The Witcher 3 Volume 1 Review

“The Witcher can swing a sword with the best of fantasy TV, but its third season makes sure monster slaying fun. Feel like working? Netflix is a thoughtful and frequently exciting adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s second Witcher novel, “Time of Contempt.” Naturally, it comes packing all the packages and courtly intrigue of previous seasons. Still, whenever Henry Cavill knocks back an aeroplane bottle of potion and starts slicing up an especially heinous-looking monster, and the season boasts one or two so far, it’s clear The Witcher still knows how to rock.

The first half of season 3 is bigger and more confident than ever, and it needs to be. With so much at stake in its world in season 2, making sure we didn’t forget about the more apocalyptic threats lurking further down the line (and I’m talking about the Wild Hunt), The Witcher has quite a lot of plates to keep spinning. To stay busily faithful to its source material and as an adaptation of “Time of Contempt,” season 3 is unquestionably faithful.

You’re right, bright. Well, that’s deeply worrying too. Faithful? Well, there’s an argument for that. Here are my two oranges. That’s like sense people talk too much in The Witcher, or at least they do during the first five episodes of season three. Life on the Continent hasn’t gotten any less complicated since last we saw Henry Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia, Freya Allen’s Ciri, and Anya Chalotra’s Yennefer of Vengerberg. And the characters who populate this world sure do go on at length about it. Before it’s coming, there is no hiding her from it.

Here’s what I mean without spoilers naturally: there’s Eratusa, Yennefer’s former magic school, where shifty-eyed sorcerers and Triss Merigold (played by Anna Shaffer) hang out under the fog of a gnarly conspiracy. The elves of the Scoia’tael are on a tear through the north because of a brutal death in the family of Francesca Findabair (played by Mecia Simson). Season 2 revealed that Ciri’s hedgehog father (played by Bart Edwards) is not dead at all but is, in fact, this big-time Emperor Emhyr everyone keeps talking about. Over in Redania, we meet Dopey Prince Radovid (played by Hugh Skinner), brother to increasingly irksome King Vizimir (played by Ed Birch), who gives politics the old college try with the help of spymaster Dijkstra (played by Graham McTavish) and sorcerer Philippa Eilhart (played by Cassie Clare).

The Witcher 3 Review

I say things just got more fun forever power on the Continent, be it political or otherwise, is shifting. And for anyone who wants to survive and thrive in all this insanity, Ciri and her Elder Blood powers are the keys. All this could be taken as standard procedure for a fantasy show, and The Witcher rewards lore-hearted viewers with Wiki-busting details and convoluted conspiracy map plotting, even if Netflix’s adaptation is still strangely short on displays of magic or gore-hungry fiend beasts.

Viewer, there are solid drama points loaded with rich potential, like the chance to see Prince Radovid take more shape. He’s obviously hiding a level of cunning behind his flimsy mask of incompetence, which makes Dijkstra look like a short-sighted dummy whenever he calls him things like Prince Seedwaste. But The Witcher has developed a conspicuous rhythm to its storytelling: show something visually exciting, mysterious, or game-changing, only to

 spend the following four to five scenes with people who want nothing more than to yammer on about it. Its fussy insistence on base-covering lore and elaborating storytelling saps precious energy, which remains a big reason why The Witcher continues to be a good show instead of a great one.

Neutrality and we’ll get you a statue. With such a large cast, all this plotting and conniving leaves Cavill, Allen, and Chalotra, the Trinity that holds the entire production together, just as lost in the shuffle as they’ve been in prior seasons. And somehow, there are even more characters with secret ambitions than I just mentioned. Most of them want to claim Ciri for, at times, sinister reasons. So at least Ciri remains a topic of interest. The elves came to Ciri, but we haven’t even gotten around to mentioning Jaskier (played by Joey Batey) once, a serious highlight who now wears the most hideous wig and is yanked sourly from one predicament to the next so often that it’s easy to forget that the Smokey Bard used to be fun to watch. No, please don’t hurt me.

As for Geralt and Ciri, I miss the moments they shared in the wintry outpost of Kaer Morhen in the last season, where the surrogate father-daughter duo bonded over monster hunting and swordplay. There’s precious little of the Witcher’s fun procedural elements in the first five episodes of season 3, though there is a bit of sword-slashing to enjoy in the genuinely terrific premiere episode, which spends a thrilling amount of screen time strengthening the bonds between its three leads before events tear them apart once more. They split up in Time of Contempt too but with chemistry as pure as Cavill, Chalotra, and Allen’s, and good luck to anyone who tries to find its sequel anywhere else in The Witcher.

Surely, even the most ardent Witcher fan wouldn’t protest the deviation from the source material for the first time. I understand real fear. Cavill’s never had a problem filling out his Witcher leathers or grimacing through an expertly choreographed action sequence, and boy does the camera love him. He boasts the star wattage that The Witcher has in precious short supply, and watching him find his footing as the series lead last season was remarkable. That’s why it’s so frustrating when the focus pulls away from him and his connection with Ciri and Yen. Cavill is exceptional in the season, especially during one quiet scene that reveals the untold depths of the Butcher of Blaviken. It’s not a stretch to say that as an actor, season 3 is Cavill’s most compelling outing yet.

You have to wonder whether The Witcher, with its dry stretches of intrigue and other stuffy concerns over the next five steps in its elaborate chess game, will hold onto its appeal once Cavill passes Geralt’s sword to Liam Hemsworth for season four. Maybe more can be done to make Ciri feel like she can command a series instead of her continuing fate as a walking, talking MacGuffin pursued her Elder Blood powers and a role in the Scoia’tael prophecy. As a presence in The Witcher, Allen is clearly Cavill’s equal, and whenever Ciri takes agency over her destiny, Allen slays for the sake of the series’ future. Can someone please, please toss a coin to this Witcher?

Ah, the first five episodes of The Witcher season 3 are a great showcase for the chemistry between Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, and Freya Allen. But the series’ strict adherence to its source material pushes them to the side

 for long stretches of foggy court intrigue, prophecies, and conspiracies, which hardly matches the spectacle of watching Cavill swing a sword at some impressive foul beast. We’ll be back with our review of the final episodes of The Witcher season 3 when they arrive on Netflix on July 27th.”

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