The Witcher Recap: Everybody Likes Surprises

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: December 20, 2019 (Last updated: January 1, 2023)
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The Witcher (Netflix) Season 1, Episode 4 recap: "Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials"


“Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials” finds Geralt out of his comfort zone as we learn the origin of his bond with Ciri.

This recap of The Witcher Season 1, Episode 4, “Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.

We join Ciri (Freya Allan) in The Witcher Episode 4 having entered the mysterious, chatty forest, where she encounters a bright light and many armed tribeswomen dressed to impress — and armed. Their leader, Eithné, explains that this is Brokilon Forest, home of the dryads, and never conquered nor subjugated by anyone, including the Nilfgaardians.

Geralt (Henry Cavill) begins “Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials” covered in monster guts, and things don’t get any better for him from there. Jaskia (Joey Batey) is still recording his adventures and “making him famous” if you ask him, but Geralt remains less than enthusiastic about the idea. He’s even less so once Jaskia reveals they’re going to a fancy soiree at Queen Calanthe’s (Jodhi May) court since he despises royalty, formality, and dressing in anything other than battle attire, and their attendance will necessitate all three.

Indeed, Geralt’s attempts to go incognito as a nobleman immediately backfire once he’s recognized by Mousesack (Adam Levy) roughly ten seconds after entering the building. This is many years prior to the sacking of Cintra, with Calanthe still the widow of her first husband King Roegner. The shindig is being held in the hopes of finding her daughter Pavetta a politically suitable husband, and there are many contenders present, including Eist Tuirseach (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) and his nephew Crach an Craite. Pavetta, though, isn’t exactly keen on any of them, but needs must. As her mother explains, “You can have who you want when you’re married.”

Back in Brokilon Forest, Ciri is told that all newcomers must drink the forest’s waters. If they mean the place harm, they’ll die; if they don’t, they’ll be fine, and stay there. Both Ciri and Dara (Wilson Radjou-Pujalte), who has been healed of his injuries, are to drink.

The Witcher Episode 4 returns to court where an argument between two nobles has erupted over which of them has really killed a manticore. It is settled, to the displeasure of them both, by Geralt, who says neither of them has. Calanthe asks him to recount the story of his slaying of the elves at the End of the World, but he says he got his arse kicked and merciful Felivandrel let him go, contrary to whatever Jaskier’s song might say. Calanthe is impressed by a man who defines himself by his failures and asks that he sit beside her for the rest of the evening.

As things progress, Calanthe tries to employ Geralt as the evening’s bodyguard, but he refuses as various potential suitors for Pavetta line up and make their cases, to much mockery.

Speaking of court, Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) is now a King’s mage, currently charged with protecting Queen Kalis (Isobel Laidler) of Lyria and her daughter. Yen is deeply dissatisfied with her lot in life having given up everything to secure her seat in court only to spend the last three decades cleaning up political messes. Out of nowhere, the carriage they’re in is attacked, and their guards are slaughtered by a pet monster put to work by a mysterious, hooded man whom Yen identifies as an assassin. Queen Kalis, it seems, has run out of chances to produce a male heir. They’re able to escape from the carnage through one of Yen’s portals, but the assassin pursues them doggedly. Yen realizes that something on the Queen’s person is being used to track them. While holding the monster in stasis, Yennefer gets them safely through another portal, but Queen Kalis verbally lays into Yen, who in response teleports away once more, this time alone.

Calanthe asks Geralt why there are so few Witchers left, and he explains that it’s no longer possible to create more of them since the sacking of Kaer Morhen, the Witcher stronghold. In return, he asks why she still goes into battle rather than ruling safely from her throne. The answer is simple, and the same reason he kills monsters himself — it’s just simpler. Suddenly a knight bursts in and requests Pavetta’s hand in marriage. Though he refuses to remove his helmet, it’s knocked off by the guards and we learn the knight is cursed with a hedgehog head. Calanthe demands Geralt kill “the monster”, but he won’t. The knight invokes the Law of Surprise, an age-old custom that dictates a man who saves another must be gifted something unknown to one or both parties; something they already have but did not know of. The guards attack the knight, who is only able to fight them off for a while, but before he’s killed, Geralt intervenes, and a giant ruckus kicks off until the violence is eventually brought to a halt by Calanthe.

Queen Kalis, meanwhile, offers the assassin her child as a sacrifice, and he unceremoniously kills her in response. Just as his monster is about to kill the baby, Yen returns and kills it. She’s able to escape with the infant through a portal but is struck by a blade as she disappears. At their destination, she discovers that the child is dead, and her magic can’t return it to life.

It’s time for more exposition in The Witcher Episode 4. Pavetta knows the cursed knight, Duny, who was cursed as a young boy and lived a life of misery until he saved the late King Roegner from certain death and invoked the Law of Surprise as payment, entitling him to Roegner’s unborn daughter, Pavetta. Nevertheless, rather than waiting for his curse to break before presenting himself to the princess, Duny and Pavetta fell in love, the kind of love that, according to Eist, Mousesack and Geralt, cannot be interfered with — it’s destiny, and you can’t meddle with that. Geralt might not be a big believer in the idea of destiny, but he believes a promise made must be honored: “As true for a commoner as it is for a Queen.” Pavetta insists she loves Duny and will marry him. Calanthe feigns agreement but tries to stab the cursed knight at the last moment, and Pavetta’s ensuing scream causes tornado-like carnage, trashing the court as she chants in the Elder tongue and floats in the air with Duny. The place is decimated before Geralt and Mousesack are able to tame the storm, at which point Calanthe hugs Pavetta. “Do you believe in destiny now?” Eist asks her. Calanthe thought her mother’s “gift” has skipped Pavetta, as it had her, but evidently not. She finally agrees with the marriage and accepts a proposal from Eist for her own hand.

“Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials” briefly returns to Ciri in Brokilon Forest, where she awakes from a vision to learn that Dara has drunk the waters and is quite alright. She does the same and they have no effect on her.

At the beach Yen escaped to, she talks to Queen Kalis’s dead baby about how it has managed to unknowingly evade all of life’s cruelties. As a woman, she would have been destined to live as a vessel for men to take and take from until she was empty and alone. She buries the infant in the sand.

Pavetta and Duny are married and kiss, at which point the curse is broken; Calanthe’s blessing fulfilled a destiny which lifted it ahead of time. Duny wants to give Geralt a gift for saving him, but the Witcher isn’t interested. He blithely claims the Law of Surprise himself, as a bit of a joke, but Calanthe insists he mustn’t. Geralt, true to form, is hardly bothered; he says if he returns to the kingdom it’ll be to hunt a real monster, not to claim a healthy crop or a pup or some other mundane thing. At that point, though, Pavetta throws up — she’s pregnant. Geralt’s reaction is succinct but appropriate. He walks away, and despite Mousesack trying to convince him that doing so will unleash true calamity on them all, he says he’ll take the chance.

In one of the final scenes of The Witcher Season 1, Episode 4, a Nilfgaardian finds Calanthe’s corpse after the sacking of Cintra. He slices a patch of flesh from her arm and eats it, and Fringilla (Mimi Ndiweni) guts him. Laying a hand on his stomach, which is now on the floor, she’s able to determine Ciri’s presence in Brokilon Forest. Mousesack is alive, but a prisoner.

“Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials” ends with Ciri being taken by Eithné to drink from the source; raw sap from a tree deep in the forest. She does and has a vision of waking up in a desert with a lonely tree in its center. She hears a voice, and the episode ends.

Check out our thoughts on the next episode by clicking these words.

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