The Witcher Season 1 Review: Episode 7: “Before A Fall”

The Witcher Season 1 Review: Episode 7: “Before A Fall”

SPOILER ALERT: The following review contains details and spoilers from Netflix’s The Witcher Season 1.

We’re heading toward the endgame of The Witcher’s first season, and “Before A Fall” sets up a lot of exciting developments for this show’s future. The only problem is that a lot of them seem like they won’t get paid off until Season 2. While some of the events that transpire here are a little groan-worthy, I’m actually feeling pretty excited for the season finale, especially if it finally drags Ciri out of her meandering storyline and places her into a more relevant part of the show.

You Could Have Saved Us Six Whole Episodes, Calanthe!

At this point, the timelines are all synced up, and our concurrent storylines are now taking place in the present day. On the eve of Nilfgaard’s invasion, Geralt decides to take responsibility for his child surprise, so he heads over to the not-yet-destroyed Cintra to make sure Ciri is safe. Queen Calanthe is still alive at this point, casually strolling through a marketplace seemingly unworried by the impending attack. She’s none too pleased to see The White Wolf, but thanks to Mousesack, she eventually agrees that the Law of Surprise must be honored and will turn Ciri over to Geralt for protection.

However, she tries to trick Geralt by offering up a different child claiming to be Ciri, which is a fairly clever plan. Geralt can obviously spot a fake princess from a mile away, but Calanthe ultimately doesn’t care. She’s not giving up Ciri, and she orders him to get out of Cintra and never return. Geralt refuses to leave, so he winds up imprisoned in the castle dungeon. This means that when Cintra was burnt to the ground by Nilfgaard, Geralt was in the city this entire time.

As far as I can tell, the entire purpose of this show’s fractured timeline was just so we could get the big revelation at the end of this episode that Geralt was present during Cintra’s downfall. This also establishes that Geralt has seen the violence and atrocities that Nilfgaard has committed, so when he’s inevitably called in to help fight them he’ll either have a reason to agree or a reason to refuse so he can protect Ciri. Although he’ll eventually agree anyway, otherwise we won’t have much of a show.

The fact that Geralt just happened to be wandering along Cintra during this period feels a tad contrived. It’s like something out of Lost where you’d learn that another character was just hanging out in the background of pivotal moments. He’s even there when Calanthe jumps out the window. I’m not a big fan of these sorts of “you just missed each other” moments. This show gave us a season-long Ciri storyline where she had nothing to do besides cry or run away. For The Witcher to show us that they could have met six episodes earlier and maybe gotten this story off the ground sooner is more annoying than anything.

Magic Life During Wartime

During all of this, Yennefer is off trying to rekindle the flame with Istredd, only for him to be a big ol’ nerd and shut her down in favor of his research. After this humiliating rejection, a new character by the name of Vilgefortz of Roggeveen arrives to warn her that Nilfgaard is conscripting mages into service against their will and that she’s needed at Aretuza. Yennefer couldn’t care less about that until Vilgefortz reveals that Tissaia said she was the finest student she ever taught, which is all the ego-stroking Yen needs to head back to her alma mater.

We discover the reason behind this visit is that Tissaia and her fellow non-corrupt mages want to head to Cintra to help fight against Nilfgaard. However, Fringilla arrives to convince the mages that Nilfgaard’s intentions are altruistic and for the good of the Continent. And of course, even though a child could tell she’s crazy and evil as hell, Aretuza votes to not interfere with the Cintra attack.

What’s great about this storyline is it establishes exactly why Yennefer has been acting so irrational and impulsive. She basically has those post-college blues, where you realize that the major you spent all those years studying for isn’t what you really want to do. She wants to know that there’s a point to her existence – a destiny, you might call it – and that she’ll leave behind some kind of legacy. I think the fight against Nilfgaard is going to end up being the purpose she needs in her life. It’s a bit hamfisted, but if it leads to Yennefer becoming a cool, war-scarred battle mage, then I’m all for it.

You Wouldn’t Like Her When She’s Angry

Ciri is now completely on her own after Dara abandoned her and Mousesack is dead. She demonstrates the most survival skills I’ve ever seen from her, as she steals a horse and makes a fire out in the wilderness. That fire attracts some displaced Cintra refugees, but unfortunately, they’re not too high on members of the royal family right now. They’re going to turn her over to Nilfgaard for a hefty reward, which doesn’t work out well for them.

Ciri has a heavy-duty magic freakout and begins chanting some ominous-sounding incantations about the time of the sword and ax being nigh. This is disturbingly similar to something Cahir said in “Rare Species,” meaning that she definitely has some kind of spiritual connection to The White Flame cult. The episode ends before we see the aftermath of her rage-induced chaos, but it’s safe to assume her captors are going to be missing some limbs.

This means something interesting is finally happening with Ciri’s storyline! And it only took nearly the entire season. However, I’m still quite disappointed that Ciri and Geralt only have one episode left to have their big, dramatic meeting. I feel like Ciri spent so much time doing absolutely nothing this season that we could have cut 80% of her scenes. All we would lose is a bunch of running and a pointless detour to Brokilon forest. Her character needs so much more development because as this season ends, all Ciri seems to be is a magic child and a damsel in distress.

It’s All Coming Together

“Before A Fall” is mainly a place-setting episode. We know now that Geralt has been in Cintra this whole time, and we have an idea of why The White Flame wants Ciri. Yennefer is being pushed toward the fight with Nilfgaard, and that will likely reunite her with Geralt so she can help him protect Ciri.

About halfway through The Witcher, I started getting concerned that this season would be nothing more than a teaser of what the show might become in Season 2. That sadly seems to be the case. I had hoped that we would have the whole family together a lot sooner. Instead, Season 1 looks like it’ll be nothing more than homework for people who want to jump into the show later on.

The next episode should give us some cathartic moments and a big, fun magic battle. And who knows, maybe Ciri will finally spend some time outside of a giant forest for once.

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