Hello Interwebs! The Witcher Season 3 seems to have landed with a general thud on Netflix. But I still wanna talk about it. ‘Cause I think it’s underrated.
*Disclaimer*: I haven’t read Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher books. And I know nothing about them. This review isn’t judging The Witcher series as an adaptation. I know fans of the source material are mad, and probably rightfully for what it’s worth. But that’s not something I can speak to. Onto the review…
Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri are a tense family unit. They mostly enjoy their solitude, however– except for their inability to settle down. For the continent conspires to kidnap Ciri and use her for vague political aims! The adventures of our intrepid heroes continue as they grow their legends and strengthen their bonds amidst looming chaos.
I should probably address the Henry Cavill in the room… Long story short: he got screwed. And this season was a poor sendoff for him. But I refuse to hate on Liam Hemsworth before I’ve seen his take on Geralt. OK?
I’m also convinced that hatred towards this series has unfairly increased BECAUSE of Cavill’s departure. People are angry about behind-the-scenes drama and taking it out on the show. Not to say it was any sort of masterpiece, but “fan” reactions seem to be largely overblown. On to my review…
Let’s begin with Geralt (Henry Cavill), who’s somehow MORE reserved than usual this season. He’s also, unfortunately, given fewer stand-out moments. Though he remains the moral centre of the series. I can forgive these slights, however, as he’s clearly no longer the protagonist– but the protagonist’s guide.
Ciri (Freya Allan) is the new star of the show. But I don’t mind. The pivot was natural, and feels inevitable. ‘Cause she’s the balance between all walks of life– humans and elves, witchers, mages, royalty and commoners. And the story has always been about her, from episode 1. Except she used to need constant protection, but is now capable enough to fend for herself: hence she can more thoroughly control her own destiny.
Ciri proves her martial prowess time and again this year! But where she continually falters is her inability to harness magic. Though it’s heavily implied that she holds herself back. I still like how she struggles and finds her lack of aptitude frustrating– especially because most things come easy to her. It’s refreshing to see a protagonist actually WORK for their power (nowadays it’s mostly handed to them on a silver platter).
Yenneffer (Anya Chalotra) also sees character growth this year. She has the daughter she always wanted. Though I love how often she messes up as a parent. Yen tries with the best of intentions, but can’t always put aside her personal ambitions for Ciri’s good. It’s great how she’s not a perfect guardian right off the bat; she’s still got a lot to learn about mentorship.
Speaking of mentors: Tissaia (MyAnna Buring) is, for my money, one of The Witcher‘s most complex characters. She’s the Brotherhood’s matriarch, the most powerful mage in the land, a leader of the continent, a lover, a guardian of knowledge, and must find a way to be the balance between these things. But this is where she finally loses her balance, and suffers gravely for it. Tissaia’s story in S3 is tragic and emotionally affected me worse than anything else this season.
Triss (Anna Shaffer) and Istredd (Royce Pierreson) have a semi-interesting sub-plot this season. But I got the impression the show never cared much about it. I didn’t either. The mystery began compelling enough, but was quickly relegated to the background, and was only relevant for brief flashes. By the time it became important, the main plot already better explained the situation and its stakes.
Djikstra (Graham McTavish) and Phillipa’s (Cassie Clare) plots and manipulations were good fun to watch! Their chemistry together was excellent, their relationship subverted my expectations in a good way, and their mechinations set up a new status quo which I’m excited to see.
We’re finally introduced to Nilfgaard’s emperor in earnest– the reputed White Flame! And Emhyr (Bart Edwards) is… OK. I wasn’t especially impressed. The man projects enough charisma for leadership, but doesn’t strike me as the badass of legend. I just can’t decide if that’s an intentional choice by the show, or a case of miscasting.
Jaskier (Joey Batey) continues his streak as my favourite character on The Witcher. He seems to be The Continent’s only inhabitant with a sense of humor, so his commentary is always welcome. But his semi-cowardly, everyman nature is also relatable when compared with monster-slayers, mages, and nobility.
His love-story this season was a good sign of character growth– showing he has the potential to evolve beyond his womanizing ways and settle down. He’s more mature, more brave, and more loyal to Geralt than ever. Jaskier is the perfect side-kick.
NOTE: But you must wait till season’s end for his annual epic ballad about Geralt! His songs prior to that are still awesome though.
Some other quick notes on the grand cast of characters: Cahir (Eamon Farren) took an unexpected, but cool direction; Fringilla (Mimî M. Khayisa) develops more of a backbone with Emhyr; Francesca (Mecia Simson) suffers some MORE, and finally hits her breaking point; Gallatin (Robbie Amell) is a badass; and Vilgefortz (Mahesh Jadu) finally gets more to do than be the impatient warrior. His arc especially left me in anticipation for its consequences next season.
The Witcher S3 obviously has a lot of characters to juggle. But I never had difficulty keeping track of everyone. I still remember most of them, even following these couple years since S2. The actors and writing combine to give most everyone SOME chance to shine. I feel more connected to most of these characters than ever.
I figure this season’s main theme is about the bonds of non-blood family– specifically Geralt, Ciri and Yen. But most of the other characters have what might be considered a familiar relationship with one another, or might be metaphorical (the “brotherhood” which tries to reunite itself). And, funny enough, the worst relationship in the series is a blood relation (Ciri and Emhyr)!
This theme is explored adequately. It wasn’t exactly hammered home in my head, but I got the point: those who love you will sacrifice for your sake; and those too selfish to sacrifice aren’t worth loving.
The Witcher S3 contains multiple shocking twists! It also managed to spread said twists throughout the season, ensuring a steady stream of thrills. And, best of all, the consequences for these twists are permanent and forever change the show’s status-quo! Lots happens this year, and it all counts for something.
Effects-work is still great! Monsters look mostly believable– enough to keep you immersed. I’m always impressed with how they blend the monsters with their combatants in a way which doesn’t scream “That’s CGI next to a real person!”
The effects bolster a solid run of action sequences. They’re maybe not as memorable as the first few seasons (minus one or two stand-outs), but they’re competently choreographed, acted, and shot. The camera crew in particular are legends! I watched the Making of BTS video, and their physical prowess was extraordinary. YOU try getting perfect shots, sprinting around a set, holding a camera.
That said, there’s less monster battles than I’d have liked to see. I feel like there’s actually less action in general, which is a bummer. I’m happy to see so much political intrigue, but that stuff has never been The Witcher‘s strong-suit. “Henry Cavill hunts monsters” was the initial selling point for me…
I’m also disappointed with The Witcher S3’s lack of lore-building. We didn’t learn much new about the grand plan– just saw more pieces come into place; and we didn’t learn much new about the continent’s history, its kingdoms, or magic, or anything else most fantasy worlds love to explain.
My favourite aspect of The Witcher S3: every character, bad and good, has their greatest failures of the series. This plot breaks each of them down to their lowest, and sets them up for glorious redemption later. And I love a good redemption, but the failure is necessary for a start. Some folks will be left unsatisfied at the utter lack of resolutions, but I didn’t mind– ’cause this is a long-form narrative. Why MUST we get all the juicy bits now?
That said: the freaking desert episode was garbage though… It was one of the most dull hours of television I’ve seen this year. Maybe it’d be interesting (ish) if this was your first ever experience watching someone survive a desert climate in entertainment– but I’ve seen my share of those sequences, and this one was uninspired. I understand that the relentless tedium was probably part of the point (to put us in the character’s shoes, and feel their desperation), but I needed literally anything else to happen to break up the boredom.
By now you’ll have picked up on the pattern prevalent in my review: “It’s good, but I’m excited for how it’ll pay off in S4.” ‘Cause that’s basically the gist of S3. Very little of this story actually resolves within the season; most of it sets up the next year.
And I think that’s why S3 will either be remembered more fondly in the future, or become more hated. If Season 4 is awesome, then we have S3 to thank for teeing it up so nicely; if S4 sucks, then S3 was a waste of time. Right now it could go either way.
But the big question: will I even watch Witcher S4? Probably. I initially tuned in to satiate my desire for good Henry Cavill projects… but now I like the other actors and characters. And I think I like them enough to keep me watching for one more season.
The Witcher S3 isn’t as good as its predecessors, but it’s Worth a Watch.
IN-DEPTH ANALYSES OF THE ABOVE ON THIS EPISODE OF CLOSE UP:
Will you continue to watch the show in S4? What did you think of The Witcher S3? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.
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Till next time,