The first season of The Witcher has been a wild ride, and this finale wraps it up in a bloody, magical bow. As Geralt makes a final push in his quest to find Ciri, he gets derailed by a wound and some consequent hallucinations. Ciri herself is only doing marginally better, waking up surrounded by body parts and the nagging feeling that she was the one who ripped them limb from limb.
And then there's Yennefer. Our complex and beloved mage has been through the wringer this season, and we get a look at what her true power is in Sodden Hill. Chaos? Unleashed.
We're Alyssa Fikse and Jessica Toomer and we're desperately going to miss this little found family in the making.
Warning: This discussion contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 8 of The Witcher.
Alyssa: So, Geralt is free from his cell, but Cintra is in ruins. He goes through Calanthe's chambers looking for some clues for where Ciri might have gone, but he doesn't find too much that will help him in his quest. All he's got is destiny on his side and the fact that Ciri looks exactly like her mother. Still, not a ton to go on. As he is getting the hell out of Dodge, he runs into a man who looks like he’s robbing the corpses of Cintran refugees, but he’s really trying to bury or burn them to give them some small bit of dignity in death. Unfortunately, necrophages spring up out of the ground, forcing Geralt to fight them off. Basically these zombie-like creatures make The Walking Dead's zombies look like easy pickings. Geralt slays them all because he's the best around (nothing's gonna ever keep him down), but he also suffered a pretty gnarly bite on his leg that leaves him hallucinating and at death’s door. You win some, you lose some.
Jessica: This was a classic case of Geralt over-estimating his abilities. He should’ve known he wasn’t in the right headspace to take on a bunch of zombies on steroids. Alas, the venom does its worst, leaving Geralt fighting to stay conscious (and sane) while the farmer carts him back to his hamlet. We see a bunch of hazy flashbacks with Geralt as a young boy. He seemed completely ordinary and totally devoted to his mother — who may have been a witch, she’s certainly got some kind of special about her. It’s all a bit heartbreaking, especially when we discover that Geralt was sold off as a young boy and experimented on. I knew that witchers were made, but actually seeing Geralt as a carefree human boy really drives home how much he's suffered because of what was done to him. All that grunting? I get it now.
Alyssa: Yes, sweet, inquisitive little boy Geralt was a jarring reminder that Geralt is grumpy for a reason. While he seems to love the man who trained him, Vesimir, there is definitely an undercurrent of bitterness to these hallucinatory flashbacks. Luckily for Geralt, the man he saved earlier didn’t abandon him to be food for some passing monster, instead loading him up in his cart in order to take him home and get him well. I guess the kindness of strangers does exist! Geralt is tripping balls in the back of this guy's cart and takes one of his potions that should help heal him, but the witcher is not doing well at all. However, one good thing does come of this: the man confirms that the battle of Sodden Hill (which we will get to in a minute because wow) is going on, so the timelines in this episode are all lined up! Please let them stay this way.
Jessica: I’d sacrifice my firstborn for the timelines to finally make sense on this show. And while mage wars are infinitely more exciting than watching Geralt have an experience equivalent to trying some bad shrooms, the show manages to squeeze plenty of backstory into the precious minutes he’s on-screen this episode. Of course, because this is The Witcher, I'm left with more questions than actual answers. Is his mother still alive? Was she a mage? Why did she sell him to Vesimir? How does she know about Ciri? Honestly, watching Geralt go through it with his mom left me wondering if I too had taken some bad shrooms.
Alyssa: Yeah, watching Geralt hallucinate Renfri, Yennefer, and then his mother was a bit of a mindf***, but I was definitely left wanting to know more. Geralt is obviously bitter against his mother and her decision to hand him off to be made into a witcher, and the more we hear about what happens to those boys the more I understand why Geralt prefers to keep to himself. Torture and mutation would probably make me a lone wolf too. After he wakes up from his fever dream, he seems to be doing a bit better, and as thanks for saving his life, the man offers Geralt the law of surprise, which Geralt wisely says no thanks to. He doesn’t need to get himself mixed up in that again.
