Cute episode title. There are two storylines in the premiere.
Moral Ambiguity, and lots of it
I’d like the first storyline in The Witcher to be a little more confident in its audience. Right at the beginning, Geralt slays his first monster, and plods out of the pond to find a small deer that had been injured in the fight. He looks regretfully at the critter, says
and we hear a blade chunk before we cut to the title screen.
Less than three minutes later, when Renifer saves her guys by diffusing the Witcher racism in the local pub, she offers him some food. He says he’s full. I mean we got it alrea…Jesus, The Witcher, we got it. No one thought mortally injured Bambi was outside the pub with a bandage on. I mean, I know The Witcher is trying to catch as many viewers as it can in its premiere, and not everyone reacts to the first monster Geralt fought the same way I did.
If I weren’t trying to stay unspoiled I’d be ready to climb on board this world building right now, so I’ll take the mild annoyance at this storyline, which does like to just hammer. everything. home (If you don’t have the moral ambiguity yet, we’ll have both opposing characters repeat exactly the same lines) and just deal with it.
Geralt meets a creepy kid – she claims to have killed the family dog and sold the corpse to a wizard that she wants to introduce him to. Geralt gets introduced to his storyline – the battle of two monsters. They’re both human, Renifer and Stregobor, possible apocalypse harbinger and definite sorcerer pervert.They are both unreliable narrators, and both want Geralt to kill the other. But, let’s be clear, Stregobor is the worst.
The tale of the possible apocalypse women and the men that loved to lock them up in towers that Stregobor tells gets repeated by the Court Sorcerer in the next storyline without the positive spin. Geralt also shows a charming healthy cynicism and humour in the face of Stregobor’s insistence that Renifer is a devil woman, and gets to deliver his mission statement.
Renifer finds Geralt in the woods and gives him enough info so he knows Stegobor was not being anywhere near truthful, adds some probably unreliable narration of her own, and gives Geralt the same line about ‘lesser evil’. That doesn’t swing it and she has to return later, claiming to have taken his advice and decided to leave town (Blaviken) and get a life. Great.
There’s some hallucinations/visions (‘covered in blood in the marketplace’ ‘your reward will be a stoning’ ‘the girl in the woods is your destiny’ – one of these things is not like the others, one of these things will take a while to pay off) and Geralt wakes up alone, sure that Renifer is at the market. He goes into town and finds her men, and takes them down with some impressively sharp violence. Once they are gone Renifer shows up, with her sword at the neck of creepy kid. Turns out, this was all the plan she had. It’s not great, Bob. She doesn’t kill the kid but the plan does somehow become kill Geralt, which, competent fighter though she is, cannot end well. She keeps fighting, and he keeps holding back until she finally moves too fast and Geralt is forced to kill her. Creeper Stregobor comes to claim the corpse, creepy kid renounces Geralt with regret and he has more than a few stones thrown at him as he is run out of town for more outcasting, carrying that brooch, so he’s at least going to get paid.
Now That’s an End of Days
Welcome to Cintra.
We first meet Princess Cirilla in the streets of Cintra, posing in a gender neutral outfit as a scamp and playing knucklebones. While she will later claim the horsemen distracted her so she did not win, she was distracted first with a bit of doom premonition. We next see her (and her slightly weird eyes) in the throne room with Grandmother Queen Regnant Calanthe and Grandfather King Consort Eist. They have a nice dynamic, and apart from the mystery of where Ciri’s parents are or what happend to them, Grandma and Grandpa are very well preserved. They are also kind of great, King Eist has a mischevous, irreverent charm and Queen Calanthe is a bad ass.
There’s a celebration at court.
The first inkling we get that something is wrong are murmurs at the top table. Eist has access to some kind of information source…
and it’s not good. ‘Nilfgard’ keeps coming up as a problem, but one the Queen insists is not headed in their direction. Still, she has 50 ships on the way and she’s sure everything is fine. She’s kind of holding it together, but she’s getting briefed at the table this evening and the mood keeps wanting to turn.
