DISCLAIMER: This The Witcher recap contains more SPOILERS than the number of victims fed upon by a striga. Continue reading with caution: you have been warned!
The episode opens with a dying and heavily wounded boy telling a witcher (Gudmundur Thorvaldsson) about the monster that attacked him. The boy claims that it was a vukodlak: a type of vampire. The witcher demands 3,000 orens up front from the boy’s father and goes to where the boy had been attacked. The monster ambushes the witcher and kills him.
Elsewhere, Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) spends the night with…err…let’s say “female companionship for hire”? As Geralt ignores her singing Jaskier’s songs and deflects questions about a scar inflicted by Renfri, Geralt’s companion shares that another witcher came through her town a month ago, headed to the Kingdom of Temeria. She claims that Temeria has a “pest problem”, and a group of miners rounded up 3,000 orens to hire a witcher, but then the witcher took the coin and ran. Geralt pays her with the last of his coin…but since he failed to also pay for the room, they are both kicked out by the innkeeper. Geralt intimidates the innkeeper into taking care of Roach while he goes to Temeria and procures more coin.
In Temeria, the miners conspire to overthrow King Foltest for failing to kill the vukodlak. The miners are angry for being swindled by the witchers, but Geralt proposes killing the vukodlak for only 1,000 orens…paid AFTER the job is done. As an apology from the witchers’ guild to the miners. Before the miners can agree, a group of Temerian soldiers arrives and convinces the miners to return to their homes. The one leading the soldiers, Ostrit (Jason Thorpe), orders four soldiers to escort Geralt back to Temeria’s border.
On the way out of Temeria, the four soldiers fall unconscious…magically put to sleep by Triss Merigold (Anna Shaffer): sorceress and advisor to King Foltest. She is secretly going around Foltest’s orders to ask Geralt to help her not slay, but SAVE the monster.
Triss later explains that people started disappearing from Foltest’s old castle about six years ago. Before long, citizens were disappearing throughout all of Temeria. When the royal guards realized the monster was coming from a royal crypt, King Foltest fled the castle, and has ignored the rising death toll for about a year. The crypt belongs to Princess Adda (Foltest’s sister), who was rumored to have been having an affair with a young man in Old Vizima just before she died.
Geralt asks if Princess Adda was pregnant when she died. Triss claims she wasn’t, but adds that if Adda had been pregnant, that child would’ve been the sole heir to the Temerian throne, as King Foltest is unmarried and childless.
Fearing that Temeria might overthrow their king, the Brotherhood of Sorcerers sent Triss to Foltest three months ago with the primary goal of curing the monster. Geralt says that vukodlaks are freak mutations: they can’t be cured. Triss doesn’t know what the monster is, but she is sure that it is not a vukodlak.
Triss shows Geralt some of the victims’ corpses, including the other witcher. Geralt is angry that Triss and Foltest lied and claimed the witcher ran…because they didn’t want the truth to get out that the monster bested a *witcher*. Upon inspecting the corpse, Geralt realizes that the monster is a striga: a female monster of incredible speed and strength who hunts living beings during a full moon. Triss thought strigas were just superstition, to which Geralt corrects that they are very rare…and very real. The only way to make a striga is through a curse, and Triss realizes that someone wanted Adda dead. Geralt concludes that the curse passed on to Adda’s unborn daughter and turned it into a striga.
At Aretuza, Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and Istredd (Royce Pierreson) become more intimate as Yennefer continues to become more confident and to practice more powerful magic. Istredd expects to be sent to Temeria, where he hopes for enough free time to explore the kingdom’s ancient ruins. Yennefer expects to become a court mage for King Virfuril of Aedirn. Yennefer proposes convincing King Virfuril to give Istredd access to Aedirn’s ruins instead.