A Mage Battle
Jessica: While Geralt is suffering through his family reunion, Yen and her squad of bada** mages are heading to Sodden Hill, specifically the Elven Keep where they’ll make their stand against Cahir and Fringilla. The fact that we can fit the whole magical resistance in a tiny rowboat is more than a bit worrisome because look, I don’t want any of these mofos to die, OK? That said, we get to spend plenty of time watching the mages prepare for battle. They’re making exploding potions and setting up perimeters and honestly, it’s everything I love about a good fantasy showdown. Yen is still unsure about this whole "die for the cause" idea but I have faith our girl will come through when it matters.
Alyssa: Listen, this whole sequence at Sodden Hill is truly the stuff of fantasy dreams. But before we get to the fighting, I want to touch on a couple of the smaller moments ahead of battle. While they’re preparing as many weapons as possible, Yennefer interacts with a peasant woman who has lost her husband and her home, and I think our girl gets a taste of her own magical privilege. While she asserts that the magic "isn't real," Yen is reminded that this could have been her life. Without magic, she never would have gotten to Aretuza, she never would have honed her skills into something powerful, never would have been in court. Yennefer spends a lot of time complaining about her life, which is partially fair because she really has been through it, but she has also lived a life of glamour and excitement that most people couldn’t even dream of. If she wants to be truly useful, she’s going to have to put aside her pride and help these people who really need her. I also really loved seeing Yen interact with Triss more. Give me their spinoff adventures, please and thank you.
Jessica: Watching them gossip about witchers while they map out their battle strategy? Be still my beating, feminist heart. I loved seeing Yen work with her mage sisters. She might be reluctant to help, but something about seeing her with Triss and Tissaia felt right. Speaking of, those two have a very dark and depressing chat before the battle where Yen basically asserts that life has nothing left to give her. It’s a crushing realization, maybe a bit of a dramatic announcement, but I loved that Tissaia wouldn’t let her wallow in her own self-pity. Life as a mage might not have been as grand as she hoped, but she’s got plenty more left to give. I’m ready for Yen to stop narrowing her purpose to simply leaving behind a legacy and start taking an active role in changing things. She’s got the power to be a real influence. Use it.
Alyssa: And use it she does. Nilfgaard approaches in the night, trying to destroy Sodden Hill with fireballs (that are actually mages who self immolate to performant the magic, yikes), which Yen stops all on her own. It's amazing. We cannot help but stan. The mages spring into battle mode, and we get to see the fruits of their preparatory labor. There is a lot to love in this battle sequence, but I think my favorite part was the diversity of the magic performed. As much as I love Harry Potter, it is more or less much of the same on-screen. Sparks shooting out of wands, people getting knocked out by the blasts, rinse and repeat. This battle showed that each of these mages have their own unique spin on their power. Triss is unleashing poisonous mushrooms and protective vines. Coral is breaking necks with the flick of her wrist. Sabrina is dropping arrow triggered bombs on Nilfgaard's men. It’s all very, very cool. How many fantasy battles have we seen that are just a bunch of white dudes with swords wailing on each other? Sodden Hill felt so fresh! This is what we want to see!
Jessica: Perhaps the best mage battle in the history of television but it’s also brutal to watch because our crew is outnumbered and outmatched. Fringilla is willing to utilize some shady dark magic to get the upper hand so while the mages are giving it their all to defend the outskirts of the keep, an errand boy drops off a sinister-looking box full of worms. Gross. But these aren’t just any worms, they’re magic worms, and they slip into the ears of a few rebels, including Sabrina, and tell them to do terrible things on Fringilla's behalf. Like, blowing up the inside of the fort and attacking their own people. Nilfgaard plays dirty, y’all.
Alyssa: Yeah, the mages take some major hits, unfortunately. Vilgefortz faces off against Cahir, and while he has the super-cool ability to summon his weapons magically back into their holster, he runs out his magic too soon and gets kicked down a mountain. Ouch. The mind-control worms are a nightmare too, as is Frangilla’s admittedly brilliant idea to shoot arrows directly into the keep through portals. Evil is getting CREATIVE. Coral is killed, Triss is seriously wounded, and Tissaia is poisoned by Frangilla when she attempts to bring her back to the good side, so Yennefer runs out of allies really quickly. She has been in some real scrapes before, but she really is alone as the battle starts to turn against the mages.
