DISCLAIMER: This The Witcher recap contains more SPOILERS than coins tossed at your witcher. Continue reading with caution: you have been warned!
In an Aedirn village, a boy flirts with a girl. She throws away his daisy, calling it cheap. A girl with a malformed spine and violet eyes emerges from the nearby barn and picks up the daisy. Calling her a creep, the two bullying lovers begin to assault her. Suddenly, the deformed farm girl is in a completely different location. Istredd (Royce Pierreson), who was studying a nearby pile of skulls, reveals that she portalled in to the Tower of the Gull, at Aretuza. Realizing that the girl teleported on instinct, he quickly eats a flower and uses it to cast an untraceable portal so the girl can leave before “she” finds her.
Back at the village, the girl carries slop for her father: an abusive pig farmer. A mysterious woman (MyAnna Buring) arrives and asks how much for a pig? The man says a pig costs ten marks. The woman then asks how much for his “beast” (the girl)? The man demands six, but the woman counters with four marks, to which the pig farmer agrees. The girl’s mother runs out and says that he can’t sell his daughter to a witch, but the man says the girl is no daughter of his.
Later locked in her room at Aretuza, the girl stares at her reflection in a mirror. Disgusted with her appearance and muttering, “Four marks!?”, she shatters it and attempts suicide by cutting her wrists. And so we are introduced to Yennefer of Vengerburg (Anya Chalotra).
In Cintra, Ciri (Freya Allan) continues to be pursued by the Nilfgaardians, so she disguises herself by caking her white hair with mud. She runs into another refugee: a non-talkative Cintran she refers to as “Rat Boy”. She shares that she is being pursued by a mysterious Black Knight (though I prefer her description as the one with “this big bird on his head”), but she doesn’t understand why? Rat Boy shares his cooked rat, and Ciri shares one of her gloves. They travel together until Ciri spots a camp bearing the Cintran flag. Though Rat Boy runs away, Ciri heads toward the camp.
In a village of Lower Posada, a bard named Jaskier (Joey Batey) performs for a less-than-enthusiastic crowd. You readers and gamers might know him better as “Dandelion”, but that’s really only the English versions…because “Buttercup” (the English translation of “Jaskier”) sounded too feminine to the translators. As the bard gathers up the bread being thrown at him, he approaches the brooding Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) in the corner. Seeing his white hair and two swords, Jaskier realizes he’s talking to a witcher.
Another patron, Nettly, hears that and offers Geralt a job to kill a “devil” who has been stealing grain across Lower Posada. Geralt agrees in exchange for an advance of 150 ducats. Jaskier insists on tagging along, believeing real adventures will make for better songs and stories. Jaskier offers his services as barker for the “Butcher of Blaviken”…to which Geralt punches Jaskier in the gut.
Yennefer wakes up the next morning with her wrists bandaged and the woman from before unsympathetically introduces herself as Tissaia de Vries: Rectoress of Aretuza. Yennefer wishes Tissaia had let her die and let Yennefer finally take control of her life. “Oh that’s adorable, piglet,” Tissaia insults, “You weren’t taking control: you were losing it.”
Yennefer and her fellow students are then given their first lesson in magic. All of these girls have proven to be conduits for chaos, but what true mages call “magic” is when that chaos is organized by “balance” and “control”. The students are given a rock and a daisy and told to lift the rock with a spell. One student, Fringilla Vigo (Mimi Ndiweni), succeeds almost instantly, but then her hand begins to wither.
This is the lesson: “balance” is the casting of a spell, but “control” is the cost of casting it. There is no conjuring something from nothing, so the other students begin casting by draining the daisy of life. All the students eventually succeed, but not Yennefer (even when she tries eating a flower like she saw Istredd). Tissaia tells Yennefer that sometimes the best thing a flower can do is die.
Ciri discovers the camp is a group of Cintran refugees. A boy notices Ciri’s cloak and mentions that his father made it. Before the Nilfgaardian invasion, Ziven Ozol was a tailor for Cintra’s upper class…but he died helping to defend Cintra during the Slaughter. Ciri introduces herself as “Fiona”, and she learns about both how the nobility are reacting to Cintra’s fall and the racism common among humans. The boy blames elven spies, killing every elf he can find as revenge for his brother’s death during Filavandrel’s Uprising. His mother blames Queen Calanthe and her “selfish” wars. All the while, they are waited upon by Lady Ozol’s dwarven servant Abbott, who she demands give Ciri the shoes on his feet.
In Posada, Jaskier offers to help improve Geralt’s image as the “Butcher of Blaviken” by instead singing the praises of the “White Wolf”. Geralt states that “Butcher of Blaviken” is an accurate and well-earned title. The pair arrive in what the elves call “Dol Blathanna”, as Jaskier gives (self-aware) exposition that the elves gifted it to the humans and then retreated to their “golden palaces” in the Blue Mountains nearby. Jaskier asks Geralt how a witcher hunts a devil, to which Geralt insists that devils don’t exist. The “Devil of Posada” is likely some other type of monster or a different opportunity for coin. Just then, the two are struck by projectiles, which knock out Jaskier. The “devil” attacks Geralt, but the witcher gets the upper-hand. The “devil” is actually Torque: a rare and intelligent goat-like creature called a “sylvan”. Geralt spares Torque, but he’s knocked out by an unknown party.
Back at Aretuza, Yennefer continues to struggle to do magic. She confides in Istredd, who is revealed to also be a student of magic at the Ban Ard academy. Istredd allows her to practice thought transference on him. Yennefer is delighted to actually experience memories like hearing cicadas in summer and tasting warm bread. The two students begin to grow closer.