Yennefer feels nervous about enchanting her appearance. Aretuza girls have higher expectations for their physical appearance than Ban Ard boys (hence, contributing to the stereotype of male mages as wizened and old), and Yennefer is unsure of what her ideal self would look like. As Aretuza’s enchanter plans out Yennefer’s outfit and even body type, Tissaia assures Yennefer that there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t see some type of deformity when they look in a mirror. But not a sorceress. “We remake ourselves on OUR terms,” Tissaia declares, “The world has NO say in it.”
In Temeria, Triss and Geralt are brought before King Foltest (Shaun Dooley) and his other advisors, who admonish Triss for disobeying the king. Triss insists that they can’t afford to wait any longer: tonight is a full moon, and they can cure the striga with Geralt’s help. One advisor, Segelin (Sam Marks), dismisses the witcher’s theory. Princess Adda was beloved by court and commoner alike…who would want to murder her? Geralt suggests her lover, which makes Foltest flinch. Segelin fears that if the witcher is allowed to search the abandoned castle, he will murder the “princess” while she sleeps and collect the miners’ coin. Geralt explains that the striga mutated and grew for years inside Adda’s womb, feeding on the corpse of Foltest’s sister.
When Geralt describes the striga’s disturbing appearance, Foltest demands that everyone leave. Geralt takes the opportunity to lock the door, and he and Foltest converse as the Temerian guards attempt to break the door down. Geralt points out that Foltest flinched when he mentioned the striga’s father, and asked why Foltest has never married or produced his own heir? Why not kill the striga and end any risk of a revolt supporting the “true” heir? Geralt implies that Foltest is the father of Adda’s child. The guards finally break down the door, and King Foltest expels Geralt from Temeria.
At a meeting of the Brotherhood of Sorcerers, the sorcerers and sorceresses discuss the state of the Continent’s affairs. Cintra continues its animosity towards the Brotherhood’s mages, and Princess Calanthe is expected to be even more stubborn than King Dagorad. In Nilfgaard, King Fergus spends his kingdom’s money on women even as his people starve to death. Tissaia de Vries (MyAnna Buring) is confident that Fringilla Vigo will bring sanity and food back to Nilfgaard, but Master Stregobor (Lars Mikkelsen) and even Fringilla’s uncle Artorius Vigo (Terence Maynard) both agree that a more ambitious mage is needed to correct the South.
Artorius suggests someone with a bit more “spine”, to which Stregobor suggests the “hunchback” be sent to Nilfgaard instead. Tissaia angrily reminds the men that they agreed Yennefer would be sent to her home country of Aedirn. Stregobor states that Yennefer’s appointment would be an insult to Aedirn’s biggest trading partner: Cintra. The only thing Cintra hates more than mages is elves, and Stregobor reveals to the entire Brotherhood that Yennefer is a quarter-elf. Tissaia urges the Brotherhood not to give into prejudice or paranoia, but the Brotherhood votes to send Yennefer to Nilfgaard instead of Fringilla (Artortius recuses himself).
When Yennefer learns of her reassignment, she is furious. Nilfgaard is nothing more than being puppet for a fool who prefers to fondle his sorceresses rather than listen to them. Yennefer realizes that the Brotherhood overruled Tissaia, to which Tissaia revealed it was because Stregobor had somehow learned that Yennefer was actually an elven bastard.
In Temeria, Geralt stakes out the abandoned royal castle. Triss arrives and asks why Geralt would try to save the striga princess for no reward, to which Geralt asks Triss why she’s here helping men who won’t listen? Geralt spooks Segelin’s guards, and the two begin to explore the old castle. Triss flirts with Geralt about his “brooding charm”. Geralt reveals his theory that Foltest fathered a child with his sister Adda. Triss asks if it was Foltest that cursed Adda, which Geralt admits is possible.
In a secret compartment in Adda’s bedroom, Triss finds letters from Queen Sancia: mother of Foltest and Adda. The letters revealed that Queen Sancia knew about her children’s incestuous affair and cursed them for it when Adda refused to give up the child. Geralt and Triss share the discovery with Ostrit, who considered himself Adda’s protector and confidant. Adda never mentioned her relationship with her brother to Ostrit. Ostrit believes Adda was frightened and that their relationship was not consensual.
