DISCLAIMER: This The Witcher recap has more SPOILERS than the number of kingdoms conquered by Nilfgaard. Continue reading with caution: you have been warned!
In a town, a cloaked Ciri (Freya Allan) is caught trying to steal corn. She asks how long it would take to get to the coast and the Skellige Isles? The man answers about a week, but only with a fast horse. A nearby woman cautions Ciri to be careful: this place isn’t safe to be alone in. “Then it’s the same as every other place,” Ciri coldly replies.
Somewhere in the south, the witcher Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) sees Nilfgaardian soldiers on the march. Cut to Cintra, where Geralt meets secretly with Mousesack (Adam Levy). Mousesack asks if Geralt is coming to claim his Child Surprise? Geralt claims he merely wanted to make sure he was safe and healthy. Mousesack corrects Geralt that “he” is a girl. Princess Cirilla has been raised by her grandparents ever since the ship carrying Duny and Princess Pavetta was lost at sea. Mousesack asks why Geralt would assume Ciri is not safe? Geralt reveals that Nilfgaard’s army has made camp in the Amell Pass. Mousesack assures Geralt that Calanthe has taken precautions to protect the royal family ever since Pavetta’s betrothal banquet, and fortified the walls against a possible invasion.
Geralt then sees men running through the shadows, and realizes that Calanthe sent assassins to kill the witcher. Geralt uses Mousesack as a human shield, forcing the druid to teleport them both away.
In the capital city of Cintra, Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May) inspects her army’s equipment and defenses. Though her advisors claim that Nilfgaard would be foolish to attack Cintra, Calanthe insists on preparing. Calanthe has fought about a dozen pretenders all claiming the Cintran throne, and Calanthe intends to give Nilfgaard the same “lesson”.
Geralt and Mousesack interrupt. Geralt states that for twelve years he stayed away, and he would have continued to do so…had Calanthe not sent eight assassins to kill him. Calanthe doesn’t deny it. The Queen of Cintra demands that Geralt leave Cintra…WITHOUT her only heir. Calanthe offers to pay Geralt whatever he wants, to which both Geralt and Mousesack remind her that no amount of money can undo the Law of Surprise. The witcher says that he will protect Ciri, ensuring she is safe if Nilfgaard attacks. Calanthe states that Ciri is all the Queen has left of Princess Pavetta. Geralt replies that if Ciri survives, then Pavetta will live on.
Back in the town, Ciri trades her mother’s ring for a new pair of gloves. The woman from before offers Ciri food and a place to sleep, but Ciri instead steals one of her horses and rides off.
In Cintra, Queen Calanthe presents Geralt with a false Princess Cirilla (Viola Prettejohn). The false Ciri asks to be allowed to say goodbye to her friends. Geralt follows her and happens upon the scene in which the audience was first introduced to Ciri: gambling with knucklebones on the streets. When the false Ciri curtsies to the real Ciri and calls her, “Your Highness”, Geralt realizes the ruse. Ciri looks in the witcher’s direction: the person she thought had been staring at her in Episode 1 was Geralt.
Geralt confronts Calanthe and repeats that he only wants Ciri to be safe. Calanthe declares that Ciri will only be safe with her grandmother and the Cintran throne. Calanthe listened to Geralt once before and it gave her a “hedgehog” for a stepson and a dead daughter. Calanthe defies Geralt and his “destiny”. Calanthe has an army and a navy…she doesn’t need destiny to defeat Nilfgaard. The witcher angrily declares that Calanthe is too arrogant for Cintra’s dynasty to survive. King Eist (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) returns from the Skellige Isles and escorts Geralt from the castle. Eist tries to assure Geralt that he will fight with Calanthe to protect Ciri. Eist asks Geralt to promise he will never come back to Cintra. When Geralt refuses, Eist locks the witcher inside the castle’s gate-keep.
