The following are extensive scene-by-scene recaps on ‘The Witcher’. A Netflix adapted fantasy series created by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich. Starring Superman himself, Henry Cavill, and based on the popular book and videogame series. With a podcast below reviewing the pilot episode.
In this episode on ‘TV TALK’ we talk about the pilot of The Witcher. Available here, iTunes, GooglePlay, and Spotify.
Episode 1: The End’s Beginning
We open on a fawn eating beside a foggy swamp, as a giant spider-legged creature with a grotesque human-like face emerges from the depths. It is locked in battle the Witcher, a warrior with cotton white hair and deathly black eyes. He staves off the creature with his sword until he is dragged back under. The two struggling until ‘The Witcher’ meets the monster’s mouth with his steel.
Victorious, he finds the deer — now gravely wounded — and asks, “Today isn’t your day is it?” as the opening credits roll over the sound of the fawn being slain.
Now in a town tavern, The Witcher asks to know where the alderman’s house is but the cold and threatening reception tells us that he’s unliked. The townsfolk call him a mutant son of a bitch. Just before a scuffle begins, a beautiful woman in red apologizes and breaks up the fight. She buys a couple of rounds of beer as she and The Witcher strike up a conversation; though it’s cut short by a young girl who asks for the Witcher’s ‘Kikimora’. Disclosing that she’s looking to hire him.
He follows the young girl, revealed to be the alderman’s daughter, Marilka (Mia McKenna-Bruce). Apparently, Witcher had been following the alderman’s ‘for hire’ flyers posted outside. She offers to take him to the town’s wizard, Irion, then pesters him about the creatures he’s slain out of genuine curiosity, knowing that he is a Witcher. Marilka shares that she’s never left Blaviken — the town they’re currently in — and though women can’t be Witchers, she’d like to be. He declines her request but reveals his name: Geralt of Rivia. They arrive at the wizard’s tower and Geralt asks Marilka to hold onto his horse, Roach.
He magically phases through the door where inside, he finds a garden filled with beautiful naked women all harvesting fruit, with a tree at the center that has distinctly pink leaves. Geralt is then greeted by Master Sorcerer Stregobor (Lars Mikkelsen), whom he offers the kikimora to for Master Irion. The sorcerer reveals that though Irion built the tower, he has been dead for 200 years. Stregobor has taken Irion’s name as his sobriquet (nickname). He then offers Geralt a job: to kill a human named Renfri.
“A reclusive sorcerer who uses an alias and hires a young girl to procure him a Witcher. You don’t want my monster. You want me to kill yours.”
In the town square, a girl plays a game of knucklebones with some boys betting over a loaf of stolen bread. They are caught by a soldier and the girl is summoned to come with him. We follow her into the court of the crown of Cintra, where the Queen (Jodhi May) commends a boundless line of fealty, appointing newly minted soldiers. Behind the Queen, stands the very same girl, and a man who playfully reprimands her for not winning the round of knucklebones. She is revealed to be the princess (Freya Allan), and he, the king (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson).
Back in the wizard’s tower, Stregobor talks to Geralt about the curse of the black sun. How it marked the return of Lilit, demon goddess of the night destined to end humanity. He tells Geralt that girls born on this day had unusual ‘internal mutations’ and how Princess Renfri, is the last of these alleged cursed, according to both his research, as well as reports that came from her stepmother.
Stregobor had previously sent for a tracker to follow Renfri, but he was killed in action. The wizard has since, sent parties to find and kill the girl; who’d now gone into hiding. Meanwhile, the princess had grown in her own respective skills and had likewise, tried to track and kill the sorcerer. As such, Stregobor asks Geralt to kill the princess but the Witcher declines. Preferring not to partake in any sorts of evil deeds at this point in his life.
