The following are extensive scene-by-scene recaps on ‘The Witcher’ episodes 3 and 4. A Netflix adapted fantasy series created by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich.
We’ve already covered episodes 1 and 2 of ‘The Witcher’. It wasn’t until episode four that this became evident to me: The Witcher takes place across three different character timelines, at different points within the world’s timeline. Ciri’s story takes place in the present. Geralt in the recent past. And Yennefer’s is a long time ago. With all three converging as they skip forward at different rates in the series.
So for the purpose of these recaps, I’ll write how things play out in the episodes rather than chronology, which gets messy the more you think about it.
Episode 3: Betrayer Moon
A sick boy in bed talks about the myth behind the Vudodlak, this world’s version of the werewolf. He believes he is turning into one as he thinks that it is what scratched him. A Witcher (not Geralt) asks for three thousand orens to slay the beast from the boy’s father. They pay him, and shortly after, the boy dies. A scream echoes in the night. The Witcher on assignment follows the sounds into a butchery, where some meat hangs on hooks. He ambushed and killed.
Geralt, our Witcher (Henry Cavill), awakens next to a prostitute though he is still left feeling unsatisfied. She fingers his different scars including the one given to him by Renfri, then tells him another Witcher has gone to Temeria, where Miners paid 3,000 orens to have it kill a monster. He pays the prostitute for her services but goes into debt for the room, leaving his horse, Roach as collateral as he pursues the job in Temeria for money to pay the innkeeper.
Geralt finds the angry miners and the father who is upset over the death of his son Mikal (the sick boy). Geralt apologizes for the other Witcher’s alleged running off with the money and offers to do the job at a third of the price. With payment only after killing the Vudodlak. Soldiers arrive from King Foltest’s army and tell the miners to go home. The upset father spits at the army’s leader, who offers pity condolences. The soldiers escort Geralt back to the border where, in the cold night of winter, each guard soon falls to the ground. A voice calls out to Geralt, revealed to be Triss Merigold (Anna Shaffer), the sorceress servant of King Foltest. She reveals that she was the one who’d sent the message (to the prostitute) to entice him here as she needs help not to kill but save the beast.
Back in her home, Triss reveals that six years ago, people went missing around the old crypts where the king’s sister Adda was buried. It’s rumored she was having an affair when she died, her child in her belly being the heir as King Foltest never married. Triss deduces this creature is not a Vudodlak and offers 2000 orens if Geralt can figure out what killed the creature’s victims. She shows him the stored bodies of all the secret murder victims and Geralt inspects each one, including the Witcher that was killed.
Hearts and Livers missing in each of them, Geralt concludes that the beast is a Striga and that Adda must’ve had a daughter as all Strigas are female.
At the crypts of the tower of the gull, Yennefer rides Istredd (Royce Pierreson) as the two have passionate sex. They are being watched by an approving audience, who applause when Istredd climaxes inside of Yennefer then disappear. An illusion.
Shortly after they dress, we learn that it’s years into their future and both students have excelled in their studies. Istredd is going to Temeria for Stregebor and Yennefer is going to be assigned to be a mage at Aedirn. Later on, a sorcerer dresses Yennefer in an elegant grey dress in preparation for her duties at Aedirn. Tissaia joins in and reveals to Yennefer that she can remake herself through magic. Effectively curing her hunched back and self-perceived ugliness. She instructs her pupil to look in the mirror and imagine the most powerful woman in the world and then enchants Yennefer’s eyes.
Meanwhile, Triss Merigold and Geralt visit King Foltest (Shaun Dooley) of Temeria and tell him they can save the creature. They argue with the king’s council and everyone is told to leave but Geralt bars the doors and forces a private council with the King. Geralt implies that he believes the King bedded his murdered sister. The guards break back in, but the king calls them off. Geralt is banished from Temeria.
In a secret Chapter of twelve wizards, it’s revealed that Cintra continues animosity towards the alliance (This is old Cintra, but it is intentionally left ambiguous to confuse it with Princess Cirilla’s Cintra, which is mostly a smoldering ruin in the present). King Dagorad has banned mages in the country and the princess Calanthe (The Queen and Grandmother in Ciri’s timeline) is proving even more stubborn.
A sorcerer reveals Nilfgaard’s king Fergus is excitable (horny), wasting the kingdom’s money on women as his people starve. They need a good mage assigned there but nobody wants the job (as it’s implied, they’d be little than eye candy, or at worst, a concubine). Stregobor suggests sending Yennefer revealing to the council that she is part elf. A trait most in the kingdom despise. The council votes and agrees.
