Season 3 of Netflix’s television adaptation of The Witcher has officially concluded. The latest season marks the final appearance of star Henry Cavill in the iconic role of Geralt of Rivia, with Liam Hemsworth now set to take over the role in the previously announced fourth season. Production won’t begin on the next season until the current strike issues with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) are resolved, but with Season 3 over, it’s time to take a look back at the show and some of the changes it made throughout in adapting the source material from the page to the screen.
The Witcher has become a hotbed of controversy for its many changes from the source material, as the series is based on an acclaimed series of dark fantasy novels by the author Andrzej Sapkowski. The show has made many questionable alterations throughout the last three seasons, but one of the worst was a newly invented subplot where sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) loses her magical powers in Season 2. We’re going to take a look at how this subplot set off a chain reaction of problems that caused major damage to the series.
Yennefer’s Deal With Voleth Meir Opens a Can of Worms for ‘The Witcher’
For all its issues, the first season of The Witcher ends on the right track. Geralt and Ciri (Freya Allan) are finally united, and Geralt accepts his fated role as Ciri’s guardian since she is his child of destiny. However, in crafting Season 2, showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and her writing team decided that a more direct conflict and villain were necessary for the heroes to face at the end of the season. Enter Voleth Meir (Ania Marson), aka the Deathless Mother, a sinister and volatile presence throughout the season. She tempts characters with Faustian promises to trick them into doing her bidding and free her from the prison imposed upon her by the first Witchers many years ago.
In fact, by the end of Season 2, the Deathless Mother turns out to be a powerful elf and a member of the Wild Hunt. She not only tricks Francesca Findabair (Mecia Simson) and Fringilla Vigo (Mimi Ndiweni), but also Yennefer of Vengerberg. Yennefer has seemingly depleted her magical abilities at the Battle of Sodden Hill, and the Deathless Mother offers Yennefer a deal to return her powers. In exchange, Voleth Meir wants Ciri to be brought to the monolith located in Cintra; Ciri’s native homeland is now occupied by Nilfgaard after they invaded the kingdom in the first season.
The writers essentially opened a giant can of worms with the Voleth Meir character. They invented a new villain for the series who never appeared in the books. If anything, her behavior is closer to that of Gaunter O’Dimm, the devilish entity who appeared in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt DLC, Hearts of Stone. As a result of Voleth Meir’s inclusion, the writers are already veering into dangerous territory by inventing characters, subplots, and events that never appeared in Sapkowski’s books. The worst part about this is that Yennefer eventually accepts and goes along with Voleth Meir’s deal. In short, Yennefer not only betrays Geralt, but she also betrays Ciri.
Yennefer’s Betrayal of Ciri and Geralt Never Happens in the Books
Granted, Yennefer and Geralt have a longstanding, dysfunctional romance in The Witcher novels, and they weren’t exactly on the best of terms when she meets Ciri for the first time in the books. However, betraying Ciri and Geralt in such an unforgivable, irredeemable manner is something that never happens there. Even though the Yennefer in the Netflix series comes to appreciate that Ciri is special, the realization occurs way too late. Her actions help release Voleth Meir from the prison in which she was placed by the early Witchers. Voleth Meir then temporarily possesses Ciri and murders many Witchers at Kaer Morhen, when only a few of their brethren remain.
While Geralt and Yennefer do free Ciri from Voleth Meir’s possession, she returns to another dimension, reuniting with her comrades in the Wild Hunt. Fundamentally, Voleth Meir wins, and she got everything she wanted. Yennefer helps set Voleth Meir free, Voleth manages to get revenge on the Witcher guild; and thanks to Yennefer, the Deathless Mother reunites with the Wild Hunt — which are all events, character actions, and developments that never occurred in the books.
Yennefer is no saint, but this whole outcome was a tough pill for longtime fans of the franchise to swallow, especially with the stories that were intended to come after Season 2. Ciri is supposed to view Yennefer as her adoptive mother, and Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri are a found family — a family bound together by choice, not by blood. Unfortunately, the Netflix series establishes the Ciri and Yennefer relationship on a foundation of deceit and mistrust — not to mention, the show contrived a conflict for Yennefer that was not consistent with the character from the source material.
While Yennefer’s magical powers are important to her, her main drive throughout the show is to become a mother. Earlier in the books and the television series, she attempts to exploit the powers of a djinn to undo her sterility, so she could have a child. In the first season, the show depicts Yennefer undergoing a magical and surgical process that grants her physical beauty and long life, but in doing so, she’s forced to sacrifice her reproductive organs, making her sterile. Over time, Yennefer grows to regret her sterility, yearning to have a child of her own. The irony of the story is that Ciri eventually becomes Yennefer’s found child. Considering Yennefer’s motivation of wanting a child had already been established in the Netflix series, wouldn’t it have made more sense for Voleth Meir to tempt Yennefer by offering her a deal that cures her sterility and restores her reproductive organs? While that would still not be faithful to the books, at least it’s a character motivation that is faithful to the source material that was previously established in the live-action television series.
‘The Witcher’ Season 3 Had to Spend Time Repairing Important Relationships
Alternatively, in the books, it is Geralt who seeks out Yennefer’s help to tutor Ciri, teach the girl about magic, and learn more about Ciri’s powers. The two eventually grow to form a strong bond, with Ciri recognizing Yennefer as her mother, and Yennefer viewing Ciri as her daughter. Considering that Yennefer has yearned to have a child of her own, destiny ultimately grants her an unexpected one in Ciri. Unfortunately, Season 2 twists this subplot and leaves fans with a bitter taste in their mouths from Yennefer’s betrayal of Ciri and Geralt.
Due to the issues caused by Season 2, the start of Season 3 now has to play catch up to “fix” these core relationships to get them to where they need to be in order to adapt the events of the book, Time of Contempt. This leads to a series of scenes of Yennefer and Geralt exchanging “Dear Friend” letters, similar to the book series — except these events with the letters happen in the previous book in the series, Blood of Elves. It rings as a hollow attempt to make up for the events of Season 2 and adapt material reminiscent of the books in order to try and repair Geralt’s trust in Yennefer.
Regardless of the changes, The Witcher is expected to continue with a fourth season. While the show now says goodbye to Cavill as Geralt of Rivia. Hemsworth is currently set to take over the role in the fourth season. The quality of Hemsworth’s performance remains to be seen, but many fans and viewers were enthralled with and attached to Cavill’s performance as the stoic, compassionate Geralt. It’s difficult to accept that Cavill is leaving the show, especially in light of the time he put into the role as well as his chemistry in his relationships with Allan’s Ciri and Chalotra’s Yennefer — but hopefully, a fourth season won’t make the same mistake Season 2 did by fracturing those relationships in the first place.
The Big Picture
- The third season of The Witcher has concluded, marking the final appearance of Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia.
- The show has faced controversy for deviating from the source material, with one of the major missteps being a newly invented subplot involving Yennefer losing her powers in Season 2.
- Yennefer’s betrayal of Ciri and Geralt in the show was a departure from the books and a bitter blow to fans, necessitating a repair of their relationships in Season 3 to stay faithful to the source material.
Season 3 of The Witcher is streaming now on Netflix.