Back at court, a royal dance commences, but at the Royal family table, the king bluntly discusses the odds of war with the Nilfgaard. The kingdom to the South. The queen disagrees about speaking such matters in front of their granddaughter, but the King mentions the princess needs to understand as she will rule if the two were to perish. The princess is then asked by a boy named Martin to dance, as the king and queen exchange ravishing words of love and duty to one another. Though the flirting is cut short when a scout reports to the queen that the Nilfgaard are on the way to the kingdom.
War has already come.
In the forest, Geralt is met by the woman in red from the tavern (Emma Appleton), who reveals herself to be none other than Renfri, herself. She tells Geralt that Stregobor’s tracker had indeed found her. Then raped her, robbed her, and let her go. Her claim to being a princess despoiled. She has since, been living an independent life on the run, seeking revenge against the sorcerer that took everything from her. She asks Geralt to kill Stregobor, but The Witcher offers a third choice: to prove not to be the monster Stregobor claims by moving on and ending this quest for vengeance.
At sunrise, the King and Queen of Cintra ride out their mounted army to meet the forces of Nilfgaard, an army of mostly ground soldiers, though who vastly outnumber them. An epic skirmish ensues, and we soon learn in the heat of battle, that the reinforcements from Skellige meant to aid Cintra, were grounded by a passing storm. Though losing the battle, the Queen refuses to surrender, as an arrow meets the king in the left eye, killing him; the archer, standing atop a hill on horse mount in the distance. Furious, the Queen chases after her husband’s killer.
Back in the castle, the princess eagerly awaits the return of her family. She eavesdrops on some servants finding the people are indeed quite loyal and hopeful. Soon after, she hears another noise and finds that the Queen returned from battle severely wounded. It’s confirmed that Eist, the King is dead and Cintra is already under siege by the Nilfgaard. Mousesack, the family’s servant, places a magical barrier on the inner gate into the city as the outer walls crumble to Nilfgaard’s forces.
Still in the forest, Geralt talks to Roach about his first ‘monster’ kill, a large stinking man who pulled a girl down from a cart, tore off her dress right in front of her father, and threatened: “It’s time you met a real man”. Geralt stopped the monster and told him it was time he met one too, before killing him with two unclean strikes, soaking the girl in blood — who then passed out immediately. Renfri, still present and eavesdropping, tells Geralt she’s decided on option three and will leave vengeance behind. The two share a sweet moment. A longing look. And a kiss.
Back at the castle, it’s now late into the evening as the enemy launches a ceaseless torrent of fire arrows finally breaking Mousesack’s barrier. The queen orders Danek and Mousesack leave her chambers as she calls the princess closer. Dying, she tells the princess harsh truths: that Nilfgaard takes no prisoners and that every single person in the city is being brutally and viscerally murdered. She orders Cirilla, revealed to be the princess’s name, to retreat as the world depends on it, but the princess screams ‘NO!’ with a piercing shriek that shakes the room — revealing that she has magic abilities. Cirilla then cedes and tells her grandmother she loves her before she departs. The Queen reveals to her:
“Find Geralt of Rivia. He is your destiny.”
Now returned to prepare for Cirilla’s journey, Mousesack asks about the magical incident with the princess and the Queen reveals this is why the Nilfgaard came. She tells Mousesack that his service has been an honor before he departs. Under orders, Danek offers the remaining castle survivors potions of poison. Soon after, everyone in the castle commits suicide. The queen herself, jumping off the balcony. On retreat, Lazlo, the knight assigned to escort Cirilla, is killed by an arrow. The girl left helpless to the archer that killed him.
After spending the night having sex with Renfri, Geralt has a vivid dream, where Renfri tells Geralt that his reward would be a stoning. That he will try to outrun the girl in the woods but cannot. She is his destiny. When he awakens, Geralt heads to the market where the men from the inn meet him and share that Renfri went to find Marilka, still seeking vengeance. The men pass on a message from Renfri: that Geralt he must choose the lesser evil. Geralt battles the men with swordplay and magic, showing incredible prowess as he easily dispatches them.