In Nazair (a southern vassal to the Nilfgaardian Empire), indentured peasants are forced by Nilfgaardian soldiers to excavate a giant monolith. Yennefer of Vengerburg (Anya Chalotra) arrives. She presents her letter of safe conduct to a soldier and she is brought before the dig site’s supervisor: Istredd (Royce Pierreson). Yennefer remarks on how Nilfgaard has torn through the kingdoms of the Continent, to which Istredd states that Nilfgaard allows his research, and Nazair’s people were starving before Nilfgaard came.
Yennefer proposes that she and Istredd follow their original plan from their days at Aretuza. Istredd can study his monoliths, and Yennefer can work as the town mage. Istredd points out that Yennefer hates monoliths, and asks why Yennefer would want Istredd again when she could have whoever she wants? Yennefer enjoyed being an object of desire, but realized that her lovers were only interested in Yennefer for the power of her position at the Aedirn court. Istredd realizes that he is the only one who has ever desired Yennefer for *her* power. They kiss, but then Istredd reveals that he spent years requesting transfers to Aedirn, so he could be close to Yennefer again…and Yennefer had denied every single request. Istredd then drowned himself in his work. Yennefer went after what she truly loved, and Istredd feels sorry that she chose to love power. “At least you kept your eyes,” Istredd remarks as he leaves.
Another man sits down at Yennefer’s table. Yennefer tells him to go away, but he reveals that he is Vilgefortz of Roggeveen (Mahesh Jadu). Vilgefortz reveals that Nilfgaard has started conscripting mages, and he wants to bring Yennefer with him to Aretuza. Yennefer couldn’t want to go back to Aretuza any less, until Vilgefortz remarks that Tissaia called Yennefer the best student she ever taught.
At Aretuza, Vilgefortz and a few other Northern mages ask for Yennefer’s help. Vilgefortz has concluded that Nilfgaard plans to attack Cintra, and he is trying to gather Northern allies. Yennefer doesn’t care about Nilfgaard or defending the Northern Realms and demands to see Tissaia. Vilgefortz admits that Tissaia has no idea that Yennefer is there: it was Yennefer that assumed Tissaia wanted to see her. Yennefer storms off, claiming that all that holds Aretuza together is lies.
Yennefer visits her old room and chats with the three students inside. The girls ask Yennefer why she is back at Aretuza and not at court in Aedirn. Yennefer gives the girls a “botany lesson” by mixing herbs. As the girls start to hallucinate, Yennefer urges them to think for themselves. The girls reveal that they’ve never had a “conduit moment”. The girls’ families all paid exorbitant sums to Aretuza so the girls could become students there. The students reveal that the Brotherhood of Sorcerers has only been accepting students from the “best families”. When the girls fear that they will be expelled, a disgusted Yennefer takes them down to the eel pool. Yennefer reveals the truth: if the students fail, they will be transformed into eels to help power Aretuza. And even if they do succeed, they will lose the ability to give birth…and the Brotherhood will become their only family. Yennefer states that looks that never change and a court full of idiots is not worth isn’t worth it. She urges the students not to continue pursuing a life as a sorceress, but the girls are undeterred. They claim that just because Yennefer screwed up her life doesn’t mean they will.
Tissaia de Vries (MyAnna Buring) arrives and sends the students back to their rooms. Tissaia claims that Yennefer has already ruined one life…she should stop there. Yennefer is offended that Aretuza has started admitting girls who can’t even do magic. Tissaia replies that they needed to compromise in order to survive. Before they can continue, mages start rushing into the main hall. When Yennefer asks what’s happening, she learns that it is an emergency conclave of all Northern mages…Nilfgaard is attacking Cintra and just won the Battle of Marnadal.
Artorius Vigo (Terence Maynard) claims that attacking Nilfgaard is madness. And why should the Brotherhood defend Cintra after the kingdom spent decades rejecting mages? Vilgefortz insists that Nilfgaard won’t be satisfied until it conquers the entire Continent. Stregobor (Lars Mikkelsen) mocks Vilgefortz’s combat experience and accuses him of failing to fulfill his duty’s as a court advisor. Tissaia declares that the Brotherhood can stop Nilfgaard, but only if it acts now. Vilgefortz proposes advising the Northern Realms to send their armies across the Yaruga River to the Kingdom of Sodden. From Sodden, they can march against Nilfgaard and save Cintra. Stregobor insists that no one will care if Cintra falls, but Sabrina Glevissig (Therica Wilson-Read), court advisor to Kaedwen, insists that the other Northern kingdoms will be next.
