These Were His Last Episodes?
The Witcher: Season 3, Part 1
Henry Cavill is no longer the Witcher. Although the exact reasons for why he left the series have not been addressed -- there was some thought he was leaving to go be SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s. in the DC Extended UniverseStarted as DC Comics' answer to the MCU, the early films in the franchise stumbled out of the gates, often mired in grim-dark storytelling and the rushed need to get this franchise started. Eventually, though, the films began to even out, becoming better as they went along. Still, this franchise has a long way to go before it's true completion for Marvel's universe. again, although that obviously didn't pan out, and there were some vague reports of behind-the-scenes drama -- suffice it to say that NetflixOriginally started as a disc-by-mail service, Netflix has grown to be one of the largest media companies in the world (and one of the most valued internet companies as well). With a constant slate of new internet streaming-based programming that updates all the time, Netflix has redefined what it means to watch TV and films (as well as how to do it). knew they were coming up on the end of an era. Their hit series, which generated so much buzz back with its first season (and considerably less buzz with each successive season and project since) was going to be very different with a new actor (Liam Hemsworth), stepping into the role. So they made a big deal about how this was it, how this was a grand part of the epic. Cavill's last episodes.
You just would have thought that the show itself would somehow rise to the occasion. Cavill's departure was announced after principle shooting on the third season was over, so it's not as though they could rewrite the last episodes to give him a better send-off. But the issue with the season is that, even from the perspective of it as a single block of eight episodes, this chunk of the show just sucks. It's largely formless, with the characters simply running around, reacting, without a lot of plot to actually tie it together. There are probably three real episodes that matter in this chunk of eight with the rest simply being useless padding. Things happen, characters react, and then the show moves on to something else without really paying much attention. "New scene, time to move on."
Now, in fairness to this second half of the third season (which comprises the last three episodes of the run) more happens here than we had in the first half. We get the battle for the home of the mages, Aretuza. Ciri blasts herself into another realm and has to come to grips with her power. And then there's an episode where Geralt has to rebuild himself, after falling in defeat to Vilgefortz, There's good character beats in these three episodes... but it's all in service of not much at all in the way of story.
Here's the major issue this season: what is the season actually about? Is it about the bond between Geralt and Ciri? Well, we already saw that in the second season. Plot wise, that's just a retread of where they were by the end of that season. Is it about Ciri learning to control her power? That seems to be the point but, arguably, we don't really know where she stands on that front by the end of the season either. And it's its about the coming war with Nilfgaard, well, that plot is still barely moving forward at all. The great villains of the first season have been stuck in the mud ever since.
About the only thing that does actually happen is that Vilgefortz of Roggeveen is revealed to be the big bad for... some reason. Bear in mind this was the guy who rallied the north to fight against Nilfgaard in the first season. He nearly gave his life to defend the north. So then this season turns around and reveals he was a secret magical agent for Nilfgaard all along, working to find Ciri (who he didn't know about in the first season, bear in mind) so that he can bring her to the Emperor. I think there are plenty of characters where this twist could have worked. Putting it on Vilgefortz in the show, the way he was showcased up to that point, fails on every level.
This brings me back to an argument I made in my review of the first half of this season: namely, this show doesn't really seem to understand what it wants to be anymore. The first season was a tightly plotted, well structured set of episodes. Yes, it had three timelines it bounced between, but it all built to a proper conclusion in its story. Hell, it built to something. Since that season, though, the show has evolved from a tightly plotted adventure tale with solid episodes into, well, a lazy clone of Game of Thrones. And I mean ever terrible implication of that statement.
Consider travel, for starters. In the first two seasons characters slowly journeyed from place to place, giving the world a sense of size and scope. This third season, characters can easily pop around whenever needed, fast traveling as they like even when they don't have access to magic. Take, as a big example, Geralt's massive injuries after his fight with Vilgefortz. This is presented as a big issue, life threatening injuries he may never recover from. He's taken to the dryads so he can be given their life water, but even that doesn't work to heal him. So Yennifer just fast travels over, across the continent, and then performs some basic magic and suddenly Geralt is healed. A problem that could have been an entire season of storyline taken care of in an instant.
This presents issues, of course. For one, Yenn being able to just pop anywhere she wants, any time she wants, reduces the massive world of the show down to a collection of set pieces of plot convenience. No location really matters when characters can warp around as they see fit. Scope, in short, is meaningless. Who cares about north or south, this world or that world, when we can simple teleport as we like at any point. And if Yenn can do it other mages could as well. Why spend all this time marching an army across the world when a powerful sorcerer, like Vilgefortz, should be able to open a portal and fast travel an army in seconds. It's dumb.
But the show's use of magic also removes any threat at all. Geralt has massive, life threatening injuries. That's his big character through line. He has to heal so he can work to get to Ciri. This should be a struggle. And then Yenn takes it away in an instant. The magic of the world is too powerful, with seemingly no rules to how it truly works, that it begins to feel like hand waving for plot convenience. Yes, sometimes characters struggle with their magic, but that feels like a plot barrier put in place, not an actual rule of magic. Hell Vilgefortz went from a third-string mage to the most powerful evil sorcerer on the planet simply because the narrative needed it. It doesn't actually work.
Much of this I could have forgiven if the show at least managed to treat its characters right, but by and large the series fails here as well. The scenes with Geralt and Ciri are great, but the show barely gives us any of those. And there's supposed to be romance between Geralt and Yenn, but they also barely share any scenes at all this season. And then, for some reason Ciri makes a heel turn in the last episode of this run and that comes out of nowhere as well. We have a core trio of characters and the show moves them around like chess pieces without actually devoting time to continue building their connections. Geralt talks about nothing but protecting Ciri, Yenn talks about defending the Brotherhood of Mages, and Ciri... well, is just kind of a waste, frankly. But none of it matters; it's all just talk.
As the show has gone on the seasons (and side projects) have gotten worse and worse. This third season and absolutely abysmal and its hard to see how the series can recover from this. I suppose once Hemsworth takes over we'll see if the energy of the show changes. My bet is that ratings continue to plummet and after the next season or two, Netflix euthanizes the show and moves on. It's hard to dig yourself out of a hole this deep.