The Witcher Season 3 Episode 5 Recap and Volume 1 Ending Explained

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 29, 2023 (Last updated: June 30, 2023)
View all
The Witcher Season 3 Episode 5 Recap and Volume 1 Ending Explained


The first volume of The Witcher Season 3 ends with an episode that is nowhere near as clever as it thinks, complicating its very obvious developments to an extent that borders on tedium.

This recap of The Witcher Season 3 Episode 5, “The Art of the Illusion”, contains spoilers. It also openly discusses the ending of The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1.

Well, here’s a finale that is doubtlessly going to annoy some people.

Not since the show’s first season has it tried to get this cute with its storytelling structure. The entire Volume 1 finale, titled “The Art of the Illusion”, is framed by a romantic night shared by Geralt and Yennefer. During it, they discuss the events of the swanky Aretuza party that they’ve just attended, and that comprises the entire episode since we keep returning to it multiple times to take in different conversations and moments from various angles.

The Witcher Season 3 Episode 5 Recap

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think the outcome of this episode is in any way complicated enough to justify the effort of revealing it this way. It’s a longstanding mystery genre trick to repeat the same sequence with new information being illuminated each time, but the ultimate revelation here is so predictable, and the steps taken to reach it so similar that the finale has the unfortunate distinction of being the most tedious outing in the entire first volume.

The party setting is also weirdly, perhaps even detrimentally catty. Everyone has hidden, sometimes conflicting agendas, and between the outfits, the big dance, and a jealous love rival fistfight that temporarily turns The Witcher into Real Housewives of the Continent, this is a level of camp that the show doesn’t usually indulge in.

It says a lot that there is basically nothing to recap, at least not for the bulk of the episode. Geralt, Yen, Istredd, and Triss all believe that Stregobor is working with Rience, and that he has also been kidnapping young, half-elf novices from Aretuza, and they all try to prove it in a series of loaded conversations with various characters.

For instance, at one point Geralt and Istredd fight over Yennefer. In a subsequent retelling of the same events, it’s revealed that this was merely a distraction so that Yennefer could sneak into Stregobor’s private quarters to find the book on Monoliths. But it was so obviously a distraction the first time we saw it that this additional Ocean’s Eleven-style reveal just feels totally pointless.

When Yen investigates Stregobor’s room she finds the book and plenty of evidence supporting the theory he has been kidnapping the girls. When everyone else notices he’s missing, they all assemble to accuse him formally, and Tissaia takes the book for safekeeping.

The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1 Ending Explained

Who is really behind Rience and Lydia?

Of course, this isn’t the real twist, which comes a little later. This, too, is framed in such a way as to be a profound revelation, as Geralt and Yennefer put together various clues. When she recalls a conversation between her and Philippa, Lydia comes up in conversation, and when she describes Lydia’s injuries, Geralt thinks back to Teryn mentioning “the woman with the funny voice.” Geralt, similarly, recalls a blatantly threatening conversation he had with Vilgefortz, and they both deduce, at the same time, that he’s the real villain.

But we already had all of these clues. We’ve already put these pieces together since the show has already shown them to us in most cases. We already know Lydia is working with Rience. It’s not a reveal — it’s just the characters catching up to information that was already made obvious to us.

And even after all this, we’re denied a confrontation with Vilgefortz. When Geralt leaves his room to go and confront him, he’s stopped by Dijkstra, who holds a knife to his throat, which is where the episode — and the first volume — ends.

You can stream The Witcher Season 3 Episode 5, “The Art of the Illusion”, exclusively on Netflix. What did you think of the ending of The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1? Let us know in the comments.

Additional reading:

Endings Explained, Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV - Ending Explained, TV Recaps
View all