Fringilla Vigo (Mimi Ndiweni) barges into the meeting, declaring that Nilfgaard’s war is against Cintra alone. Under their new leader, Emperor Emhyr var Emreis, Nilfgaard has put an end to corruption, strengthened trade, and funded magical research. Fringilla asks why the Brotherhood would side with Cintra: Emperor Emhyr tears down walls, but all Queen Calanthe has done is build them back up. Tissaia argues that the Brotherhood should defend Cintra in order to defend the mages’ way of life. The order that the Brotherhood has built for centuries has been rejected by Nilfgaard and Fringilla.
Fringilla insists that Nilfgaard’s mages aren’t changing the Brotherhood’s way of life…they’re modifying it. Guided by the White Flame, these mages of Ban Ard and Aretuza have charted a new path in Nilfgaard. Triss Merigold (Anna Shaffer) accuses Nilfgaard of forcing mages into servitude and practicing forbidden magic. Fringilla clarifies that mages are conscripted and trained in the same way a commoner would become a soldier, and Fringilla argues that nothing in the world is as simple as “light magic” or “dark magic”. Fringilla says that Nilfgaard is saving the Continent, and it will use any tool to do so…even demonology, necromancy, and pyromancy. If the Brotherhood won’t take sides, then it should at least stay out of the way of their Nilfgaardian cousins.
Fringilla thanks Yennefer: if not for her, Fringilla would never have been reassigned to Nilfgaard and Nilfgaard would not be where it is today. Artotius mocks Yennefer and claims that Nilfgaard would remain a poor-quality backwater if Yennefer had been their court mage. Yennefer retorts that she did exactly as she was taught: went to a prized kingdom and helped murdering rapists keep their crowns. She suggests that Fringilla might be on to something: maybe it is time for a new order? Yennefer wishes she could burn down the Brotherhood. Tissaia redirects the debate back to Cintra. Yes, Cintra is a lost cause…but only because the Brotherhood stopped trying. Despite her argument that the Brotherhood must risk its lives (and more importantly, its pride), the Brotherhood votes to let Cintra fend for themselves.
After the conclave, Tissaia confesses that Yennefer was right in Rinde: Aretuza is all Tissaia has. If Nilfgaard wins, Aretuza and the other academies will either be conscripted or destroyed. Tissaia reveals that Vilgefortz is leading a group of mages to fight Nilfgaard…without the Brotherhood’s approval. Tissaia asks Yennefer to join them, but Yennefer meant what she said…Yennefer genuinely wants to burn it all down. Tissaia pleads Yennefer to help the Northern Realms, for Tissaia?
In Cintra, the Brotherhood’s decision ensures nothing will stop the coming Slaughter. Geralt manages to break out of the gate-keep. Calanthe sends Mousesack to retrieve Geralt, but he finds it empty. On the streets of the capital city, Geralt kills several Nilfgaardian soldiers and fights his way out. When he sees Queen Calanthe fall from her window, Geralt goes back inside the castle to find Ciri. He interrogates and kills the Nilfgaardian soldiers inside, but the religious zealots refuse to give him any information.
Elsewhere in a swamp, Ciri has made camp with her stolen horse. She sees a group approach, and notices that her friend Anton (Rob Malone) from the knucklebones game is among them. She runs to hug him, but Anton pushes her over. The group then begins stealing from Ciri’s camp, and shares that Nilfgaard is willing to pay a literal barrel of orens for Ciri’s capture. Ciri apologizes to Anton for what happened to Cintra and reminds him that they were friends who played together. Anton confesses that he despised having to let Ciri always win just because she was a princess. The group begin to assault Ciri, but the air around them all starts to hum. They release Ciri as the air begins to rush and Ciri suddenly starts speaking Ithlinne’s Prophecy, the prophecy predicting the end of the world…in multiple voices. The screen cuts to black…and Ciri starts to scream.
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