If there’s only one thing you take away from The Witcher‘s third season premiere, now streaming on Netflix, let it be this: Geralt and Yennefer are one of the hottest couples on television right now.
No one would blame you for forgetting that fact, of course, since it’s been roughly 18 months since the last season came out. But now that we’ve been reunited with the fraught lovers at long last, you’d have to be willfully ignorant not to ‘ship them with every ounce of your being.
The duo’s icy dynamic gradually thaws as the premiere progresses, first with a lingering glance at their latest hideout, followed by a walk down clothing-optional memory lane. Geralt even kinda-sorta wishes Yennefer a happy birthday! (Fine, he simply acknowledges that it’s her birthday. But we’re desperate enough to take that as a win for now.)
Unfortunately, the events of the hour — including a nasty encounter with a Ciri-tracking jackapace, plus a bloody battle with Rience and the elves at Shaerrawedd — bring Geralt and Yennefer to a crossroads. She believes it’s in Ciri’s best interest to bring her to Aretuza, where her magic can grow stronger under Tissaia’s guidance, while Geralt remains focused on finding and destroying Rience.
Geralt and Yennefer Reconcile
Geralt and Yennefer shippers eat well in this episode, as it begins with them sharing a lot more than just the information they learned during the Conclave of Mages. They recount the events of the night to each other to try and figure out who is and isn’t on their side. Geralt also tells Yennefer he loves her for the first time, cementing their status as the Continent’s hottest couple and proving that Geralt has fully forgiven her for almost giving Ciri over to Voleth Meir last season.
The Conclave of Mages
During the ball set to kick off the Conclave of Mages, Geralt and Yennefer chat with a variety of people to figure out how to expose Stregobor and who they can trust to protect Ciri. While talking to Philippa (Cassie Clare), Dijkstra (Graham McTavish) approaches Geralt, trying to convince the Witcher to forgo his neutrality and choose a side – preferably by sending Ciri to Redania “before it’s too late.”
Geralt leaves the conversation to confront Stregobor after seeing him berate a member of the waitstaff. Their conversation is tense, but Geralt restrains himself and doesn’t attack him despite his growing desire to. He tries to escape the ballroom for a moment fleeing for the balcony, but Vilgefortz (Mahesh Jadu) finds him and talks to him about the mural of the First Landing and the formation of the Brotherhood. Vilgefortz is clearly playing an angle, not only trying to appeal to Geralt by bringing up that they both grew up as outcasts, but also by telling Geralt that Istredd (Royce Pierreson) and Yennefer used to be a couple as they can be seen talking to each other among the party guests.
Before Istredd finds Yennefer, Philippa pulls her aside to talk about her falling out with Tissaia (MyAnna Buring). Philippa tried to convince Tissaia not to ally with Vilgefortz before the Battle of Sodden. She tries to convince Yennefer to forgo her loyalty, bringing up Lydia’s painful romance as an example of what loyalty will get you, but Yennefer stays strong in her convictions and her plan for the Conclave.
After Yennefer leaves Phillippa, Istredd lets her know that he and Triss (Anna Shaffer) have tracked the Book of Monoliths to Stregobor’s chambers and warn her of what he could do with it and Ciri’s powers. This changes Yennefer’s mind about waiting until the next day to take action against Stregobor. She and Geralt decide to use the Melange as cover so that she can sneak away to Stregobor’s quarters to find the book. Geralt fakes a fight with Istredd, accusing him of trying to win Yennefer back.
What’s up with Vilgefortz?
Since the first season, Vilgefortz has been — at the very least — a minor antagonist for Yennefer, but there have been a lot of hints along the way suggesting that he might be a much scarier guy than we ever knew. Watching him mercilessly kill a fellow mage during the Battle of Sodden Hill in Season 1 and lose his cool at Tissaia for her secrecy in Season 2 suggests that there is something nefarious hidden behind all that charm, and frankly we’re a little scared at the prospect of seeing it out in the open. For Volume 1, Vilgefortz has been upsettingly laidback, making peace with Yennefer, turning on the charm, and playing the part of the fair-minded mage, but that’s actually somehow a little bit scarier when he was being actively murderous in Season 1. While readers of the books will be aware that Vilgefortz rates as one of the great supervillains of the franchise, the TV series has diverged on some major plot points and there’s no promise it’ll follow the same route. Though we can assume that he’s up to no good due to his past criminal actions, there has been little in the way of confirmation of what his end goal is. Volume 2, please deliver!
