Witcher Episode Ranking
Having gone deep on every episode of The Witcher’s first season—a promising, but very up-and-down show that has captured the interest of the online world—I’m ready to release a definitive, well-researched ranking of its episodes. Here they are, worst to best.
Unfortunately for The Witcher, the show’s first episode is by far its weakest. It took a couple of episodes to click for a couple of reasons: 1) The inconsistent writing and acting were at their worst early on, and 2) creators were in a hurry to create a high-stakes world without putting in the work to make the audience care.
There were hints at an exciting, beautiful world and an expertly choreographed fight scene, but that wasn’t enough to salvage a poor start.
Episode 7 was a big late-season let-down, seemingly treading water in exchange for setting up The Witcher’s final episode. None of the three characters do much in their respective timelines, with Yen especially wasting precious time in long boring conversations and revisiting memories (read: scenes from old episodes).
Yennefer’s introduction was messy, and Four Marks started the trend of terrible pacing and an inability to figure out how to jump between timelines effectively.
The introduction of Jaskier was a game-changer as a foil for Cavill’s Geralt, though, who works much better when he has another character to play off of, and the writing—while still middling—was a notable improvement over The End’s Beginning.
While I gave episodes 6 and 4 the same three-star rating as episode 2, they were significantly higher quality. The idea of a dragon hunt is a fun setup for an episode, and Rare Species was the only episode to mix all three of Geralt, Jaskier, and Yennefer for an extended time—they work well together. The writers’ desire to blow through exposition creates a stilted relationship between Geralt and Yen, and the “twists” in this episode were predictable. However, it was still an enjoyable installment of The Witcher.
Episode 4 explored a lot of the timeline chicanery that the show had been dancing around for the first part of the season, for better and worse. Calanthe and Eist were excellent additions to the show, as was the newly debuted grown-up Yen.
On the downside, outing the timeline twist involved a bunch of laborious exposition and hamfisted contrivances, and Episode 4 also started the run of weakness for Ciri that lasted most of the rest of the season after a strong start.
Bonus: Geralt bathtub scene
Episodes 3 and 5 were another step up as powerful examples of what the show could do. After the first two episodes, Betrayer Moon was a revelation: Geralt’s Striga hunt was the first example of more episodic storytelling that would serve The Witcher well several times, the writing was vastly superior to anything the show had displayed so far, and the extended monster fight showed impressive creativity. In Yen’s storyline, the evolution from broken girl into intimidating (if still broken) sorceress was a sight to behold.
The show still struggled horribly with pacing as it bounced between timelines, but Betrayer Moon was a great glimpse of what The Witcher could be.
Bottled Appetites was the first episode that felt like it could stand on its own instead of getting bogged down under the weight of untangling The Witcher’s timeline. While it was weaker for the lack of a fight scene, it was a lovely, almost-self-contained story that also served the greater story arc and did justice to the Geralt-Yennefer relationship. Ciri’s time on screen was a waste, but the episode as a whole had the fewest weaknesses of any all season.
While episode 7 was a disaster, it did set up the season’s best: Much More was outstanding. Geralt and Ciri didn’t do a lot, but they did (finally) meet up, and the majority of the runtime was spent with Yennefer and the other mages’ intense battle against Nilfgaard. The Battle of Sodden Hill was masterfully executed and a delight to watch unfold. The Witcher’s first season was a bit stingy with its insight into different magical powers, but it finally put a plethora on display, while also giving some hints as to what we could look forward to in season 2.
While the show started at its worst, it went out at its best. Here’s hoping the second season can pick up on that momentum.