Watching ‘The Witcher’ on Netflix has always been a…unique experience for me. Unlike many adaptations of a book or video game nature (of which this series is technically both), I have not read the stories or played the games. So thus, I was in a unique position to judge it solely on what it showed in each episode…for better or worse. Season 1 (as many fans will tell you) was very convoluted in how it approached things. However, Season 2 was a great bounceback (with some drawbacks naturally.) So how did round three go? As my The Witcher Season 3 review shall reveal…it’s very mixed this time around.
Much like in Season 2, Season 3 picks up right where we left off. Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri are together as a “family” and must protect Ciri from all the forces that are trying to get her…which are quite a few, as I’ll note later. One could argue that episode 1 was the best episode of the season simply because we get a lot of time with the beloved trio. Seriously, when they’re together, it’s magic.
These three actors know how to work with one another in big and small ways, and it absolutely carries the series. Geralt is the protective “father” who would do anything for them…even if he doesn’t say it out loud. Yennefer is the mother who wishes to do right by her “child” and “partner” even though she’s done wrong in the past. Then Ciri is the child still trying to figure out who she is and how she’ll do more in this world. When it focuses on that…it’s compelling stuff…but it doesn’t stay there, and that’s frustrating.
By that, I mean that after an attack, the three decide to separate. Geralt goes after a certain fire mage who’s been stalking them, while Yennefer takes Ciri to the Brotherhood in hopes of training her. Yes, they reconnect soon enough, but they’re also broken up almost just as quickly. I honestly thought that Season 3 would be them together until they were literally forced apart…but that’s not what we got, and I was disappointed in that. Because, again, these three are magic together. Yes, I know they have the books to follow (and I even read up on the lore a bit to see what happened and what didn’t there), but when something works, you lean into it.
In contrast, and as I noted in my Season 2 review, one of the worst things about this season is that they once again focus on the overall political machinations of the nations and how everyone has a scheme or dark plot that they’re trying to pull off. Seriously, I can’t even name all the characters that showed up in this season and had a plot because there are that many! It’s honestly too much to not only remember but see how they connect with one another. And the fact that we got this instead of more time with our favorite “family”? Yeah, I’m a bit bitter.
Another flaw I want to point out is that the progress of things felt much slower than in Season 2. I noted previously that last season had a more straightforward story, and things built up because of that. But here? It was all over the place, and I was shocked (in a bad way) when things just seemed to…end.
For example, the fire mage that Geralt seeks out? He has several key scenes and then just…dies like a punk. Yep, the Boba Fett treatment. Also, Yennefer’s whole goal this season (aside from winning back Geralt) was getting Ciri to learn her magical capabilities with The Brotherhood…and then that literally blows up in their faces, and thanks to something else I’ll get to, I have no idea what her “magical status” is.
That’s not to say that everything was bad. I’ve already noted that the three leads work wonders together, but there were other elements, too, that were nice. Side characters like Triss and others were given moments to shine or new paths to take. I liked how, after everything Triss had gone through that, she wanted nothing more than to help the new novices and do more for them than she could for Ciri.
Also, certain key episodes, like “The Art of Illusion,” were very clever with how they did the story and scenes. I liked how that episode played with the tropes of flashbacks and conventional storytelling to make you think that certain things were happening, and yet they were all pieces of a puzzle that fit together better than you would think.
Furthermore, when it came to the fight scenes, they were almost always top notice. From episode 1 with Geralt in full form to episode 8, where a bunch of new characters laid waste to a bar full of fools, things were always intense when the fights came around. The use of camera movements and not always using a lot of jump cuts made it all feel personal, and I loved it.
In contrast, there weren’t that many monsters in this season. Far fewer than Season 2, and that definitely stood out as…Geralt is a Witcher. Now, yes, one of the monsters was a key plot point and horrifying to behold, but…we probably should’ve gotten more.
Another down spot was that because of all the events going on and the political conniving that took place, it felt that some characters had no real growth or purpose. For example, Season 3 added fan-favorite actor Robbie Amell as the down-to-earth elf known as Gallatin. He felt like someone who would shake up the elven storyline…and then he died both brutally and suddenly for another character whose story I didn’t need to see continue and ended within this season in a way I thought was really stupid (and not lore accurate, technically.) And as for Fransceca (leader of the Elves), her story was just painful to watch at times as…it just got more barbaric and horrifying for her, and I cannot see a true endpoint for her or the elves.
Remember, at the end of Season 2, they made a BIG statement against the humans…and yet at the end of Season 3…they’re basically nothing, and that feels so off.
And then…there’s Jaskier. Yep, this is the most controversial element of The Witcher Season 3 Review, as I’ve hated Jaskier since Season 1, and fast forward to Season 3…and he’s just as bad, if not worse. As a certain character noted in the final episode, “He’s even more useless,” and I couldn’t agree more. Yes, he was “entangled” in other storylines and plots, but he didn’t really add to them. Yet, we all know he’s coming back.
Finally, and yes, I’m about to address the elephant in the room; the way the final season was constructed was not only confusing at times, but it made no clear indication of how Henry Cavill is going to be “changed” to become Liam Hemsworth. The showrunner’s implied that a “meta” transformation is coming, but that doesn’t play with how the season ended with Cavill…literally walking away to face down more threats and get back Ciri. Yes, he was injured, but he was “healed” and even got a new ally as a result. At present, there’s no reason for a “physical change” unless they’ll straight-up ignore making a plot reason for it and just say, “Deal With It.”
Speaking of which, that final episode didn’t feel season finale-esque. It felt like a setup for a season finale, and that made me question things once again. And while the “Frying Pan” episode with Ciri was visually intriguing, the way the explaining was done both then and in the finale, I have way more questions than I showed about what her “name reveal” means.
So as my The Witcher Season 3 Review ends, am I willing to toss a coin to this version of The Witcher? I will, but not as many as I have before.