Jessica: There’s fire everywhere and Nilfgaard soldiers are closing in and Vilgefortz is taking a nap at the bottom of a hill. It’s all a bit of a mess and poor Yen is wandering the battlefield, calling out for help with no one answering. She eventually finds Tissaia who is on her last leg and tells her to unleash her chaos which, what a f***ing mood for 2020. Yen does some cool fire magic while recalling all of the bullies who’ve made her life hell and then she unleashes her rage in a fiery wave that incinerates the whole Nilfgaard army. It's glorious. Unfortunately, using that much power comes at a cost and Yen seems to disappear after she saves the day. She's … she's not dead, right, Alyssa? ALYSSA?!
An Uncertain Future
Alyssa: There is NO WAY that Yen is gone for good. No way. Geralt has some very compelling thighs, but Yen makes the show. Someone else who is dealing with the fallout from their power is Ciri, who wakes up to a pile of dead bodies and no real idea what happened. That woman from town finds her and instead of recoiling at the violence tells her that she did the right thing because these men would have hurt her. I guess I have to accept that this lady just wants to help Ciri out of the goodness of her heart. While it’s good that Ciri has something of a support system now, she seems awfully shell-shocked. I would be too if I woke up surrounded by death that I dealt out.
Jessica: And had no clue how I murdered those people?! What a mindf***. Ciri heads home with the nice village woman, gets a less than warm welcome from said woman’s bratty teenaged son, and then endures some truly weird mothering moments. Look, I appreciate what this lady has done for our lion cub but you just met the kid and you’re already calling her the daughter you never had. It’s … weird. Ciri peaces out pretty early on because she just can’t take all this smothering and because she learns Nilfgaard is close, like you can hear the bombs close. And of course, as soon as she traipses off into the woods who arrives? That’s right, Geralt. On the back of that nice farmer’s cart. Nice farmer is married to nice village lady and everyone’s just so nice and clueless and God, can Ciri and Geralt just meet already?!
Alyssa: YES, THEY ARE! Because destiny rules everything, this nice couple independently helped our two bleach-blond babies and brought Geralt the last leg of his journey. When he hears the woman talking about taking in an orphan girl from the woods, he knows in his heart of hearts that this must be Ciri, so he stumbles off to find her. Luckily, she hasn't gotten far and they recognize each other in an instant. I'm not exactly sure how the magical parts of the law of surprise works, but destiny brings these two together in a lovely way. Ciri, meet your new dad. Geralt, yep, you’re a dad now. However, the brief moment of peace is broken when Ciri asks "Who is Yennefer?" and then the episode and season ends. NOoooooooooo!
Jessica: It’s the ultimate cliffhanger and I both hate and love Lauren Schmidt Hissrich for it. I hope next season brings this trio together but I have a feeling there’s going to be problems for Ciri and Geralt. It's all lovey-dovey now, but when Geralt actually starts disciplining the kid and she starts acting out, well, we all remember what it was like to be a pre-teen girl. Add on the fact that she has magical powers she can’t control and an evil warlord hunting her down so she can fulfill some mysterious prophecy and yeah, the single dad life is not going to be kind to our Witcher.
Alyssa: I think this episode perfectly set up Season 2! I'm ready for Ciri and Geralt to train. I'm ready to meet more witchers at Kaer Morhen (I hope that tweet from Mark Hamill being down to play Vesimer ends up being a reality). I am extremely curious to see what happened to Yennefer, and I am hoping that she comes back more powerful than ever. That level of unchecked chaos is a major thing to bring into the mix, and I’m pretty devastated that we have to wait until 2021 for more. I think my biggest gripe is that I wish we knew a bit more about what Nilfgaard's deal is. What is the White Flame? What do they want with Ciri? These questions will haunt me as I wait until next season, endlessly rewatching these episodes that we do have. I went into The Witcher expecting a bit of a campy mess, and honestly I loved it. Time to read the books, play the games, and get freakishly into the lore!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors', and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBCUniversal.