Approximately a month ago,the first five episodes of season three of The Witcher dropped. Those episodes end with one of the strongest entries of the season. All the players in the plots from the preceding 20 episodes are in one place and the endgame for their machinations is finally within reach. That episode ends with Geralt (Henry Cavill) and Yennifer (Anya Chalotra) realizing too late that Stregobor (Lars Mikkelsen) wasn’t the bad guy they’d been looking for. They learn that he had been framed by the mage Vilgefortz (Mahesh Jadu). Too late to stop what was about to happen, the episode ends with spymaster Dijkstra (Graham McTavish) holding a knife to Geralt’s throat and explaining that Geralt should have picked a side. It’s a great episode and a strong cliffhanger.
Volume two of season three picks up after this moment. The wheels are now in motion, and the various factions that Geralt, Yennifer, and Ciri (Freya Allan) have been evading are forced into a confrontation. The result is an intense and bloody battle at the mage’s headquarters of Aretuza and it runs nearly the full episode. Every character gets a moment to shine, and everyone involved is committed to the episode. The wonderful thing about a battle like this one at this point in a series is that it doesn’t need to explain how or why magic works, or why one character would leap in front of an attack and literally explode in place of another. Everyone jumps head first into the fray, and in particular, the choreography of fighting with magic becomes a great dance.
Additionally, there are the politics to play out. With some characters betrayed and others empowered, all must reconcile with the new reality resulting from the battle. The episode ends spectacularly with Yennifer, Ciri, and Geralt separated, each of them wounded in specific and thematically appropriate ways. They’re each unsure of their paths back to one another.
If you recall, when I reviewed the first part of the season one month ago, I said, “It feels like this season will be made or broken by the final three episodes, releasing in late July. That’s not to say that it isn’t good, just that it doesn’t offer anything as new or compelling as the first two seasons did. A proper ending might supply those things.”
This, my friends, is exactly the ending I anticipated. Unfortunately, the series continues for two more episodes.
To be clear, these following two episodes are alright, but they are out of place. They both follow our heroes as they deal with the fallout of their part of the preceding battle, and each has an arc for the character. One of the two is almost entirely devoted to Ciri coming to terms with her past and present and finding power within herself she did not know she had. It’s a legitimately good episode with an outstanding performance from Allan. The other episode follows Yennifer and Geralt on their respective roads to recovery, and while the performances are strong and the arcs make sense, they just don’t seem necessary at this point.
It feels as though the season had six episodes of material but eight episodes to produce and, as a result, tacked on what should have been the first two episodes of season four onto the end of season three. The resulting ending, even if it makes sense, is unsatisfying. Viewers can debate if The Witcher leaves the characters in positions better conducive to whatever is in store for season four, but the ending just doesn’t work overall. It isn’t exciting, dramatic, or emotional enough to hook viewers for further adventures.
The full season is ultimately compromised. All the best material comes in the middle, and the season falls flat without a satisfying or exciting ending.