Outside the gates of Temeria, Geralt plans to continue pursuing the beast despite getting nothing out of it (he’s more honorable than he claims). Triss Merigold finds him outside and joins him and they sneak inside the abandoned halls of the castle. They visit Adda’s bedroom and find hidden letters in a music box from Queen Sancia, Adda and Foltest’s mother. Finding evidence that Sancia may have cursed her own children because they had an incestuous affair and so Sancia wanted Adda’s child killed.
Geralt and Triss then talk to Lord Ostrit, a close council to the throne who doesn’t believe Foltest and Adda’s relationship was consensual. He believes Foltest raped his sister and then cursed the child to cover it. Geralt calls him out on this lie as he smelled the man’s stench on Adda’s bedsheets both old and new. Obvious evidence that Ostrit had strong feelings for Adda. Ostrit admits to cursing not Adda but Foltest. Refusing to reveal the affair out of a love for Adda and the ruin it would do to their family’s legacy. Ostrit wants Foltest to watch as the kingdom deteriorates and grows to hate him.
Back at the tower, Sabrina offers herself to the brotherhood of sorcerers. Istredd realizes Yennefer is missing. He visits her but she rebukes him for his betrayal of revealing her Elven heritage to Stregobor. He apologizes though defends himself as the two were knowingly spying on each other in service to their respective masters.
Istredd offers to fix it by joining the research chapter so that neither of them must go to court. The two able to be together as servants. Yennefer hates the idea. She refuses to be patronized by a man who pimps the world as some romantic adventure. Istredd condemns that Yennefer is just mad she lost her chance to be beautiful. She retorts she just wants to be powerful. It’s what she’s owed given the cruelty in her life thus far.
Moments after, Yennefer asks the enchanter from earlier to prove his true ability. Seeking to transform herself immediately, she requests he leave her enchanted eyes and slashed wrists. The enchanter agrees though warns that it will cost her childbearing womb and that the process will be quite painful.
Geralt meets with Foltest at the gates of his kingdom. The King greets him enthused, having learned from Triss that Geralt has a way of making his daughter human. The king reveals he truly loved Adda though he tried for years not to pursue his feelings until they inevitably came out.
Soon after, we learn Geralt has kept Ostrit bound at Adda’s old bed. He forces him to reveal how to lift the curse and Ostrit reveals how he had cast the Elven curse, to begin with. Reciting the elder words, Geralt figures out how to turn her back: fight her until the dawn keeping her away from her crypt. Geralt leaves Ostrit to die. The Striga finds and eviscerates him.
They battle. Geralt uses a silver chain whip but the Striga breaks the bonds. Despite his skill, the Striga proves relentless and ragdolls him along the corridor hallway until Geralt breaks the floor with his magic, causing both to fall. He shatters one of his potions and the creature finds him and beats him down then tries to escape. Geralt holds it back with magic then arms himself with silver knuckles and punches the creature keeping the fight going. As the sun rises, he locks himself away into her tomb and magically seals it from inside, keeping her out and forcing her to return to human form. Now human, Geralt thinks the battle over but the girl still behaves like the Striga and bites at Geralt’s jugular causing him to bleed out.
Yennefer undergoes a painful transformation that fixes her spine. She immediately attends the dance and is revealed to be stunningly beautiful; easily wooing every person in the crowd, particularly the King of Aedirn who is still seeking a mage. Yennefer proves to be much more suitable to his wants and she dances with the King and gains his favor. This upsets the council along with foils everyone’s political plans.
Geralt awakens to find Triss mending his wounds, though she tells him he’d spent the night calling out to Renfri in his dreams. Triss tells him the king told his people Ostrit lost his life to save the princess. Geralt asks Triss for his coins of payment which she grants him.
Finally, we find Princess Cirilla awakens and is entranced to enter a nearby forest as Dara tries to save her but is non-fatally shot with an arrow.
Episode 4: Of Banquets, Bastards, and Burials
We pick up where we left off as Princess Ciri is called deeper into Brokilon forest. Revealed to be filled with mysterious lights and very green fauna inside. She is ambushed by women with spears and says that her name is Fiona. A woman tells her to follow her.
