The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1 Suffers from its Ciri Focal Point

TV Features The Witcher
The Witcher Season 3 Volume 1 Suffers from its Ciri Focal Point

It’s no secret that The Witcher has been one of the best-received fantasy series in recent years. Even with the sudden announcement of Henry Cavill’s departure after the release of Season 3 Volume 2, viewers have been quick to lap up each installment since its debut in 2019. At its heart, the gutsy tale of a lone yet incredibly alluring monster-hunter is tantalizingly sexy. The fact that Cavill is easy on the eyes isn’t a hindrance either, but the classic narrative of the chosen one embarking on a quest tinged by destiny offers the ultimate palette cleanser in the form of TV viewing. Additional plot points of a tortured love interest, war between kingdoms, and a creature around every corner able to rip off a hand also sweeten the fantastical deal. 

In a world full of mythical monsters, magical factions, and a hefty dose of fictional imagery, anyone could be anything. However, this has yet to be the case for Freya Allan’s Princess Ciri, who has remained an integral core character since The Witcher’s beginning. Her backstory is impeccably tragic, having been kidnapped as a child during the Battle of Cintra before escaping to roam the woods as a lost and lonely soul. She’s later picked up by a family of merchants, yet her return to her rightful place becomes all anyone can talk about. There’s only one small catch: by the end of Season 2, no one can agree where Ciri’s “rightful” place actually is. 

As Season 3 opens, a whole manner of groups are after Ciri. The Elves have joined forces with rogue intelligence officer Cahir after being brought together by antagonist The White Flame, who also happens to be Ciri’s real father. A fiery mage named Rience (Chris Fulton) will do whatever it takes to get his hands on her, while the Redanian kingdom pursues control of Cintra through her potential capture. In the midst of the chaos, the much-forgotten Wild Hunt has equally threatened Ciri with the end of her life. From all fronts, it’s not looking good. Yet as the season progresses, there’s a new question presented to those watching: is Ciri actually worth any of the bother?

Follow-up seasons to any program are arguably never as good as their debut—but even with this in mind, the third season of The Witcher has potentially made a very noticeable error of judgment. On the one hand, Ciri is effortlessly the lynchpin for much of what happens in the Witcher world, with certain characters never able to cross paths unless she’s somehow involved. At the same time, Ciri’s character falls into a mundanely predictable pattern of a damsel in distress, despite her simultaneously being a potential savior with an unimaginable amount of natural talent. Considering the show is set in the 1200s, it has potentially taken Ciri’s personal development a little too far back in the past.

When viewers rejoin Ciri in the first episode of Season 3, she’s a young woman with a confidence crisis. Under the guidance of Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and the protection of Geralt, Ciri’s at odds with the lack of control she has over her fledgling skills. The majority of her screen time through the first two episodes is a period of experimentation that never seems to end in her favor. She’s below average at her best, and often succumbs to the emotions women are allegedly supposed to feel in their gendered role—fear, frustration, and the wanting for a man to swoop in to make it all better.

Even when Ciri begins to master her talent in Episode 4, she frequently looks to Geralt for approval or comfort. When she is around Yennefer alone, Ciri frequently makes her anger known violently, having a particularly toddler-like temper tantrum on a visit back to Aretuza. By Episode 5, Ciri is nowhere to be seen, perhaps prompting the idea that The Witcher’s third season fares better when her storyline takes a backseat. 

At every possible turn, Ciri is the cliched princess. She acts out in spurts of infantilized brattiness, and pins her hopes on the arrival of her destined savior (Geralt) when all feels lost. Her backstory is rich in detail, but it exists mostly to enrich those around her—most of whom are often men—rather than herself. The fact that she doesn’t have immediate skill is a testament to realism, yet it does her obviously high level of intellect an injustice. If it wasn’t for the show’s format, she’d be one scene away from singing Someday My Prince Will Come

To add salt to the wound, The Witcher is full of complex, nuanced, and satisfyingly fulfilling female characters, yet rarely capitalizes on any of them. Season 3 teases the sensual and seductive magical practices of Phillippa (Cassie Clare), who is using forms of passionate manipulation to get the information she’s looking for. Working in conjunction with King Vizimir’s male spies, Phillippa not only outshines them, but is often more fruitful in her labor. Rectrix Tissia (MyAnna Buring) is also vitally underused throughout the season, never faring better than being a spousal aide to the conniving Vilgefortz. A supporting role isn’t something expected of a woman who’s supposedly the most powerful sorceress in the kingdoms, yet she dutifully wears her husband’s gifted bracelet and stays in her lane. 

Along with Triss Merigold (Anna Shaffer) and Francesca Findabair (Mecia Simson), the other women of The Witcher are dutifully left out in the cold. In their place, Ciri struggles to be a heroine of the value that others have placed on her—but how can she be when she hasn’t been crafted that way? The decision to favor her storyline is a misguided one, unraveling the nuances of other characters by its own inner prejudice and lack of empowered agency. As a result, the overall season becomes a mundane watch, bogged down in a race against time that doesn’t have much substance behind the drama. If The Witcher wants to end its third season with complexity, the leading lady must be given her due attention: Ciri’s only “rightful” place is in her own, well-rounded (and unbiased) narrative. 

Jasmine Valentine is the Editor-in-Chief of FILMHOUNDS Magazine and a freelance entertainment writer from London. Follow her at @thejasvalentine for all things Cate Blanchett and the Wachowski’s 1996 classic, Bound.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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