📺 Where to watch The Witcher: Premieres on Netflix on Thursday, 29 June
⭐️ Our rating: 3/5
🍿 Watch it if you liked: The Wheel of Time, Game of Thrones, The Witcher games
🎭 Who's in it?: Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, Freya Allan, Joey Batey
⏰ How long is it? 5 episodes, approximately one hour each
📖 What’s it about? With Emhyr var Emreis set on finding his daughter Princess Ciri and bringing her back to Nilfgaard, Geralt of Rivia and Yennefer of Vengerberg go into hiding with her.
His exit — and impending replacement by Liam Hemsworth — has dominated the conversation, with rumours around his exit running amok.
Now, the Netflix show is back with the first half of its third season and so viewers will have the chance to see Cavill's last bow as the White Wolf, so it's a shame that it's not as strong a start to his swan song as it could be.
Read more: Why is Henry Cavill leaving The Witcher?
Volume 1 of season 3 is comprised of five episodes, which open with Geralt, Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) and Princess Ciri (Freya Allan) on the run from Nilfgaardian soldiers who are trying to catch Ciri and bring her back to her father, Emhyr var Emreis (Bart Edwards).
As they do so, Ciri starts to come into her own as both a mage and a Witcher thanks to her adoptive family's teachings.
Elsewhere, the kingdom of Redania start to make their move in The Continent with mage Phillippa (Cassie Clare) and partner Dijkstra (Graham McTavish) working their machinations behind the scenes, and the Elves under Nilfgaardian protection also traverse the world to capture Ciri who is their prophesied saviour. There's also plenty more monsters for Geralt, and Ciri, to face.
All of this makes for a rather messy first act. There's quite a few threads to pull on this season and each are too underdeveloped for many of the individual arcs to really take root in viewers' minds.
Simultaneously, even though the season has too much to work with this volume also feels like it is merely meandering towards its finale and isn't nearly as thrilling as previous seasons, and its inconsistency can be a little frustrating at times.
That said, Allan does a fantastic job of playing Ciri now she has come to the forefront of the story. It has become increasingly obvious that her character is the focus now and the actor is taking on the mantle as the next Witcher with impressive ease.
Allan relishes in the challenge, though. She is most impressive when depicting more emotional scenes, but she is also able to follow in Cavill's footsteps well as she proves to be adept at fight scenes when Ciri gets her own thrilling actions sequences. It all goes to show that even if Cavill is leaving, the fantasy hit will be in safe hands with Allan.
Though Geralt and Yennefer's stories are still important this season, and Cavill and Chalotra give moving performances once again, it does seem like their arcs are serving Ciri's growth rather than their own.
Unfortunately, several of the big villains revealed in season 2 also do no get developed much further this season. Emhyr for example is a frustratingly elusive figure, choosing to remain in Nilfgaard and only making brief appearances when the story deems it appropriate to remind viewers that he is supposedly the big bad of the show.
The Wild Hunt, meanwhile, may have made a surprise appearance in season 2's dramatic finale but they only make one, very brief appearance in season 3. It makes one wonder why the writers bothered introducing them in the first place if they won't be used yet.
Of course, this is likely because the group are not a major part of the storyline in Andrzej Sapkowski's Time of Contempt, which this season is based on, but it is easy to see their wasted potential.
The best episode of this half is the finale, which centres on a particularly important event for the mages in Aratusa and sees all the pieces finally fall into place. It is told in an intriguing way, with the events of the evening unfolding through the recollections of different characters until a final shocking reveal is made known about who has been pulling the strings all along.
The Witcher: What other critics thought of S3
Evening Standard: Henry Cavill's muddled swan-song (4 min read)
The Guardian: Henry Cavill’s pulse-quickening last stand as an anti-heroic hunk (4-min read)
It helps to set things up well for the second half of the season, which is a much stronger half - but anyone wanting to know how and why will have to wait until July when the embargo has lifted for volume 2.
The Witcher season 3 parts 1 and 2 are out on Netflix now.
Watch the trailer for The Witcher season 3