At a meeting, a man shares a story about how the White Wolf helped him but was swallowed whole by a Sekimore. We meet the bard Jaskier again, who jots down the details of Geralt’s latest adventure, still seeking to create good stories based on the Witcher’s adventures.
Suddenly, Geralt breaks into the room covered in blood and guts having slain the Sekimore. The man pays Geralt as Jaskier leads the crowd in song, really popularizing the Witcher’s reputation as humanity’s hero. In return, Jaskier asks a favor for making Geralt such a local hero as he tries to entice Geralt’s services with food, women, and wine.
Jaskier cleans and bathes Geralt though the Witcher still claims they’re not friends. He asks for his protection at a wedding, as the bard has upset a lot of lords having bedded a lot of the women in attendance including wives, servants, and mothers. Geralt reluctantly agrees but states he won’t kill anyone for him as Jaskier dresses him up in a noble’s attire.
At the wedding, despite Jaskier’s attempts to hide Geralt’s identity, the disguise immediately fails as everyone knows who he is. Surprisingly, Mousesack is there alive and well. He greets Geralt and says he hasn’t seen him since the plague.
It’s here that if you haven’t picked up on it yet, that we reveal the series takes place in multiple moments in the same timeline. With princess Cirilla’s story taking place in Geralt’s future. This is the wedding of princess Pavetta (Gaia Mondadori), who is princess Cirilla’s mother and the daughter of Queen Calanthe.
It’s also here where we see a younger Eist Tuirseach (Ciri’s grandfather/the king in episode one) and learn from Mousesack, that the Queen (Ciri’s grandmother/The Lioness) has refused Eist’s marriage proposal three times since her first husband, King Roegner had died and she refuses to be in the shadow of another man ever again.
Soon after, Jaskier is accosted by a dwarfish nobleman who believes he had an affair with his wife. He demands Jaskier drop his trousers to look at his pimply ass, as he never got to catch the man’s face. Geralt convinces the nobleman Jaskier is a eunuch who was kicked in the balls by an ox as a child.
At that moment, the lioness Queen Calanthe arrives victorious from battles in the south and demands beer. The bard plays a jig as Calanthe talks to her daughter. She doesn’t want to be married off for political alliances nor likes the prejudiced politics of their kingdom. To this Calanthe says she can ‘have’ whom she wants after she’s married, after all, she has her blood in her. Infidelities implied.
Back at the forest, Princess Ciri (disguised as Fiona) is asked how she got into Brokilon as the leader of the women talks about the conjunction of spheres and how they’re some of the last surviving dryads. Suddenly, a man yells in pain in the distance, revealed to be none other than Dara. An arrow is removed from his shoulder and the Dryad leader offers the waters of the forest, which have magical healing but also forgetting properties.
Back at the wedding, two Lords (including Pavetta’s expected betrothed) debate whether they actually battled a manticore and queen Calanthe asks Geralt if he could answer for them (given his monster hunting expertise). The Witcher replies neither is telling the truth but corrects himself before inciting a feud. The queen then asks Geralt to share some stories about how he slew Elves at the end of the world (they detest Elves) but he replies contrary to the songs written by Jaskier, it was he who was beaten and not the other way around. Eist uses the moment to try flirting with Calanthe again but the queen likes Geralt’s honesty and commands he keep her company while she changes.
In the forest, Dara asks why she’s being called Fiona. Ciri reveals her true identity to the elf. Dara says her grandmother slaughtered his family but Ciri denies it, not knowing the truth. Dara tells Ciri he’s the last of his family because he hid like a coward while they were slaughtered. The two reflect on their traumas and seriously consider forgetting their legacies with the forest’s waters and possibly making their own destinies.
At the wedding, the queen is now dressed for the occasion and out of her armor at the banquet hall. The Witcher at her right side and her daughter to her left. She asks why the Witcher is there and he tells her the truth: he’s protecting the bard from vengeful royal cuckolds. Still, the queen is grateful as she believes blood will be spilled tonight. She asks Geralt if possible, to ‘strategically remove certain irritants’ if fighting starts but he tells her that he can’t.
The suitors all line up and offer their services. Lord Peregrine of Nilfgaard arrives to talk but is heavily disrespected. Especially, by the queen herself showcasing things are not as black and white as we had thought. Though at this point, Nilfgaard is unruly with an ever-changing monarchy, unlike the kingdom that attacked in the first episode.