The evening wears on, Ciri is pressed into dancing and against her expectations she’s actually enjoying it, and then it all falls apart. The Queen is approached by her guard captain and he tells her that Nilfguard has turned towards and is approaching Cintra. You and I have been primed and now everything we need to know about what that means is going to come at us through the next 20 seconds of performance. The next scenes are combined – royal sorcerer and guard wait with Ciri, and Queen Calanthe and King Eist fight on the battlefield. The battle scene gets stronger as it goes, with a couple of dodgy CG shots on the front end. King Eist is killed by an arrow to the eye, to Calanthe’s distress, and our attention is directed to a lone rider on a ridge. And that bastard’s putting a bow away.
Back in the castle, Ciri is walking around suddenly oppressive surroundings. Everyone is quiet, scraps of whispered conversations are not reassuring. She hears that her grandmother is back and bursts in.
Calanthe tells Ciri that Eist is dead, and in this excerpt absolutely fails to answer Ciri’s why the Nilfguard are attacking question. The ‘supplies’ question she asks is very much not about food but about those poison bottles at the end. Calanthe’s just holding out as long as she can and she knows it will not be long. Still, when Ciri gets worried and asks if Calanthe is going to die, her answer is fantastic. And she holds up her end of that.
The Nilfguard enter the city in impressive numbers. Court sorcerer (name Mousesack?) whips out some magic to keep them off the castle gate. Unfortunately that’s ‘as long as I still have power hold’ not ‘as long as I live hold’, and he’s going to deplete in about 12 hours. So, ‘about 12 hours’ would have been a far better and more useful answer. Still, it means that the last scenes in Cintra are night time and amazing.
And you’ve got to admire someone who looks at that situation and goes – we’re short of fire, that’s our problem. Not enough shit is aflame around here.
Court Sorcerer (Yeah, Mousesack) and the Queen exchange an enigmatic conversation about someone in the gatekeep.
Whatever that was about, when Mousesack comes back he days that ‘He’ is not there.
The Queen gives a Firefly-verse Reaver kind of mentality for the Nilfgaardians and describes the hideous tortures going on outside. Fortunately we only see a terrible but fairly standard televisual massacre in montage.
When being taken away for the ‘protection of the heir’ treatment. Ciri unlocks a sonic scream ability causing eyebrows to raise and significant pauses to pop up all over the room. There’s some prophecy drops, Ciri is the ‘Lion Cub of Cintra’, ‘The world depends on it’. Last minute the Queen tells Ciri
Because he is her destiny apparently, and this twins with the prophecies Geralt is getting. After Ciri has left, Mousesack and the Queen drop that they think that the why of the Nilfgaardians’ attack was something to do with Ciri.
Around the castle, poison is being distributed for a quick death. There are heart wrenching moments, like when the boy that asked Ciri to dance dies. Also strange ones.
Queen Calanthe rouses and drags herself from her deathbed to stirring music and a montage of her realm decimated and death all around, gets to the window, takes it all in and checks out, as promised, with drama.
Ciri’s protector Court Sourcerer Mousesack disappears so fast it is clearly mandated by the plot,when you realise that this huge danger they’re stripping away one of her vital protectors to combat is just some guy that said “Hey”. There’s nothing up that alley they just ran out of, they are in a city being ransacked by reaver types, but someone just said “Hey”, so wave goodbye to Mousesack.
Bye, Mousesack, let’s hope that turns out to be something, huh?
Her remaining guard, Alonzo, dies of an arrow to the throat, and Ciri is completely alone as that ridge rider arrow bastard closes in. We meet up again as she is being carried away and the sight of her burning city is enough to make her scream. Thereby stunning the horse. The rider is angry and tries to get her back, but she knows this is a weapon now, and what an amazing weapon this is for a scared and still fairly little girl. She screams and screams and keeps knocking him back until…