There’s been a lot of talk about Henry Cavill’s exit from The Witcher and what it will mean for the future of the show post season 3 - and reasonably so.

After all, the A-lister is a Witcher super-fan himself, and his delightfully deadpan performances have captured the essence of the White Wolf so perfectly that it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role.

So, with season 4 coming at some point in the future, it’s understandable that many viewers are considering checking out of the Continent now that Cavill is hanging up his silver sword - with the prospect of Liam Hemsworth taking over the role proving off-putting for some.

Yet all of this Geralt chat seems to forget one key point: the real star of the show remains - Anya Chalotra’s Yennefer of Vengerberg.

Sure, this series may be called The Witcher, and its big selling point has largely been Cavill as Geralt - but break down the narrative and the stakes within the show, and you quickly realise that this hasn’t really been the White Wolf’s story at all.

Rather, it is Yennefer who has been the most distinctive focal point over the past three seasons, the anchor around which this ever-twisting, ever-evolving tale has unfolded.

And as long as this remains the case, there is more than enough reason to stick around the Continent even in a post-Cavill era.

Cast your mind back to season 1. Though there is a clear spotlight on Geralt’s journey and his fate intertwining with Ciri’s, and some exploration of what it means to be a Witcher and how that can impact one’s psyche, the Butcher of Blaviken is largely that - a butcher, a vehicle for gory violence and entertaining action, with his emotional beats largely limited to brief mentions of his long-lost mother (who is later killed off-screen with little fanfare in season 3, anyway).

Instead, the proper emotional weight lands squarely on the shoulders of Yennefer, whose growth from a damaged, downtrodden servant to a powerful master of magic provides the most notable storytelling bite throughout the season.

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Yennefer in season 1, before her transformation, looking into camera
Anya Chalotra as Yennefer in The Witcher season 1. Katalin Vermes/Netflix

While Geralt is out slaying beasts and off gallivanting with his unlikely ally Jaskier (Joey Batey), Chalotra’s mage is battling through a real, human story - a touching tale of sacrifice and a need to belong - all against the extravagant backdrop of this heightened, fantastical world.

Likewise, in season 2, much of the narrative is built around the aftermath of Yennefer’s actions at the Battle of Sodden Hill. It’s a raw exploration of dealing with the consequences of your choices, and the challenge of having to rediscover who you are when the one thing you’ve worked for your entire life is snatched away.

And in season 3, though Geralt has become more of a central storytelling figure this time out - and he’s had the opportunity to properly connect with Ciri (Freya Allan), beyond his usual grunts and grumpy remarks, as she herself has become more of a fleshed-out character in her own right - it is Yennefer’s journey, particularly in her relationship with Ciri, that has remained at the forefront of the narrative.

Ciri and Yennefer running through a hilly environment
Ciri and Yennefer in The Witcher season 3. Susie Allnutt/Netflix

After all, it is she who most closely bonds with the princess, the pair forming a complicated, convincing mother-daughter/mentor-mentee relationship across the eight episodes.

It is Yennefer who most effectively challenges and tests Ciri on her strength of character and control over her skills, and helps the Cintran to discover who she really wants to be.

And, you guessed it, it’s Yennefer that Ciri searches for after being captured in episode 6 - and Yennefer who embraces the latter as her daughter, and her destiny, more openly than Geralt.

As if that wasn’t enough, the key driving force behind the emotion of the finale comes from Yennefer’s dynamic with the dying Tissaia (MyAnna Buring).

The brutality of losing her own mother figure, just as she is coming to terms with becoming someone else’s, is, perhaps surprisingly, the most memorable takeaway from Cavill’s much-anticipated swan song - providing a delightful dichotomy that touches upon more elevated themes in an episode that falls flat in a number of different ways.

Over the past four years, many have praised Cavill for embodying Geralt of Rivia, for becoming the White Wolf, yet Chalotra has equally made the complicated character of Yennefer her own.

In the more dramatic moments, she’s channelled a humanity that underpins her mighty mage with a sense of vulnerability.

Within the action-packed sequences, Chalotra manages the complete opposite - delivering a ferocity that emphasises the sheer scale of Yennefer’s power.

And in the quieter, less intense scenes, she even brings a sharp sense of humour and tongue-in-cheek charm that helps to lighten the tone in a series that often runs the risk of being bogged down by convoluted plot points and melodramatic moments of life and death.

So, yes, the loss of Cavill will be huge for The Witcher, and Liam Hemsworth has a big job on his hands. But as long as the complex and compelling Yennefer, and Chalotra’s praiseworthy portrayal of her, remains (and we think it’s safe to assume she will), so too does the show’s real star.

The Witcher season 3 volume 2 will be available to stream on Netflix from 27th July. 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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