In a wintery forest, we shift focus to Yennefer’s storyline. The appointed mage now thirty years into her service in Aedrin. She watches over Queen Kalis and her babe in a carriage. The queen complains that she’s little more than a womb for heirs to her husband. When asked to speak freely, Yennefer admits she loved trading everything to get a seat at court atop of the chase for power. Though didn’t realize she’d spent all of it cleaning up stupid political messes in a position of glorified royalty ass wiping.
The carriage is suddenly attacked. The contingent of guards protecting the two are slaughtered. Yennefer takes the Queen outside and meets their assassin: a cloaked magician who is controlling some type of killer bug with scythes for hands. They run as the mage opens a portal to a desert to escape with her, the queen, and the last surviving guard. In the desert, Yennefer tells the queen the king is likely trying to kill her as she’s failed to birth him a male heir. Shortly after, the assassin teleports onto the scene. Yennefer creates a portal to escape but the last guard is killed by the insect. Yennefer believes they’re being tracked as the assassin follows them into the alleys of the next location. She holds off the insect and opens another portal, the two leave and end up high atop a mountainside. Looking like she’s going to battle, Yennefer instead teleports away into a hill far away leaving the queen to die.
Back at the wedding, Jaskier entertains the guests as Geralt and the Queen talk about the fallacies of ‘male traditions’ in the kingdoms. The witcher reveals it’s impossible to create more witchers since the sacking of Kaer Morhen. He asks the queen why she goes into battle and she tells him that she prefers the simplicity of fighting.
A warrior barges into the banquet having incapacitated several guards revealed to be Lord Urcheon of Erlenwald. He requests his attempts of offering a hand in marriage though refuses to unhelmet. When it’s forced upon him, it’s revealed he has a hedgehog’s face. The queen demands Geralt kill him but declines acknowledging that the knight has been cursed. The knight says he claims what’s rightfully his: Pavetta, by the law of surprise.
The guards attack as the hedgehog knight admirably holds though ultimately falls. Before he is killed, Geralt comes to his aide and the two fight off countless warriors and lords. Eist honors the law of surprise and starts defending Geralt and the hedgehog knight too. His loyalists join to his aide and chaos ensues in a giant brawl. The queen looks on in horror then grabs a sword and joins in. She confronts Geralt directly, sword in hand, and commands everyone to stop. They do so.
Back atop the mountainside, Queen Kalis begs the magical assassin not to kill her. She offers her the king a most-definite boy and is willing to sacrifice her baby to guarantee a male heir. The assassin kills the queen anyway but before it’s insect can kill the baby, Yennefer returns to save the child and portals out but not before being cut by the assassin’s dagger. At the shores where she teleported, Yennefer realizes her efforts were in vain as the baby is dead. She mourns the loss and buries the child by the shore but tells her this may be for the better, as most women are but vessels for someone else in this world.
Back at the wedding, princess Pavetta runs into the arms of her hedgehog knight, Duny (Bart Edwards) revealed to be Pavetta’s true love. He reveals that he saved her former husband’s life seeking the ‘Laws of surprises’ as payment: that whatever the indebted came home to find would be his. Unknowingly, he claimed the king’s newborn daughter: Pavetta. The Queen gets upset at her daughter for falling for this cursed being but Eist tells her it all falls under ancient law. Duny apologizes, as though he tried not to claim Pavetta as he found it wrong, he observed her from a distance in admiration.
The two ending up falling in love naturally anyway.
Though everyone tells her not to defy destiny, the queen asks for Geralt’s opinion. The Witcher believes destiny is horseshit, but that a promise made must be honored. Pavetta chooses Duny as her suitor. Calanthe, with tears in her eyes, gives her sword to Eist. She walks over and whispers to Duny and then pulls out a dagger to murder him. In a furious rage, Pavetta stops the dagger inches from Duny’s throat and then summons a magical tempest that pushes everyone away and encircles the couple in howling winds, revealing that she, much like her daughter, control powerful magics.
Casting a powerful spell, Pavetta and Duny rise into the air as the storm grows larger and more destructive. The witcher ingests a potion as Mousesack casts a spell, the two barely able to break the enchantment. Pavetta and Duny drop to the ground. Eist asks if the queen believes in destiny now and Calanthe approaches her daughter to apologize and honor the betrothal. She also tells Pavetta she thought grandmother’s gift had skipped as it did for her, revealing that the magic is somehow genetic.
