The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1 Review – An Annoyingly Imperfect Epic

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 29, 2023 (Last updated: February 9, 2024)
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The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1 Review - An Annoyingly Imperfect Epic


There’s lots to like about the first volume of The Witcher‘s third season, but plenty to dislike too, and it seems unlikely that the latest outing will be able to win over an already-frustrated fanbase.

This review of the Netflix series The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1 does not contain spoilers.

It has been quite a thing to witness the fall from grace of Netflix‘s The Witcher.

Based on the literary works of Andrzej Sapkowski but cashing in on the immense popularity of CD Projekt RED‘s video game series, the small-screen adventures of Geralt of Rivia were initially a hit. And why not? The production was impressive. Star Henry Cavill was an unabashed mega-fan. The first season might have gotten a little too cute with how it structured the reams of readily available source material, but it was, for the most part, well-received.

And it has been downhill from there. Netflix immediately recognized they had a hit on their hands and began to wring the franchise for all it was worth. The Witcher Season 2 was criticized for veering too far off-course. Spin-offs were a mixed bag; Nightmare of the Wolf was enjoyable, if slight, but Blood Origin was a mess of mythologizing that felt like homework. It was eventually announced that Henry Cavill would be leaving the show after the anticipated third season, but that it would continue without him regardless.

That third season, which is unwisely divided into two Volumes like Stranger Things Season 4, arrives having already been review-bombed pre-release, into an overtly hostile climate that will seemingly only watch it out of spite — or not at all.

The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1 review and plot summary

But how is this season, really? If you put all these petty fanboy considerations aside, does it work on its own terms? Is it the epic adventure Netflix wants, and arguably needs in a streaming culture increasingly dominated by mainstream IP and big-budget fantasy epics like Game of Thrones and The Rings of Power? Is it any good?

Sort of.

Picking up after the second season finale, Volume 1 gets a few things right out of the gate. Geralt (Cavill), Ciri (Freya Allen), and Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) are traveling together after being kept apart for the better part of two seasons. This beloved dynamic is ostensibly what fans have wanted all along, especially since it makes navigating the dense thickets of worldbuilding much easier. There’s action aplenty, a monster or two, and a solid emotional core.

There’s something simplistically charming about these three trying to stay low-key while Yen helps Ciri unlock her latent magical abilities. The romance between Geralt and Yennefer works. The familial dynamics are easy to buy into. The actors have obvious chemistry and the writers are having fun with them.

It takes roughly one episode before the gang is split up again and the weight of various interlocking subplots, side quests, personal agendas, and political squabbles begins to split the show’s focus dangerously thin.

This is not to say there aren’t great isolated moments in the five hour-ish episodes that constitute Season 3’s first Volume. There is some nifty action, some expensive-looking CGI, some cameos that fans of the source material will appreciate, and so on, and so forth. But there’s also so much going on that it feels burdensome to navigate, as we’re whipped frustratingly to and fro by the needs of a screenplay that has left loose ends dangling since the very first season.

It’s obvious, of course, that the squabbling Kings of the North, the encroaching Nilfgaardian Empire, the catty magical Brotherhood, and the incensed, rebellious Elves are all pieces on the same board, being shuffled around a square at a time in service of the same narrative agenda. But the point when The Witcher finally starts bringing these elements together in a meaningful way is also the point when Volume 1, after a surprisingly camp finale built around a twist that won’t surprise fans of the books, comes to a close.

Is The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1 good or bad?

You can’t fault The Witcher‘s production values, acting, or enthusiasm for itself — but you can fault most other things about it.

The show’s pacing can’t help but leave something to be desired, still finding space for side-quest subplots even in the midst of an overarching story that barely seems to have the space to navigate its many world-building working parts. Volume 1 seems torn between its obligations to hit various expectations — more monsters, more cameos, more this, more that — and its need to effectively tell what is by all accounts a sprawling and complicated story worthy of proper, focused attention.

By the time it really gets going, it ends. I’ll see you next month, I guess.

Is The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1 worth watching?

Of course, fans shouldn’t miss Geralt’s latest outing, especially since it might be his last in this particular form. Plus, there’s every chance that with the work done in Volume 1, the final three episodes will manage to knit everything together in a satisfactorily epic way.

That remains to be seen, but we can be hopeful. In the meantime, the first half of The Witcher Season 3 remains a frustratingly messy adventure that still can’t quite capitalize on the franchise’s obvious potential.

What did you think of The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1? Comment below.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Netflix.

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Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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