Is Jaskier Really Going to Settle Down?
While King Vizimir of Redania is an uncontested fool, his brother Prince Radovid is easily one of the more intriguing new characters of the series. He and Jaskier close out their role in Volume 1 by sharing a night of passion together, though we’ll have to wait for Volume 2 to see how the aftermath of that plays out. After both Radovid and Jaskier contemplate what it might be like for him to enjoy life at court, or to “settle down” as Jaskier puts it, it seems that his weariness of a life lived hand-to-mouth is starting to get to him. Radovid’s great skill is his breezy charm, asking people questions that encourage them to look into their hearts rather than trying to force them into things, and it’s clear that he’s hooked Jaskier. Where this will all lead is up in the air, but here’s hoping these two kids work things out.
What’s Going to Happen to the Elves?
Being as the Elves appear to have had several centuries in a row of only bad days, one of the major questions for the third season is if things are going to improve for these people anytime soon. Although we learned in Blood Origin that their history of aggression toward the Dwarves is not pretty, Elves have similarly spent the last many years being hunted and killed by humans after the Conjunction of the Spheres brought them to this realm. Currently, a mourning Queen Francesca is in command of a people that are rapidly losing faith in her ability to lead, which is understandable considering the fact that most of her major decisions have led to countless deaths. Wanting revenge for her murdered daughter is beyond sympathetic, but, as Queen, Francesca lashing out has serious consequences. And, sadly, most of those have fallen on her people rather than on her enemies. Where will it all end?
There’s still a good amount of political maneuvering and treachery to keep track of. The remaining elves are divided over who to align themselves and the best way to get revenge on humanity; the kingdom of Redania — thanks to cunning spymaster Dijkstra (Graham McTavish) and his partner Phillipa (Cassie Clare), who spent most of season 2 as an owl — finds itself in the thick of everything; the Brotherhood of Sorcerers is struggling with infighting; and the White Flame (Bart Edwards) continues his quest to unite the entire Continent under his rule. That’s not even counting characters who find themselves in completely new situations, like the exiled mage Fringilla (Mimi Ndiweni), who is now an always-drunk poison tester.
But thankfully, unlike more recent forays into the Witcher universe, all of that background is told concisely and entertainingly and sits largely in the, well, background. This lets the show bring its focus back to the main cast — and this time, it does right by those characters. Geralt remains a sullen yet surprisingly lovable centrist as always, but Yenn has returned to being a powerful, defiantly independent mage, and Ciri is coming into her own and is finally more than just a damsel in distress whose power is activated by screams.
And while there is a lot going on, volume one of the new season is essentially about one thing: revealing who the new, big bad villain is. Getting there involves all kinds of typical witcher-y things: lots of fights with terrifying monsters (including one particularly grotesque creature that wouldn’t be out of place in Akira or Inside), fancy parties full of sexual tension, some truly messed up betrayals, and Geralt being a smartass much to the frustration of the elite. But a lot of the fun comes from sussing out just who is the secret villain pulling a lot of the strings behind the scenes. The first batch of episodes ends with a party, which you see from various perspectives, forcing you — along with Geralt and Yenn — to sift through the lies, misdirections, and illusions while a band sings, “All is not as it seems.” I was genuinely surprised with the big reveal.
The producers of The Witcher have said the transition from Cavill to Hemsworth will be “quite flawless.” But even still, this season is an important sendoff for this version of the character — and it’s setting up this version of Geralt with a major showdown to go out on. At the same time, this season is also a return of form of sorts, bringing The Witcher back to the things that make it unique — it’s funny, bloody, and sexy. There’s even a bath scene, which is as Witcher as it gets.
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