nilfgaard. The conflict is originally between these factions, but soon a contingent of Scoia’tael shows up. Much fighting ensues, and much of it is quite horribly choreographed. Yennefer runs here and there, hither and thither.

Turns out, the most powerful mages in the world are actually not very powerful at all, and a group of scrappy elves with bows is more than a match for them. I’m so confused!

After the battle, after she uses her enormous power to put an end to the fighting, Tissaia—having been betrayed by Vilgefortz—takes her own life, much to the dismay of Yennefer.

Meanwhile, Geralt and Ciri have a very bizarre encounter with Cahir, who rather bafflingly apologizes to the princess, abandoning his quest for Emperor Emhyr for no obvious reason. Ciri heads back to Aretuza and Geralt gets in a fight with Vilgefortz that he loses rather spectacularly, though the show does a perplexingly awful job at showing us how bad the Witcher’s wounds truly are. The choreography here is not up to standards set in Season 1. Geralt’s wounds don’t look terrible; we should have seen his arms crushed, his chest caved in, his body bludgeoned into the sand.

He’s sent to the dryads for healing, though in the end it’s Yennefer who shows up to heal him, making the sojourn in Brokilon almost superfluous. For the majority of these three episodes, Geralt is laid up in bed healing. It’s not the ideal farewell for Cavill, and it’s a strange missed opportunity to use disfigurement and powerful healing magic to change his appearance and introduce Liam Hemsworth’s version of Geralt.

The seventh episode is almost entirely spent with Ciri, who has fled Vilgefortz and passed through Benavent’s portal, a mysterious and unstable portal built by the Aen Seidhe elves, landing in the arid wasteland known as the Korath desert. Here, she encounters terrible monsters and fearful hallucinations. She also gets a fake tan that goes well with the ten pounds of makeup they’ve put Freya Allan in this season—for reasons we cannot possibly hope to understand.

All of this goes on a very long time and I won’t recap every bit, save to say that they screw up some big moments for Ciri and her own grappling with her power and destiny. In the end, she’s captured and then freed by a group known as the Rats, who are a fun and diverse crew of misfits that bear little to no resemblance to the characters from the books. Ciri kills one of her captors. She’s now apparently going to be the star of the show, though I’m not sure Allan is up for the job.

Finally, Geralt is healed and heads out to find Ciri once again. We’re getting to the meat of the story just in time for Cavill to make his grand exit. He travels with Jaskier and a new companion, Milva, who can shoot arrows like every 13-year-old boy thinks it’s done: Three at a time. Oy vey.

In the end, Vilgefortz—a little worse for wear—brings Ciri to Emhyr. Only it’s one of his fake Ciri clones rather than the real thing, something the emperor of Nilfgaard will undoubtedly know immediately, not being a total fool.

I’ve gone on long enough. I’ll finish with some scattered thoughts. I’m just broken-hearted by this show and how badly downhill it’s gone, and by the simple fact that had they simply remained true to the source material—the material that brought fans in the first place—this could have been great.

Scattered Thoughts

  • Why didn’t Geralt drink a potion or two before going into the cave where he knew something bad was waiting. Small detail, sure, but the small details make or break a show like this.
  • I did enjoy Stregobor’s last stand. He was a hateful SOB but he harnessed that hatred for the greater good in the end.
  • Rience the fire mage got his head lopped off like it was nothing. What a letdown! (It’s also a problem since it changes the books, but they clearly think they know better even if it’s glaringly obvious they do not).
  • I’m confused by Fringilla’s arc. Why is she still helping the people who basically screwed her over the most? Also, Francesca, why are you so surprised that your hubby died in the middle of a pitched battle you volunteered for against powerful friggin’ mages???
  • I would like to remind everyone how boring the Ciri-in-the-desert episode was. Just dreadful.
  • I liked Geralt’s final fight, but it still felt a bit like an odd side-quest to pop in at the end of a season. Weird to introduce new characters right at the end also.
  • The show never did a great job with Filavandrel but killing him off the way they did, just to get a reaction out of Francesca (who keeps losing everyone) seems short-sighted. Not as bad as the Eskel nonsense in Season 2, but still bad.
  • How hard would it have been to give Jaskier one more great song? Nothing about Jaskier this season was great. Honestly, he wasn’t great in Season 2 either. They’ve squandered his character almost as much as Geralt.

I’ll add more scattered thoughts if I think of anything else. For now, I give Season 3 a big fat “F” and no points for effort. Whatever shallow ways this season attempted to stick closer to the source material were undermined entirely by how obviously the that material was either misinterpreted or disregarded. The writers and creators of this series are out of their depth and it shows.

I’ll tune in for Season 4, just to see how much worse things can get, but The Witcher is over. It’s dead. Frankly, it died at the end of Season 1. What we’ve been watching is the reanimated corpse of a show that once had so much potential, and is now just a withered husk; some fell beast Geralt will slaughter once and for all, not by fighting it, but by walking away.

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