Seizing the opportunity, Eist declares his support for the untraditional couple (it’s very racist times especially given the elven wars) and declares Skellige in full support, sharing loudly that the queen has accepted his hand in marriage… finally. A double marriage is had that evening.
In her dreams, Ciri sees the genocide of the Elven people and feels the blood tainting her hands. When she awakens, she sees that Dara has just drank the waters of Brokilon forest. The head Dryad offers the water to Ciri. She takes it but nothing happens and so the Dryad tells Ciri Shan-Kayan calls.
Queen Calanthe gives the knight and her daughter her blessing and the couple kiss; Suddenly, Duny begins barking and transforms back into a human, effectively lifting the curse. Jaskier claims this will be his greatest story yet. Geralt tries to leave but before he goes, Duny tells him he must repay him for saving his life. Geralt doesn’t want anything in return so randomly asks for the ‘law of surprise’ too as a joke.
Calanthe exclaims, “NO!” but Geralt tells them it’s fine as the only time he’d ever return to this place is to kill a real monster. Seconds later, Pavetta vomits in the middle of the court. Queen Calanthe asks if Pavetta is pregnant. Immediately, Geralt says: “Fuck!” and runs.
Seconds later, Mousesack follows Geralt and tells him he chooses to stay to help guide Pavetta’s power. He tells Geralt to stay too, as he’s bound to this now whether he’d care to admit it or not. It’s destiny. Geralt calls bullshit and that it was all just a girl using magic to stop her mother from gutting her lover. Mousesack reminds Geralt that he is bound to the baby and must claim it at some point, or they will all face destiny’s wrath (possibly implied to be the loss of the kingdom in the first episode). Geralt departs though says fond words of farewell to Mouseack, calling him an ‘old friend’.
We transition and reveal the modern city of Cintra which is now being burnt to ash. A soldier finds the body of Queen Calanthe. A man eats part of her flesh and then is gutted, as a sorceress reads his entrails, revealing Calanthe’s progeny (Ciri) is in Brokilon forest, where it would take 10-12 thousand Nilfgaard soldiers to take it, though an officer exclaims armies are not the way. Dragging close behind them in chains, its revealed Mousesack is alive. He trips and takes something from the corpse of the Queen.
Back in Brokilon forest, Ciri is led to drink from a bleeding tree. She does so and then sees visions of a desert at night where a great tree etching into the heavens asks: “What are you, child?”
Final Thoughts on Episodes 3 and 4
These two episodes were heavy in both the drama and the comedy. What surprised me the most is when Mousesack was revealed to be alive given how grim his fate looked in the pilot. It’s then I realized (as I’m sure others have figured out) the story operates on multiple character timelines simultaneously.
As someone who has never read the books or played the games, all of this tremendously surprised me. Inspired by the movie ‘Dunkirk’, it’s reported that showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich wanted to run three multiple-POV storylines (Geralt, Princess Cirilla, and Yennefer) simultaneously in order to represent stronger female characterizations. As Ciri and Yennefer’s voices would be stronger if their stories were told as protagonists rather than observed from Geralt’s perspective.
For the most part, I think it worked but I also was confused by the world’s timeline as a result. Though, as many have pointed out to me, that there are hints throughout the season that everything takes place non-linearly. Still, I didn’t even realize it and I’ve been recapping scene-by-scene.
In episode 1, it’s implied to be different time periods given the fall of Cintra and how their monarchy is still around somehow during Geralt’s story. There is also the brief mention of Queen Calanthe’s first battlefield victory in ages past, which is then again mentioned in passing during Geralt’s timeline by princess Renfri. Though by that time, that battle victory had just taken place.
In episode 3, we learn the adult Foltest reminisces over his deceased sister Adda as the two had an incestuous relationship during Geralt’s timeline. This is hinted at again in Yennefer’s story, as it’s revealed the flirtatious little brother and sister at the magical ball, are in fact Foltest and Adda. Implying that this love has been there since they were very little.
As such, the show is a lot deeper than I’d expected it to be on top of it operating on three layers of storytelling marked upon a single historical timeline. Each with its own political changes, events, prejudices, and histories.
As a result, this will be my last scene-by-scene recap as the work is a bit too much to follow given the timeline complexities. I do hope you enjoyed these recaps and found them helpful, however.
Overall, I give episodes 3 and 4 a 9.4/10 for both episodes in what’s proving to be a promising fantasy series most critics got wrong in panning.
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