After the battle, Marilka screams, as we see Renfri hold a sword to the girl’s throat. She threatens to kill every villager until the sorcerer appears. Geralt offers her one last chance to run but the two end up battling, with Renfri dropping Marilka to kill Geralt. Though Renfri is a talented fighter and gets a few stabs in with her dagger, she ultimately loses to Geralt who still gives her one last chance. When she tries killing him again, he finishes her. With her parting words, she says again that the girl in the woods will always be with him, as she is his destiny.
Back outside of Cintra, Cirilla is being carried away by the archer that killed Lazlo. She utilizes her screaming powers to collapse a large pillaring tower, and then fissures the earth itself to get away.
Moments later, Stregobor finds the bodies left behind by Geralt. He wants to examine Renfri’s body but Geralt threatens him. The sorcerer reveals her mutation influences people (it’s how she got the men to follower her) and he wants to study it. He then acknowledges, Renfri got to Geralt, too. Stregobor loudly condemns The Witcher for butchering men on the streets of Blaviken, as the people arrive and see what he’s done; throwing stones at him for being a monster — fulfilling Renfri’s prophecy. Finally, Marilka arrives and even she goes along with the crowd, despite the fact he’d saved her life. Saddened, Geralt leaves town with the moniker, “The Butcher of Blaviken”.
Episode 2: Four Marks
We open in a village where a boy takes a girl into a barn. He’s gotten her a daisy, though she’s upset it wasn’t a rose. They kiss but she drops the flower deep in the barn, where a hunchbacked girl picks it up to return it. The girl and boy harshly pick on the hunched back girl, who accidentally teleports into the tower of the gull in Aretuza, where she meets a welcoming young magician. He warns the girl ‘she’ will be coming after her and then opens a portal back home before revealing his name to be Istredd (Royce Pierreson).
Back at her family’s farm, the hunched back girl is sold by her father to a witch for less than the cost of a pig. Locked away in a tower, the girl looks in a mirror and shatters it then takes the glass into her hand.
The opening credits roll.
Afterward, we find the princess Cirilla hiding away in the forest as she has been for the past three days. A boy, a mute Cintra refugee, stops her from eating some poison berries. She briefly joins him, and they share a meal of rat together. The two still fleeing Nilfgaard forces. She finds a Cintran flag at a camp and follows after, but the boy mysteriously disappears.
At Posada, a lute player (Joey Batey) asks for critiques from the audience and notices a silent Geralt. He asks him his thoughts but then recognizes who he is. Another man overhears this and offers a job to Geralt: to stop a devil stealing their grain. Geralt takes the job and the now curious lute player wants to follow along.
Back at the tower, the hunchbacked girl is awakened by the witch that bought her, revealed to be Tissaia de Vries, the Rectoress of Aretuza. She commands her to meet in the greenhouse, where it’s revealed that a class of students, all girls with an aptitude in chaos, are studying lessons in magic. Specifically, a lesson on balance and control. The first trial is to lift a stone without touching it using a flower. Fringilla lifts the stone but soon finds her left-hand wither away, learning that conjuring magic comes at a cost of give and take. As the other girls proceed with the lesson, the hunchbacked girl fails to raise the rock. She retreats away but thankfully finds Istredd, then reveals her name to be Yennefer (Anya Chalotra).
Princess Cirilla meets fellow survivors at what’s revealed to be a refugee camp. She meets a boy who’s made a necklace out of elven ears. Revenge for his brother’s life taken during Filavandrel’s uprising. Cirilla sits with the boy’s family and his mother blames queen for all that’s happened. She is then offered a fresh pair of shoes and accepts, not realizing the mother was offering the pair being worn by her dwarfen slave. That evening, at the refugee camp, Cirilla has difficulty sleeping. Feeling lonely, she reveals to the same mother that her parents died when she was a baby.
Geralt travels with the lute player to Dol Blathanna. The bard reveals the land used to be Elven back in the day. Geralt sneaks up on the grain thief and is pelted in the forehead by a goat-like fawn, revealed to be Torque the Sylvan. Geralt tells Torque to leave but ends up getting knocked out from behind.
