A star rating of 3 out of 5.

It might seem a little strange to dub season 3 volume 1 of The Witcher 'calm', but compared to what it seems to be building to? Let's go with it.


The highly-anticipated third season of the Netflix fantasy, which will see Henry Cavill take his final bow as Geralt of Rivia, begins with Ciri (Freya Allan) on the run from, well, pretty much everyone, as kingdoms from Nilfgaard to Redania hunt her down.

There are moments of joy in her found family with Geralt and Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), before someone - usually the fire mage Rience (Chris Fulton) - brings her right back to reality.

Amid all of this, Ciri's struggling with her magic despite Yennefer's best efforts, with the three of them forced to make a big decision about how to prepare her for what's to come - and quickly.

Those expecting all-out action in volume 1 might be a little disappointed, but it's clear it's building to something very big. Of course, there are some spectacular fight scenes and some gruesome monsters - some of which embrace horror elements a little more than the series has done so far (we won't spoil them here) - but they don't play as big of a role as they might have previously.

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Instead, we get more plotting and scheming. Some of the time, it pays off, building the suspense for volume 2 and giving a clearer picture of the rich fantasy world as a whole after Blood Origin. There are moments where this is done spectacularly well - episode 5, in particular, is a flawlessly crafted offering. But there are also moments that drag a little, prompting questions about whether we could have done more with this season.

Henry Cavill and Anya Chalotra in The Witcher season 3
Henry Cavill and Anya Chalotra in The Witcher season 3. Susan Allnutt/Netflix

Overall, it would have been more satisfying to spend more time with our core characters. There's no doubt that gaining a richer understanding of each clan's motives is important, but with just eight episodes to tell such a rich story, surely we could have cut some of the conversation in favour of more time with our heroes? Or inserted them into the politics in the way that episode 5 does?

In many ways, it's bittersweet to watch the cast at what could be their very best and it would have been lovely to see more of them. Ciri is very much the focus of volume 1, with Allan's performance having grown beautifully with the character. She's a far cry from the princess we met in season 1 - but, as she's forced to take the weight of the world on her shoulders, it's clear she's still only a child.

Chalotra's performance as Yennefer is similarly nuanced, showing off a softer side to the mage as well as her brilliant scheming. Meanwhile, Joey Batey has never been better as bard Jaskier, providing brilliant (and needed) comic relief one moment and beautiful sincerity the next. His scenes with Hugh Skinner (Prince Radovid) are particularly captivating.

And, of course, we get to see Cavill for one final season in a role he knows so well, and one we love him for. Volume 1 isn't quite a goodbye to him but, as he's faced with new monsters and plays off his cast members wonderfully, it is something of a love letter. As for how future seasons will fare with Liam Hemsworth at the helm, and if he'll be able to match the chemistry with his co-stars, only time will tell.

On its own, volume 1 is a fairly well-crafted beginning to the season, giving us most things we could want from The Witcher and raising the stakes as we knew it would. As our heroes have grown, so have the monsters, with Geralt hunting down a mysterious big bad (our lips are sealed) throughout the episodes.

But, by the end of volume 1, when we're five episodes down, you'd be forgiven for being a little worried about the final three. In fact, Netflix might have been better off releasing the eight-episode season all at once. In terms of the plot, it makes sense to split them after episode 5 (you'll see) but it leaves a lot to wrap up in the three episodes still to come in volume 2.

After all, with fans waiting an extra month in anticipation to see how it all goes down and how Cavill sees out his beloved performance - will it be worth it? A two-part release only works if it makes sense for the series (case in point, Stranger Things season 4, which wrapped up with two epic feature-length episodes) and here, we're not sure.

You never know, though, and we live in hope that Cavill will be allowed the time in volume 2 to go out with a bang, and not with a whimper.

The Witcher season 3 volume 1 is available to stream on Netflix now. You can sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

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