While Sancia’s curse explains why Adda died, it doesn’t explain why the curse passed onto Adda’s child. Geralt proposes that Foltest raped Adda and then cursed the child to cover it up. Ostrit supports that theory, but then Geralt reveals what he smelled in Adda’s bedroom: Ostrit…or more specifically, what Ostrit was doing to her sheets. Ostrit claims that Foltest seduced and abused Adda, but only Ostrit truly loved her. Triss is shocked that Ostrit cursed the woman he loved, to which Ostrit insists that he cursed Foltest. Triss blames Ostrit’s jealousy for the countless dead, but Ostrit blames Foltest for “spoiling” Adda and refusing to kill the striga. Triss asks why Ostrit didn’t simply expose Foltest’s affair? Ostrit points out doing so would have hurt both Foltest *and* Adda. Ostrit would never allow Adda’s memory and reputation to suffer. When Ostrit refuses to lift the curse, Geralt knocks him unconscious.
In front of the entire Brotherhood of Sorcerers, the students of Aretuza and Ban Ard are initiated and have their enchantments performed…Yennefer is absent. Istredd finds Yennefer hastily writing a letter to her human stepfather, asking him to declare her his natural-born daughter. Istredd apologizes, but points out that letter will not undo the truth about her blood. Yennefer asks Istredd to say it was a lie so she can avoid being sent to Nilfgaard. Istredd states that it doesn’t matter: by missing initiation and the enchantment, Yennefer is too late to be sent anywhere. Istredd apologizes again, but points out that Yennefer was also asked to spy on Istredd for Tissaia.
Istredd reveals that he’s been offered a seat with the Research Chapter, and he offers to bring Yennefer. They can be together and travel the Continent. Yennefer condescends that life as “slow suicide”. Istredd insists that he was going to Temeria for Yennefer, to be closer to her. Yennefer brushes that off as Istredd’s choice. Istredd accuses Yennefer of just playing the victim, to which Yennefer criticizes Istredd’s need to be the hero and painting a life among ruins as some romantic adventure. Istredd says that Yennefer is just angry because she lost her chance to be beautiful. “I want to be *powerful*,” Yennefer retorts.
As a ball is held to celebrate the newly-initiated sorceresses, Yennefer storms to the enchanter and demands her enchantment. Yennefer refuses to wait for the herbs to be prepared, which will require her to be awake during the procedure.
At the abandoned castle in Temeria, King Foltest awaits with several soldiers under the full moon. Geralt approaches and draws his sword, but Foltest orders his men to stand down. Foltest shares with Geralt that Triss advised the king to trust the witcher. Foltest asks Geralt to answer honestly: Will this work? Geralt doesn’t know. Foltest asks if his daughter will ever be normal? Geralt says that she’s lived as an animal all her life. She’ll need special care to show her a life without rage and hunger. Geralt gives Renfri’s brooch to Foltest, as a gift for the princess if he can lift the curse. Foltest claims that he and Adda initially tried to resist giving into their feelings, and says that “love casts long shadows”. He envies the witcher’s lack of emotions: “to live and never have to fall in love”.
Foltest departs and Geralt enters Adda’s bedroom…where Ostrit has been tied to the bedposts. Geralt asks Ostrit how to lift the curse. Ostrit continues to insist that Foltest must pay for what he did. Geralt says that Ostrit can try to explain that to the striga. Geralt asks again, and Ostrit explains how he cast the curse. Ostrit waited until a full moon, killed a lamb, and then bathed in its blood until sunrise while saying a “silly” chant. A concerned Geralt asks what the chant was, and his expression turns from concern to terror as Ostrit repeats the chant in Elder. Geralt hastily rushes to ready his weapons and traps, and Ostrit asks to be let go…what more can he do? Geralt barks that neither of them can do anything, unless Ostrit knows a way to keep a striga out of a crypt until a rooster crows three times! Ostrit realizes with horror what Geralt is saying: “You’re gonna have to fight her till dawn…”
Beneath Aretuza, Yennefer prepares for her enchantment. The only thing she wants untouched are her violet eyes and the scars on her wrists. The enchanter warns her that there is a high cost to enchantment. To be reborn, Yennefer will lose her womb: she will never be able to bear a child. Yennefer accepts the cost, and the enchantment begins.