Back in class, Tissaia instructs the girls to learn their partner’s greatest fears via thought transference. Yennefer fails yet again. Istredd tries to comfort her and offers access to his mind. She sees his thoughts and senses: moon jellyfish, cicadas in summer, and warm bread. They are all things Istredd thought Yennefer would love. Later in the evening, Yennefer and the girls are called by Tissaia to try and catch lightning in a bottle. Sabrina is the first to succeed but Yennefer, despite failing, was able to command lightning out of her hand. By evening’s end, the girls all catch their lightning in a bottle except Yennefer. Tissaia warns Yennefer that emotional mages, like the two of them, are very powerful but dangerous. She finds the hidden track marks Yennefer has been slashing on her wrists. That to be in control of magic is to be honest with oneself and prove to have what it takes.
Geralt and the bard wake up tethered together. Geralt is beaten by Toruviel, a female elf, while the bard’s lute is then broken. Torque returns with Filavandrel, King of the Elves, though he reveals he is not a king by choice. Torque shares that he was stealing for the elven refugees, revealed to be pushed out of their lands by the humans. Filavandrel tells Geralt that despite his ancestors trying to work with humans, the elven people were butchered and pushed out of their lands. To this, Geralt tells them to learn from humans and move on and rebuild in a different land. Filvandrel is given a choice: to spare or kill them, though is reminded by Torque that Geralt is much like their own kind: an outcast.
Back at the tower of the gull, Yennefer tells Istredd that Tissaia knows about them and asks for a portal. An older magic Istredd doesn’t want to share. Istredd reveals that the skulls in the cave in Aretuza are the bones of Elves. When humans and monsters arrived after ‘the conjunction of the spheres’, elven mages taught humans how to turn chaos into magic. In return, humans slaughtered them so they could rewrite history saying the power was always theirs. Istredd desires to honor the elves. He gives Yennefer Feainnewedd, a rare magical flower that only grows where elder blood has spilled. When she tries to cast a portal, she does so on her first try, then reveals that her real father was a half-elf killed in the great cleansing. His blood is why she has a twisted spine. Why no one could ever love her. To this, Istredd replies with a kiss. Later, Yennefer bequeaths the Feainnewedd to Tissaia, then tells her to await for the knock that evening. We then learn that Istredd works for Stregobor, who reveals the secret that Yennefer is part elf.
At the refugee camp, the family Cirilla is staying with is being raided, as the mother bullies her dwarfen slave. In return, the slave repeatedly stabs her in defiance, as she calls out to Cirilla for help – the princess retreating in terror. She is rescued again by the mute boy from before but soon finds the Nilfgaard soldier (the bowman that killed Lazlo) still looking for her. Cirilla learns that the mute boy is an elf named Dara and that he can speak.
Back at the tower of the gull, footsteps approach the doors of several of the girls as Tissaia requests them away. Yennefer sneakily observes this, as Tissaia turns the girls into eels and then tells Yennefer to push them into the nearby pool. She realizes the girls are being groomed as conduits for Aretuza (a source of magic. Think battery). Once Yennefer tosses her classmates into the waters, she sees the former girls sparkling in the waters.
The Witcher and bard are released as Geralt leaves a good deal of coin to the elves. The bard is given Filavandrel’s lute. He makes a song dedicated to Geralt’s heroic deeds to win his new friend’s favor.
Final Thoughts on Episodes One and Two:
An incredible start to the series blending great fantasy storytelling and action, all with a stellar performance by Henry Cavill. This show is Netflix’s most expensive attempt at generating a fantasy hit. Especially, with Amazon’s ‘Lord of The Rings’ and HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ prequels on the horizon.
Though reviews have been mostly panning the series, I, for the most part, enjoyed the action and writing.
You can watch ‘The Witcher’ on Netflix right now