This story recap will obviously contain massive spoilers for what happened in The Witcher Season 1.
As I said in my spoiler-free review of The Witcher Season 2, streaming globally on Netflix from December 17, there’s always some detective work to be done when returning to a complex series. Luckily, we’ve done that work for you. If you’re scrambling to remind yourself of what happened in the first outing of Netflix’s highly successful fantasy adaptation, then look no further. And, what’s more, we’ve laid out the events in chronological order instead of the off-putting puzzle box structure that the first season employed.
Do please note that this is a wacky adventure full of competing timelines and perspectives; the show never really makes clear what’s happening concurrently and what’s occurring years apart, so there’s a little bit of guesswork and speculation involved to make everything fit together. Still, if nothing else, this story recap for The Witcher Season 1 will provide a legible, decently comprehensive primer for those looking to brush up on their Sapkowski lore. So, here we go.
What happened in The Witcher Season 1 in (roughly) chronological order
The earliest point of the story as depicted is the deformed, hunchbacked quarter-elf Yennefer being taken to the all-girls magic academy of Aretuza to learn the ways of the sorceress under Tissaia de Vries. There, she meets Istredd and several of the other mages and sacrifices her ability to have children in exchange for exceptional beauty. With that, she’s able to move among courtly high society, as is the mage’s way.
Shortly after, both Queen Calanthe and Geralt make names for themselves. The former takes the throne of Cintra and wins her first battle, while the latter has the best swordfight of the season with Renfri and earns the unfortunate nickname “The Butcher of Blaviken”, which he despises. Also at some point around this time, King Foltest’s sister, Adda, dies while pregnant, causing the unborn child – fathered by Foltest! – to become a horrifying striga.
At this point, there is a considerable jump forward in time, with Yennefer leaving court after decades of service after failing to prevent an assassination, and Geralt meets the bard Jaskier after being hired to kill a local “devil”, which introduces the pair of them – and the audience – to the elves and their struggle to regain their lost lands, communicated mostly through Filavandrel, Torque, and Toruviel.
Around this time, Triss Merigold is working for King Foltest, and she works with Geralt to cure the striga, which exposes all kinds of bleak details in the royal family. Shortly after this Geralt also meets – and this is crucial – Pavetta and Duny, the parents of Princess Cirilla, who becomes Geralt’s “Child of Surprise” after he saves Duny’s life and blithely invokes the Law of Surprise as payment.
At some point after this, Geralt meets Yennefer while tussling with a djinn, and a bit later they meet again while dealing with a dragon. At some point around this time, Ciri’s parents mysteriously die at sea, which Geralt is told when he goes to check in on her just over a decade after Pavetta’s banquet.
It’s here that things really start to come together, as we learn in the seventh and penultimate episode that Geralt was actually present for the Nilfgaardian attack on Cintra which opened the season and left Ciri alone. Geralt went to Cintra to try and take Ciri into his care, fearing that she would become a prisoner of the Nilgaardian forces, and while there was some toing and froing with Calanthe and her husband, Eist, it was eventually decided that Cintra was going to fall and Ciri would be best left in the care of Geralt. Unfortunately, though, she had already escaped with the help of Mousesack, leading her to have a few adventures on her own.
These adventures include meeting Dara, venturing to the Brokilon Forest, being conned by a Doppler, and going super Saiyan on some goons. These events occur sequentially and lead directly into the Battle of Sodden Hill, an attempt by the Brotherhood of Sorcerers to stave off the Nilfgaardian encroachment into the North.
Both Ciri and Geralt are absent from the battle. The former is taken in by a kindly woman who finds her after the devastation she caused to Anton and his friends, while Geralt is taken in by the woman’s husband – though we don’t know this connection for a while – after being bitten by some monsters. Both finally come together just after Yennefer seemingly sacrifices herself to win the Battle of Sodden Hill.
It’s from here that the second season will pick things up.