Geralt’s fight with the striga is intercut with Yennefer’s enchantment. I won’t get into the full details of Yennefer’s enchantment, but I will say this: it is a torturous and gruesome transformation. When the enchanter said he could sculpt like clay, he was being very literal. Geralt’s battle with the striga is no less horrifying. Geralt abandons Ostrit, and Ostrit dies a gory death after begging for the striga’s forgiveness.
The striga herself is a creature so terrifying that it would scare even the likes of Guillermo del Toro. Netflix wasn’t exaggerating when they said The Witcher was going to lean more towards horror than fantasy. The striga’s flesh is rotten, but well-muscled. An umbilical cord drags behind her. Her bony fingers end in claws, and her jaw stretches from ear-to-ear. Only her hair and breasts provide any hints that this is, or ever was, a human girl. But undoubtedly, the most terrifying thing about the striga is her screech. Because when the striga screams, it is no supernatural roar…it is the very human (and ironically, more unearthly) scream of a woman.
Geralt first attempts to restrain the striga with a silver chain, but she breaks free. Geralt realizes he’s in a lot of trouble, as he has no time to draw his sword and he is forced to fight hand-to-hand with the monster. Trapped beneath the striga, Geralt uses Aard to telekinetically blast out the floor beneath them. The two find themselves in the royal crypt. Out of options and out of potions, Geralt uses the Quen shield to seal himself inside the crypt with the striga. The witcher continues to struggle against the striga…until the sun begins to rise. Geralt and the striga both make a mad dash to the striga’s sarcophagus, but Geralt succeeds in knocking her out of the way. Desperate, Geralt climbs inside and seals the sarcophagus using Quen.
Hearing the third crow of a rooster, Geralt emerges from the sarcophagus to find a young girl curled on the crypt floor: naked and filthy. Geralt removes his damaged pauldron and tries to help the terrified girl, but she uses her claw-like nails and teeth to tear at Geralt’s exposed flesh. Geralt manages to fight off the princess by attacking her neck, but he passes out due to blood loss.
At Aretuza, the sorceresses dance with the prospective monarchs they will be advising. King Virfuril (Ben Lambert) is unimpressed with his intended sorceress: Fringilla Vigo (Mimi Ndiweni). That is when Yennefer of Vengerburg, dressed in black and stunningly beautiful, arrives. All the chatter and dancing comes to an immediate stop the moment everyone sees her. Yennefer greets King Virfuril, and despite Tissaia’s efforts to remove Yennefer, Virfuril has made his choice. As a dejected Fringilla runs out of the room, Virfuril dances with his new sorceress.
In Temeria, Triss heals Geralt of his wounds, with a hallucinating Geralt thinking she is Renfri. Triss reveals that the princess has been given to the Sisters of Melitele to heal, and King Foltest has publicly honored Lord Ostrit, who gave his life to slay the “vukodlak”. (The miners plan to build a statue for Ostrit.) Triss asks who Renfri is, and Geralt demands his coin. Triss tells Geralt that there is more to his destiny than monsters and money. Triss gives back Renfri’s brooch to Geralt.
In the woods, Ciri (Freya Allan) is woken by whispering voices. Hypnotically, he follows them to a heavily-wooded forest. Dara (Wilson Radjou-Pujalte) calls out to her, but she doesn’t respond. Dara continues to chase her, even after arrows are shot at him and he sees the arrow-ridden corpses on the ground. With Dara on the ground and an arrow in his shoulder, Ciri walks into the forest.
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