‘The Witcher’ Season 3 Begins Henry Cavill’s Exit With Plenty of Action

Netflix’s “The Witcher” returns almost like some reminder that, indeed, there are still some streaming titles left with enough of a following to keep them going. This one was always a very niche selection, tailored perfectly for the fantasy and cosplay crowd. But because it knows what it is, it continues to deliver. Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich makes sure the quality is consistent and the pacing brisk enough for binging. The stakes are rather high considering this also marks the final season featuring Henry Cavill in the lead role as the muscled monster slayer. Fittingly, Hissrich marks the occasion by giving fans not one but two seasons, with the second half arriving next month. These first five episodes are therefore the first half of a bigger story. 

We quickly catch up with Geralt (Cavill) and Yennefer “Yen” (Anya Chalotra) as they continue watching over the younger Ciri (Freya Allan). They had to leave Kaer Morhen (start with season one to know what any of these places are) after realizing Ciri’s strange powers are so strong, she is now the target of multiple parties including Rience (Chris Fulton) and the Brotherhood of Sorcerers. While on the run through picturesque woods, Yen tries to teach Ciri how to control her “Chaos magicks.” Geralt keeps his distance from Yen, communicating through letters despite the powerful feelings shared between both. Before long they are forced to engage in bloody combat with Rience, as well as the elves of Shaerrawedd. Yen suggests they take Ciri to Aretuza, where she will be well trained by Tissaia (MyAnna Buring). 

The strongest part of this first half of the third season is the journey involving Geralt, Yen and Ciri. There’s a fantasy swashbuckler feel to the material with all the various battles and creatures that harken back to films like “Clash of the Titans.” Geralt will wield his sword against those creepy jackapaces. There’s a cave with a horrifying monster that eats people, their heads protruding from its flesh in agony. Sometimes the terrors might come from Ciri, who gets possessed by unknown entities sending messages to Geralt. It’s great to see the return of Jaskier (Joey Batey) the jester and troubadour who always offers a memorable song or two in-between bedding the wrong women and watching Geralt’s back. “The Witcher” has fun throwing around the kind of dialogue that sounds medieval and then modern with plenty of “fucks” thrown in.

Ever since HBO released “Game of Thrones,” fantasy shows have also tried to imitate its diversions into politics and high-brow drama. “The Witcher” is weakest when it moves away from the road trip and into the halls of power. You have to keep track of what’s going on in Redania, Temeria, and Aretuza and all the various monarchs, power-hungry leeches and witches who all just really want to capture Ciri. This show would be just as entertaining with one solid antagonist. Redania has the farcical Vizimir (Ed Birch), who looks plucked from “Monty Python.” He’s flanked by the more serious and ominous Dijkstra (Graham McTavish) and Philippa (Cassie Clare), who manage the hunt for Ciri. We’re more enthralled when Tissaia’s cocky trainees make fun of Yen, wondering if Geralt can pleasure her physically when witchers are said to be sterile. 

As you can expect, not much is resolved considering this is the first half of the season. There’s even an opulent gala to close the season like some medieval spy thriller cliffhanger. It must be said Henry Cavill will be missed in the role of Geralt. Just recently replaced as Superman over at DC, Cavill was always the perfect fit for this role with his deceptively deadpan acting. He has the presence necessary for the role with both his appearance and attitude, always hinting at the nice guy hiding beneath the overly serious exterior. Comparisons to Kevin Sorbo in his “Hercules” days are more than apt. That also accounts for the appeal of “The Witcher,” which is adapted from a hit series of books by Andrzej Sapkowski. Cavill is both very modern and yet a throwback to a classic kind of sword-wielding hero we used to get in fantasy epics. The visuals balance being gritty with the richness of fantasy artwork. With that kind of spirit, as other streaming titles fall, this one stays strong.

The Witcher” season three part one begins streaming June 29 on Netflix.