Title: The Witcher, Episode Seven: Before a Fall
Release Date: December 20, 2019
Streaming on Netflix
Created by: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, based on the series by Andrzej Sapkowski
Running Time: 47 minutes
Before a Fall: Who Says You Can’t Go Back?
In the first season of The Witcher’s penultimate episode, we’ve split back into three storylines. We start with Ciri, alone, heading to Skellige. Before she can actually do much of anything, however, the scene shifts back to Geralt, looking over a valley, watching an army march. That sets the stage for the proper beginning of Before a Fall.
Spoilers below for episode seven of The Witcher.
Geralt: The Other Side
Geralt is watching the Nilfgaardian army march toward Cintra, which places us shortly before the attack on Cintra in the first episode (form Ciri’s point of view)—in other word’s, he’s not quite caught up to her, but is in the same general time.
Geralt meets with Mousesack, who tells him that Pavetta and Duny died at sea, and Calanthe has raised ciri. Some assassins look an awful lot like knights from Cintra, so Geralt threatens Mousesack, who teleports them away back to Cintra so Geralt can confront Calanthe. He was heading back to check on Ciri but tells Calanthe that he might not have taken her if Calanthe had treated him more like a friend. The reasoning there is not at all clear. He also contradicts that by saying that he wants to take her for as long as Cintra is under threat from Nilfgaard and then bring her back once the danger has passed.
Calanthe says she’ll submit to the Law of Surprise (as always, she’s lying).
Geralt walks in on Calanthe explaining to a younger blond girl that is very much not Ciri that she must go with Geralt. Some shots of Cavill’s tightly leather-clad butt walking down the street, and we see a repeat of Ciri playing a street game with her urchin friends from The End’s Beginning, in which fake Ciri bids them farewell. Watching, Geralt knows he’s been had!
Eist shows up and is willing to forsake the law of surprise, trapping Geralt to send him to the dungeon. Cavill growls extra-hard.
We’re back to the siege at the time that Calanthe is injured, and Mousesack’s magic fails (episode one), but we’re seeing it now from Geralt’s POV in the dungeon as well. A dying Calanthe wants Ciri remitted to the witcher’s care, but he has escaped.
We’re finally just about caught up in time for the last episode. I’m excited about that, though I’m also disappointed that it took this long. It should have happened three or four episodes sooner. It’s a compelling dramatic choice to start Ciri’s timeline off here in episode one and have Geralt spend the entire season getting there, but in practice, it’s the reason that she spent most of the season treading water. Further, by halfway through the season, it was clear where we were heading, and all we wanted was to get there, so playing keep-away was just frustrating.
Yennefer: Remember When You Watched The Witcher?
Yen is passing through a Nilfgaardian work camp. Istredd, her school boyfriend, is there. They catch up. He’s researching a “magnalith,” which definitely sounds like a thing.
Istredd has actually grown a beard, showing the passage of time. Shocking. He’s the only person who has changed in several decades. Did the show-runners realize at the end of the season how they had screwed the pooch? Did Istredd’s actor realize how stupid nobody changing across half a century was and decided to do it himself? Who knows!
Yen and Istredd talk for a long time, and it isn’t that interesting a conversation. Shows need to be interesting if they’re going to break up the action and spectacle for four minutes of quiet talking in a dark room. It didn’t work here. The characters spent most of the time just talking about the fact that they dated back at magic school and broke up, and Yen wanted power. We know. We watched it happen.
After Istredd walks out, Yen is approached by Vilgefortz, a name that fans of the books or games will recognize. Suffice to say, he’s an extremely powerful mage. He propositions her to join him on a trip to Aretuza on the advice of Tissaia because mages need to rally against Nilfgaard. Thanks to some flattery, Yen agrees.
The next conversation, between Yen, Vilgefortz, and Vanielle of Brugge is painfully awkward and poorly acted.
As Yen walks through the halls of Aretuza, she hears her own memories, and we join her in watching scenes from her time at magic school. In a series comprising only eight episodes, doing a flashback episode seems like an awful waste of time. She also starts giving questionable advice—and drugs—to the current students.
All the council mages from Yen’s early episodes are here. Tissaia shows up. Triss is here! And she’s apparently a respected mage, even though they never really dealt with that when they introduced her in episode three. (To be clear, Triss is, canonically, a powerful mage—Geralt has a thing for sorceresses, so if he meets one, it’s a safe bet he’ll sleep with her at some point—but, weirdly, she didn’t really do any magic in her only appearance, and suddenly she’s being summoned to a conclave).
The mages are arguing over their position on the Nilfgaardian invasion of Cintra. Vilgefortz and Tissaia want to intervene. Stregobor wants not to. Everybody is conveniently presorted by opinion on sides of a big table.
Fringilla comes in and says Nilfgaard only wants to fight Cintra. Rather than being mad at her, everyone talks about how it’s Yennefer’s fault that Fringilla is in Nilfgaard (just as Borch did in the last episode). The country has turned into a colonizing militaristic power. Tissaia makes a very obvious analogy between Cintra and Yennefer. This episode’s writing has been the least subtle since the first two of the season, and it’s hard not to be aware that everybody is continually doing and saying what they need to to get where the show-runners want them and not what it makes sense for them to do or say.
As we know, the mages vote to bone Cintra. Despite the ruling, Tissaia and Vilgefortz aim to fight to protect Cintra and ask Yen for her help. In place of a real answer, she says something bitchy.
Ciri: It’s Not Paranoia if Everyone is Out To Get You
Ciri’s involvement in this episode is short, but she starts us off and ends us. Since escaping the doppler and parting with Dara, she’s now trying to get to Skellige solo. A strange lady offers to take her in, which is notable because she has horses named Clip and Clop. Instead of thanking her, Ciri steals one of her horses, which shows us how the world has turned her cold. Ciri certainly sucks nowadays, but at least she’s doing something finally. We see her a couple more times, briefly, but she doesn’t really do anything until the end of Before a Fall.
In the episode’s final scene, Ciri is approached by a group of people through tall wheatstalks, giving off a major horror movie vibe. She recognizes them as Cintrans—one is even a rapscallion street friend of hers from her gambling days—but instead of welcoming her, they grab her, take her stuff and threaten to turn her in to Nilfgaard. Suddenly, Ciri gets taken over by the Source and starts speaking in creepy-lady tongues as the episode ends.
Verdict: There was a lot not to like in Before a Fall. It’s a waste to spend so much time on flashbacks to things we’ve already seen unless you’re going to expand or shed new light on them. A lot of Yen’s story this episode was just rehashing. There was also some painfully weak acting. This episode had the lowest writing and acting since the first two of the season when The Witcher was still finding its footing. Most of what worked was simply because an entertaining world has been built and not because of anything Before a Fall did well. It does feel like it’s trying to set things up for a strong final episode, so hopefully, the season ends on a strong note.
Before a Fall’s Line of the Episode:
Yen: “It sounds to me like you bought in.”
Istredd: “No … No. It’s just that sometimes boring is better.”
Yen: “No, it’s not.”
What did you think about Before a Fall episode? Let us know in the comments below.
- The Witcher has built an interesting world, and I’m invested.
- We’re finally starting to see the payoff of Geralt catching up to Ciri’s timeline.
- So much of this episode was spent wasting time revisiting things we already saw in past episodes
- Some weak acting performances
- Contrived writing hasn’t been hard to find, but this episode was especially guilty
- Everything about Geralt and Calanthe’s interactions, which was ostensibly a driving force for the episode, was illogical.