Why The Witcher season 3 is the perfect sendoff for Henry Cavill

The Witcher season 3 - Credit: Netflix
The Witcher season 3 - Credit: Netflix /

The final three episodes of The Witcher season 3 dropped this week on Netflix, bringing the show’s most ambitious season yet to a close. From the epic Thanedd coup to Ciri’s journey in the Korath desert and Geralt’s recovery in Brokilon Forest, the latest run of episodes solidified The Witcher season 3 as a high point for the series. Considering how much trepidation there was among fans during the leadup to the show’s release, season 3 had a lot to prove. Fortunately, the production rose to the occasion.

The Witcher is a show that’s weathered its fair share of criticisms over the years, and with the news that Henry Cavill was leaving after this third season, perhaps it was always inevitable that the critiques were only going to get louder. And it didn’t take long for the hot takes to appear. The series had squandered Cavill’s exit by giving other characters more screen time. It needed more monsters and action. And so on and so forth.

I’ve had no problem criticizing The Witcher in the past, but I’m going to go on the record and say any complaints that the show mishandled Cavill’s exit are objectively wrong. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that The Witcher season 3 volume 2 is a near-perfect sendoff to this era of the show and to Henry Cavill’s turn as Geralt of Rivia. Here’s why. (Beware SPOILERS below).

The Witcher season 3. Image: Netflix. Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia.
The Witcher season 3. Image: Netflix. Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia. /

The Witcher has always been about more than just Geralt

At the heart of some of the criticisms is the idea that Geralt was essentially sidelined for the final leg of the season. During the coup on Thanedd Isle, Geralt finally faces off with Vilgefortz of Roggeveen (Mahesh Jadu), the mysterious mage who has been hunting Ciri through proxies like Rience (Sam Woolf). Viewers have no real reason to think Geralt might not defeat Vilgefortz; Geralt beats everyone on this show. We’ve never actually seen the witcher lose in a meaningful way before.

So it’s horrifying to realize that Geralt is totally outclassed by Vilgefortz, especially because we don’t realize he’s going to lose until he’s already losing. It’s one of the most shocking moments in the entire Witcher Saga book series, and the show pulled it off well.

Which brings us to the main reason a lot of the criticisms don’t hold up: The Witcher season 3 is very accurate to The Witcher novel series by Andrezj Sapkowski. Sure, details were changed and things added, but generally speaking, The Witcher season 3 hits all the major beats from the books it’s adapting. That’s in contrast to season 2, which diverged massively from the source material. When we discuss changes in season 3, it’s really nitpicking over details.

The Witcher season 3. Image: Netflix. Freya Allan as Ciri.
The Witcher season 3. Image: Netflix. Freya Allan as Ciri. /

Geralt being essentially bedridden for the final two episodes is exactly how things play out in Sapkowski’s novel The Time of Contempt. The books also shift the focus away from Geralt, with Ciri’s journey after the coup taking up the entirety of the novel’s final two chapters, and keep in mind that the book only has seven chapters total.

If it bothers you that characters other than Geralt are getting lots of screen time, you may as well get used to it. From here on out in the books, the story splits its time pretty evenly between Geralt, Ciri, the Lodge of Sorceresses, and the political leaders of the Continent. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Ciri is really the main character for the back half of The Witcher Saga. That’s why her time in the Korath desert was essential; it transitions us into the next chapter of the story, which she dominates.

The Witcher season 3 gives Geralt better material than the books

The Time of Contempt ends with Geralt of Rivia still healing in Brokilon Forest. Elsewhere, Ciri has seemingly been captured by Nilfgaard, though we quickly learn that the Ciri in Nilfgaard’s custody is an imposter. The TV show gave Geralt a more complete ending by delving into the details of his recovery, as well as pulling in some material from the following book Baptism of Fire like introducing the archer Milva.

The show improves on the source material by giving Geralt much more to do than at this point in the series. That final battle with the Nilfgaardian soldiers is added for the show, intended to give Geralt one last hurrah for the road. The Netflix show started with Blaviken, an episode all about Geralt struggling to remain neutral, and season 3 ends with him deciding he can no longer do it. It gives Cavill’s run on the series a nice full circle feeling.

The Witcher season 3. Image: Netflix. Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia.
The Witcher season 3. Image: Netflix. Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia. /

Geralt’s long recovery in Brokilon Forest is an essential part of the story

Another complaint I’ve seen is that it took Geralt too long to recover after Thanedd. Wouldn’t it have been better if he could have gotten back to slicing and dicing his foes without having to go through difficult healing for two episodes, and the final two episodes of the season to boot?

This is a SPOILER for the books…but the damage done to Geralt at Thanedd is the single worst injury he gets until the saga’s end. In the books it troubles him for the rest of his life. That extended healing time in Brokilon is necessary to sell how bad it is, and is an essential part of the overall flow of this section of the story. Thanedd happens right smack in the middle of The Time of Contempt. His recovery takes up the back half of the book and the back half of the season.

We’ve seen Geralt defeat many foes in the books and show. Part of what makes season 3 and The Time of Contempt so good is that for once we see Geralt lose, and badly. Even worse, it happens at a critical moment and has immense repercussions. By losing to Vilgefortz, Geralt loses everything he held dear and essentially sees his life crumble down around him. Who knows when he, Ciri, and Yennefer will be together again after Thanedd?

Geralt’s real triumph in season 3 is that he perseveres through a defeat that would have killed most people, and gets back up again. It’s a far more powerful ending for this seemingly invincible character than it would have been to just watch him beat one more foe (even though we did get that too, thanks to the checkpoint battle).

The Witcher season 3
The Witcher season 3 – Credit: Netflix /

The Witcher season 3 is the “heroic sendoff” we were promised

A while back, The Witcher showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich promised that season 3 would serve as a “heroic sendoff” for Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia. On the whole, I found that the show very much delivered on this promise.

The reason it’s hard to wrap my head around the issues people have with Geralt’s long healing period, other characters getting more screen time, or the heightened focus on politics over monsters is because that’s just what the story is at this point. Getting mad about it is the equivalent of being upset that Ned Stark didn’t come back from the dead in Game of Thrones. Sure, you can wish things were different, but that’s not the story the author wrote.

If you have issues with the way the show handled its final three episodes, it’s worth asking if they’re issues with the TV show or with the overall arc of The Witcher Saga in general. The Witcher season 3 is a close enough adaptation that it includes almost every single scene from The Time of Contempt, albeit some of them changed in ways large and small. If the mark of a good adaptation is how well it honors the text and spirit of its source material in a different medium, then there is no doubt that The Witcher season 3 was a success.

I’ve had plenty of complaints about The Witcher over the years. Perhaps that’s a side effect of how many different mediums this story exists in now, with competing visions in print, on TV, and in the video games. But I have no complaints about the way the show handled Henry Cavill’s final episodes. Given the source material, it was a perfect sendoff for the actor, and for this phase of Geralt’s life.

All eight episodes of The Witcher season 3 are streaming now on Netflix.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Next. The Witcher season 3: Every episode reviewed and explained. dark

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