Later that night, Yennefer is awoken as the students are brought during a thunderstorm to the Tower of the Gull (“Tor Lana” in Elder). Each are handed bottles and told to capture inside the ultimate expression of chaos: lightning. One student is struck instead, and Yennefer’s friend Anica (Szandra Asztalos) succeeds only to have the bottle explode in her face.
Yennefer attempts to catch the lightning, but instead captures the lightning inside of her instead of the bottle. When Tissaia claims the strong will overcome the weak, Yennefer angrily shoots her lightning at Tissaia. Afterwards, Tissaia scolds Yennefer for letting her emotions rule her: a mage controls chaos instead of becoming it. Tissaia wonders if Yennefer will ever have what it takes to become a true mage?
Geralt and Jaskier wake up in a cave at the “Edge of the World”, bound together. An elf beats up Geralt, while another breaks Jaskier’s lute. A third elf arrives with Torque, who refers to the third elf as “Filavandrel, King of the Elves”. Filavandrel (Tom Canton) claims he is not a king, and certainly not by choice. Geralt realizes that Torque was stealing grain for the elves. Torque sympathized with the elves, who were forced out of Dol Blathanna. Jaskier corrects him that the elves chose to leave, to which an incredulous and angry Filavandrel asks why anyone would choose to leave their home and starve?
Geralt tries to negotiate for Jaskier’s release, but Filavandrel points out that the humans would then learn that the elves have been stealing from them and attack. Filavandrel claims killing Jaskier and Geralt is the lesser evil, to which Geralt (remembering Renfri) states that no matter what you choose, you always comes out bloody and hating yourself.
Filavandrel hates the humans for pushing them from viable soil, and he claims that humans altered chaos and affected the ability of elves to use magic. Geralt states that chaos is the same as it’s always been, and humans simply adapted better. He accuses Filavandrel of being too proud.
Filavandrel tells Geralt and Jaskier about the “Great Cleansing”. The elves once worked together with humans, and humanity thanked the elves by robbing them of all they had. When the elves fought back against human theft, they were slaughtered by the humans. Now humanity farms grain in Dol Blathanna over the mass graves of countless elves. Geralt suggests that the elves could leave and go try to rebuild somewhere else. Torque defends Geralt and shares how Geralt chose to spare him. Geralt says he is ready to die, but that Filavandrel should not call Geralt a “human”.
Back at Aretuza, Yennefer reveals to Istredd that Tissaia has learned about their relationship, and Yennefer is going to be sent home. Istredd wishes he could teach Yennefer how to create an untraceable portal, but the magic is older, more potent, and a secret of the Brotherhood of Sorcerers. When Yennefer shares her fear that she’s still not enough, Istredd shows Yennefer the skulls he has been studying. The skulls are the elves who built Aretuza. Elves were the original sorcerers of the Continent, and they taught magic to the first humans after a cataclysm called the “Conjunction of the Spheres” brought monsters to the world. The human mages then slaughtered the elves and rewrote history to pretend that magic always had belonged to humanity. Istredd seeks to be an archaeologist to recover the true history of magic and honor those elves.
Istredd then shares the spell component (a flower called “feainnewedd”) and incantation to cast an untraceable portal. Yennefer repeats the incantation, and a portal instantly appears. Istredd is shocked to see Yennefer cast such an advanced spell on her first try. Yennefer shares that her father…her REAL, biological father…was a half-elf who died in the Great Cleansing. Yennefer blames her elven blood for her twisted spine, and it is why her human father was willing to sell her for just four marks. Yennefer claims no one could ever love her, to which Istredd responds by sharing their first kiss. “So far, so good,” Istredd laughs.
In Tissaia’s quarters, Yennefer presents the feainnewedd to Tissaia. Yennefer had been tasked to obtain the secret knowledge from Istredd, proving to Tissaia that she could control her emotions and manipulate Istredd. Yennefer asks if she will “ascend” (be promoted to a full mage), now confident from casting the portal. Tissaia tells Yennefer to listen for a knock later that night.
In Ban Ard, Master Stregobor (Lars Mikkelsen) asks Istredd if he’s learned anything from Yennefer? Istredd confesses that Yennefer is part-elf…
At the Cintran camp, Ciri and the others are awoken by a Nilfgaardian raid. As Abbott rises up and violently stabs Lady Ozol, Ciri is rescued by Rat Boy. Ciri avoids being detected by the Black Knight as Rat Boy leads her out of the camp.
Later that night in Aretuza, Yennefer hears three knocks, but her door is passed over. Yennefer secretly follows Tissaia and the three students to an underground pool. Yennefer watches in shock as Tissaia turns the three girls (including Anica) into eels. Tissaia tells Yennefer to come out of hiding and push the eels into the pool. Though Yennefer refuses at first, she realizes that the transformed students are used as conduits for the magic of Aretuza as a whole.
At the “Edge of the World”, we see Geralt and Jaskier back on the road: Filavandrel let the pair go and gifted Jaskier his lute. Geralt gave the elves the 150 ducats he was paid to hunt the “Devil of Posada”. Jaskier is disappointed that this is how the adventure ends, though he respects Filavandrel’s leadership in helping the elves survive.
Geralt wishes to part ways, but Jaskier asks Geralt to at least let him try to improve the witcher’s public image. Jaskier begins composing a song about how Geralt wiped out the Devil of Posada and defeated the “villainous” elves at the Edge of the World. Geralt complains that’s not what really happened and asked what happened to Jaskier’s respect? Jaskier curtly replies, “Respect doesn’t make history.”
In the woods, Ciri realizes that Rat Boy is actually an elf. After a brief but tense moment, Ciri thanks the elven boy, who introduces himself as “Dara” (Wilson Radjou-Pujalte). Ciri gives Dara her real name.
At Aretuza, Yennefer pushes the eels into the pool. She looks excitedly into the pool, both awed its magical energies and proud that she advanced…unlike her failed peers.
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