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The Witcher Discussion: 'Before A Fall' solves a timeline problem
The Witcher's penultimate episode finally merges some questionable timelines and sets up an epic battle for the show's season finale.
We travel back in time to the siege of Cintra and discover that Geralt was there when Nilfgaard attacked. He came to rescue Ciri, but Queen Calanthe quickly imprisoned him instead. While he's stewing in a jail cell, Yennefer is traversing the Continent in search of Istredd, intent on putting the past (and a certain white-haired Witcher) behind her. Ironically, that trek ends up leading her back to Aretuza where she has a front-row seat as the Brotherhood fight over how to deal with Nilfgaard's advances. Meanwhile, Ciri finds herself in trouble — when is this girl not, though — and a traumatic event causes her powers to lash out in terrible ways.
Stick with us while we navigate timelines and mage wars and post-breakup feels.
Warning: This discussion contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 7 of The Witcher.
Calling On The Law Of Surprise
Alyssa: Well, if you were hoping that Geralt would stop moping in the woods and do his duty by Ciri already, you're in luck! Everyone's favorite surly witcher sees exactly how big of a threat Nilfgaard is to Cintra, so he calls on Mousesack (yes, time to detangle the timeline yet again) to check and see if the child is safe. Because he is busy slaying monsters and banging mean brunettes, Geralt has no idea that a) Ciri is a girl and b) her parents are dead, so he gets quite an exposition dump while catching up with Cintra's mage. While Mousesack may be sort of happy to see Geralt, Calanthe sure isn't, so she sends assassins to try and take him out as soon as he sets foot in Cintra again. After Geralt uses Mousesack as a human shield/bargaining chip, Mousesack portals them back to the castle and Geralt and Calanthe meet again, face-to-face. It does not go well.
Jessica: There's certainly no love lost between these two. After Geralt claimed the Law of Surprise a couple of episodes ago, he bailed on his guardian duties, leaving Ciri to grow up in Cintra under Calanthe's influence. It's been 12 years since our witcher set foot in the city and while he's returned thinking he can protect his child from a Nilfgaard army that's begun to march on Cintra's forces, Calanthe sees his arrival as a threat to her bond with Ciri. She's holding on tight to the kid now that her daughter is dead, so the thought of sending her off with a gruff, grunting Henry Cavill — no matter how tight his leather and big his sword — just doesn't sit well. It's an interesting way to revisit the siege that set this whole thing off in the show's first episodes and also, an incredibly frustrating reminder that this show will drag out a meeting between its two destined leads until the last possible moment.
Alyssa: I understand that Calanthe is desperate and arrogant, but her refusal of Geralt's help at any cost is baffling to me. Considering how hardcore the Cintrans are about choosing suicide over surrender, you would think she would want to hedge her bets and get Ciri out and as far away as possible. Plus, Geralt assures her that he doesn't want to keep Ciri away from her, just keep her safe and return her, so this seems like a win-win for Calanthe. However, she chooses to ignore the Law of Surprise (mistake) and try and trick Geralt into taking an imposter Ciri. However, this is not Geralt's first Cintran rodeo, so he catches on immediately.
Jessica: Yeah, Calanthe's overconfidence seems to be her undoing not just with Geralt, but with her battle strategy too. Eist leads Geralt out of Cintra after Calanthe refuses to back down or give up the real Ciri and he attempts to explain why he's decided to take his wife's side in this fight. She was broken after the loss of her daughter, he loves Ciri like his own, blah, blah, blah. He asks Geralt to swear he won't return but of course, our lone wolf could never, so he traps him in a cage and lets him sit in a dungeon while Nilfgaard attacks. Are all royals this idiotic, or is it just the Cintran crew?
Alyssa: It's just a mess, but at least it brings a little clarity to the timelines! I think we're all caught up now? Ciri is a bit ahead, and Yennefer is a bit behind, but it's all starting to come together and that pleases the orderly part of my brain. So Geralt is meditating in his cell when Nilfgaard attacks, and as we already know, sh** gets really bad. Despite Mousesack's best efforts, Nilfgaard breaches the gates, Ciri gets sent away, and Calanthe kills herself. However, we now know that Geralt was there during the siege and witnessed everything. He broke out of his cell and did his best to find Ciri before she fled, but of course, these two white-haired heroes are not destined to meet until the season finale, apparently. Still, this is the closest the witcher has gotten to meeting his ward, so I have faith that his quest will have a successful end by the time the season is over.
A Meeting Of The Mages
Jessica: While Geralt and Ciri are circling their meet-cute like a pair of wary vultures, Yen is doing some adventuring of her own. Look, we all handle breakups in different ways, so if our rebellious mage wants to seek comfort in the arms of a former lover, who are we to judge? Unfortunately, when Yen travels to Nazair to find Istredd, she discovers he's been commissioned to work for Nilfgaard, and plenty of other mages are being (unwillingly?) pulled into Cahir's service. Dusting off old bones is cool and all, but is it worth the enslavement and destruction of the human race bro?
Alyssa: Listen, we've all sent/responded to a "u up?" text that we regret, so Yennefer won't get any judgment from me. Istredd offers up the "they may look like they're hurting but they're really helping" argument, and while Yen doesn't buy it, she also doesn't really care. She got burned by her romance with Geralt and she was seriously disappointed by life in Aidern's court, so she wants something that she knows will be safe, and that's steady work at Istredd's side. Again, who among us can throw the first stone? However, even though their parting was particularly bitter, Istredd knows and cares for Yen, and he knows that she would never be happy sharing his work or his bed. She always has and always will want more to her life than that.
Jessica: It's a truly heartbreaking chat for poor Yen. Istredd was her first love, her only real friend, and she sacrificed that relationship for the dream of something better, a dream that didn't come true. I'm not saying she made the wrong choice — it's clear these two have fundamental differences that no amount of magic shagging can fix — but it's a loss all the same, and Yen is in a vulnerable enough place as it is. I don't agree with Istredd's choice of employers but I do applaud him for standing up for himself and denying Yen. It's something I didn't think he was capable of. Still, with her plan to Bonnie and Clyde her way across the Continent, offering up boner potions while Istredd digs up skeletons now dead in the water, Yen's gotta find a new sense of purpose and that comes in the form of a fellow mage, Vilgefortz, who suggests they return to Aretuza because Tissaia needs them.
Alyssa: Considering all of the drama that has gone on at Aretuza over the years, I can understand why Yennefer is more than a bit reluctant to return. However, when Vilgefortz tells her that Tissaia always considered her the best student, she can't help but want to see what Tissaia needs. However, she soon realizes that this was basically just a trick from Vilgefortz to get her there, so she wanders the halls for a very Hot Topic walk down memory lane. She returns to her old room and sees it full of some giggling students, so Yen decides to both chide them for their lame attempts at magic while showing them how to get absolutely baked on "mixing herbs." However, she learns some troubling news: instead of seeking out girls who have had conduit moments, Aretuza is now accepting girls from rich families who can buy their way in (Aunt Becky, is that you?!) regardless of their skill level. This news obviously does not sit well with Yen, so she shows them her magical eel friends to warn them what fate awaits them if they fail.
Jessica: Olivia Jade, get out of there now! Tissaia is obviously less-than-pleased that Yen has come to stir up chaos, but she's also bristling at the Council's interference at her school and worried about this war brewing between Nilfgaard and Cintra so the reprimanding of her star pupil doesn't last long. An emergency conclave is called, we get to catch up with the best-named mage on this show, Triss Merigold, and we learn that Nilfgaard is attacking Cintra, which means Yen is now in the same timeline as Geralt and Ciri. Can we get a "Hallelujah"?
Alyssa: Amen, sister. Getting timeline alignment was the only thing I loved more than the return of Triss. Can Triss and Yen go on an excellent adventure next season? Please and thank you. The Chapter is troubled by Nilfgaard's aggression, but they argue that Cintra has long resisted the use of their mages, so why should they step in? Tissaia asserts that Nilfgaard will not be content with cutting down Cintra alone and that this war is a war that will involve all of them at some point, so to stick their heads in the sand would be acting against their own self-interest. As she makes her plea, who should roll in but Frangilla herself, returning to the school where she was constantly in second place looking powerful as hell. Sure, she's an evil zealot now, but I respected her game. She tries to convince them that Nilfgaard only wants Cintra (a lie) and that they are not a threat despite their devotion to the White Flame (another lie), and the Chapter ends up voting to stand down despite the major show of force.
Jessica: They're a right bunch of cowards, and I took great pleasure in watching Tissaia cut down Stregebor with that "killing babies" jab. But while the Brotherhood is content to watch Cintra and perhaps all of the Continent burn, the mages are not and Tissaia invites Yen to stand with them. They're going to Yaruga, they're going to fight, and it's this kind of rebellious attitude I reserve my best fist pumps for.
Alyssa: While Yennefer may have found her crew, Ciri is struggling through on her own. She is trying to get to Skellige for some reason, and she is absolutely terrible at stealing. Yes, life has up until now been handed to her on a silver platter, but learn some stealth! She eventually trades her mother's ring for some new gloves, but a woman keeps clocking her and offering to help. Call me jaded, but I did not trust her one bit. Despite the fact that she kept attempting to do nice things for the poor lion cub, I was waiting for the moment when she turned out to be a foe.
Jessica: Yeah, I appreciate the whole "we've got to stick together" lesson, but no one's that nice. Ciri doesn't fall for it though and ends up stealing the woman's horse even after the villager basically offers to adopt her. Unfortunately, she stuck out like a sore thumb with her royal blue cape and fancy gloves so she was followed by some sh***y dudes wanting to do sh***y things to her. Even worse, some of them are the same pals she rolled dice with back in Episode 1. Alyssa, these hoes ain't loyal.
Alyssa: Traitors through and through. While we're discussing menace from men at this point, I feel like we need to talk about the lack of rape on this show. It's refreshing, right? It was mentioned as a part of Renfri's backstory in the first episode, but there hasn't been any onscreen. At all. It is WILD that you can show the effect on a person without engaging in egregious detail for shock value. Again, another testament to a female showrunner. Thank you, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich. This attack on Ciri triggers her powers in a new and terrifying way, putting her into some kind of trance and she starts chanting about the time of the sword and the ax like Cahir mentioned last episode. Somehow Ciri is tied to Nilfgaard, and that can't mean anything good.
Jessica: This White Flame mumbo-jumbo has got me all kinds of creeped out, so while I'm happy for Ciri to be cutting down bad guys with her supernatural abilities, I'd like for her to find Geralt like now so she's protected from whatever Cahir has planned. Mostly, though, I'm excited to see Yen come into her own and help Tissaia defend the North. This feels like a real opportunity for growth and finding a sense of purpose for our magical black sheep and also, who doesn't love some good ol' fashioned battle magic?
Alyssa: I am so here for an army of mages doing their thing. Sign me up. I feel like Yennefer has been holding back a bit these past few episodes, so I am ready to see her full power again. Bring on some portals, bring on some chaos. I want to see our #1 bitch shine. So, we've got one episode left. SURELY, Geralt and Ciri are going to find each other, right? Right?! Enough talk of destiny hunting you down. Make it happen.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors', and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBCUniversal.