After much to do, and a split season to mark the occasion, Henry Cavill has hung up his swords as The Witcher’s Geralt of Rivia. The second volume of the Netflix show’s third season began streaming this week, and they’re a fascinatingly weird trio—but they can’t escape the context surrounding them.
That context, of course, is this is the last time we’ll see Henry Cavill in the show’s titular role. Next time Geralt wanders onto Netflix, he’ll look like Liam Hemsworth, and The Witcher makes the decision to not acknowledge this transformation in the process—there is no Doctor Who-esque fountain of light here. Instead, it seems, we’ll carry on regardless like nothing has happened.
But even then, the last three episodes of Cavill’s tenure are a fascinating way to send him out—or at the very least a perplexing choice. After spending the season setting up a conflict between Geralt and the sinister turncoat mage Vilgefortz, the climax of season three sees that duel occur... and Geralt get his ass handed to him. It’s extremely Geralt in some ways, but at the same time, the depth of his loss is unlike anything the show has put its hero through so far. Vilgefortz thoroughly beats Geralt to the point that the vast majority of the remaining runtime in the volume is dedicated to Henry Cavill lying down and recovering, and then occasionally trying to stand up and failing. It’s far from the “suitably epic” sendoff that was teased.
Part of the fallout of this devastating fight is a frustration that season three had otherwise largely avoided—separating the show’s main trio. Geralt is left to recover with the aid of a new ally, an archer named Milva (Shang-Chi’s Meng’er Zhang), while Yennefer deals with the surviving mages of Aretuza in the wake of Vilgefortz’s betrayal. Ciri, meanwhile, is cast to parts unknown when her powerful magics randomly teleport her away to a far off desert land. It’s not that it’s wild that most of Cavill’s final hour as Geralt is spent in bed, but that really his time as Geralt ends in such a sedately bizarre manner. After the Vilgefortz fight, there’s little in the way of conflict to deal with; the banter that made Yennefer, Ciri, and Geralt such a charming trio to watch is nonexistent, as new relationships and connections are made in their separation. We’ve been reminded for the last year that this is Cavill bowing out of the role, and yet everything occurring in the show after this jolt of action is so wildly underwhelming that it feels bizarre that there isn’t some kind of momentous explosion of drama that ignites this new phase of the series’ lifespan.
And yet, Cavill’s actual last scene in the series is kind of great, and a fitting farewell to the arc he has taken Geralt on across these three seasons. Largely recovered from the wounds he sustained fighting Vilegefortz, Geralt and Jaskier (with Milva deciding to join them) begin making their way to try and find Ciri, navigating a Nilfgaardian checkpoint where the soldiers of the Empire are shaking down any refugees coming through. After the duo manage to bribe their way through, Geralt finds himself halting—the family in the queue behind them is being accosted, and one of the Nilfgaard soldiers takes a small doll from the young girl, threatening the family that if they fight back “she’ll leave here an orphan.”
No matter what Jaskier tells him—they need to find Ciri, they can’t afford attention, they can’t save everyone—the Geralt of season three is very different to the man we met in season one, the man who was always moving, always on the run from any kind of responsibility that wasn’t fighting monsters and getting paid for it. This Geralt cannot help but help, and help he does, violently slaughtering the Nilfgaardians at the outpost while Jaskier leads the refugees to safety. In contrast to the beating he took facing Vilgefortz, this is Geralt at his best, a swirl of violence and brutality—but in the name of defending others, just as he intends to keep protecting Ciri. The last sights we see of Cavill’s Geralt is him handing the doll back to the young girl, getting his horse, and walking off into the the distance with Jaskier and now Milva by his side.
For all the weirdness that leads to this moment across these three episodes, this is the moment that feels best like it was perhaps tailored as a goodbye to Cavill’s version of the character. It’s a fun little fight scene, but it’s also an important moment to reflect on how much Geralt has grown as a person—thanks to the people the back part of the season tears away from him. It takes its time getting to that moment, and does so weirdly, but at least it’s a higher note than anything else that comes in this awkward batch of episodes.
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