The Witcher Episode 7 Review – Before a Fall
This is a review and recap of episode seven of The Witcher entitled, “Before a Fall”. It was written by Mike Ostrowski and directed by Alik Sakharov. It was released on Netflix on 20th December 2019.
The previous episodes The End’s Beginning, Four Marks, Betrayer Moon, Of Banquets Burials and Bastards, introduced the main characters of Yennefer, Ciri and Geralt. The raunchy Bottled Appetites and the episode with dragons, Rare Species moved the story along towards these two final episodes of the season. The objective with these is to fully explain the story of the Cintra and Nilfgaard war and to get the three main protagonists (along with their perspectives) together on the same timeline. It doesn’t sound particularly exciting, and yet it was. In fact, this episode was one of the more popular episodes of the series according to the viewers and critics when it was released. See the article here.
The episode is full of irony and near misses and although that can be a bit irritating in a fantasy show, in this case it worked really well.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Jaskier is not in this episode – at all – and because of that, “Before a Fall” was certainly less trivial in it’s portrayal. Indeed, the start of the war between Cintra and Nilfgaard is very tense. As is the realisation and sense of destiny playing on Geralt to find and protect Ciri. This all adds another level to an already gripping story depth. Although it has a slightly different entertainment value than the excellent big character development scenes of the first three shows, this episode narrative was definitely more focused on the conclusion of the season story arc – the merging of the three main timelines.
The Witcher Episode Review – The Story So Far
Ciri is still trying to avoid Cahir. However, although she has evaded capture so far, Cahir is closing in. He engaged a shapeshifter known as a ‘doppler’ to help catch her and gathered her from Brokilon Forest where she was being protected by the dryads. She managed to escape eventually, but at the cost of her friendship with Dara the elf who realised that she was simply too much trouble.
Yennefer and Geralt are now fairly close. It’s not so much that they are friends, more like big flirts. It’s pretty clear they like being around each other but they are far from easy in each others company.
The timelines in this episode are still different. Geralt’s and Yennefer’s timelines have now merged of course, but they are still way behind Princess Cirilla’s – they pretty much catch up in this episode.
The Witcher Review – Episode Seven – Before a Fall
Cirilla, Princess of Cintra is on her way to Skellige and now that she no longer has Dara as a companion, she is determined and under no illusions about how dangerous her world has become. She is approached by a kindly couple who are also travelling.
They warn her that she needs to be careful but she has already acknowledged that care is needed wherever she is. The ‘nice lady’ is very persuasive however and eventually Ciri agree’s to go with her where she will be safe. Alas, in the end, Ciri did this so she could steal the lady’s horse and run off.
Geralt on the other hand, has decided (possibly because of the comments people such as Bosh and Yennefer have made and because of the impending war between Cintra and Nilfgaard) that he is cheating destiny by not accepting his fate regarding his Child of Surprise. That is, he has not taken an active role in Cirilla’s upbringing.
He heads into Cintra and meets Mousesack who tells Geralt that his Child of Surprise is a girl and not a boy. Geralt’s surprise is quite deplorable. Not only has he not taken an interest, but he didn’t even know his ward’s gender! He admits to Mousesack that he is only here to find out if he can carry on his journey without the child. That is, that she is safe where she is.
Alas, the druid was followed by a group of assassins. They were sent by Queen Calanthe and she is intent on saving her granddaughter from The Witcher at any cost.
Battle For Princess Cirilla
Mousesack and Geralt manage to avoid the assassins when Mousesack creates a portal to whisk them away.
Geralt hunts down Queen Calanthe to confront her. Calanthe, as we know is a stubborn woman and after losing her daughter, Princess Pavetta, and Cirilla’s father, in a boating catastrophe, Calanthe was almost broken. She is now more protective of Cirilla than ever.
Queen Calanthe is an admirable character in many respects – she is strong and decisive and fun to watch. But her pride was her downfall. Calanthe believes that Cintra is ready for the Nilfgaard invasion based on the pride she has in her army and also because she is confident of the reinforcements currently on their way from Skellige. She views with incredulity the idea that a Witcher can protect her granddaughter better than an entire army and it’s reinforcements.
The irony is quite powerful of course as it’s our observation that Geralt is also prideful. He has hardly been interested in his Child of Surprise and now only seems to care because of peer pressure. We are led to believe that things could have been so much different if Calanthe and Geralt had come to some arrangement to support each other. To be honest though, Geralt is clearly not the goodie in this. It was he who walked away Calanthe points this out to him….. pointedy! In the end, because Geralt cannot promise to walk away again, King Eist imprisons Geralt as it is Calanthe’s wish.
Off to the ‘Dig’ To Get Back Istredd
At about the same time as Gerlt is in Cintra, Yennefer heads to Nazair in Nilfgaard. She is keen to meet up again with her old bonk buddy, Istredd who is supervising an archeological dig. It may be because she is still smarting from the whole ‘infatuation’ thing with Geralt. She can’t trust her own feelings because she partly believes that Geralt has used magic to ensure her romantic inclinations. She is as proud and arrogant as Calanthe and this dilemma is mainly her doing. It’s also possible that she realises this and is frustrated by it. Or, Yennefer is headed to Istredd for distraction to get her mind off Geralt – it may even be that she wants to test her theory that she can’t have another relationship with anyone other than Geralt.
Istredd is the safe choice even though they haven’t seen each other for decades. Unfortunately for her, Istredd isn’t as keen to strike up a romance again as she is. Which is understandable given the web of deceit from their last relationship and it’s acrimonious ending.
We also have to consider that she is a bit of a control freak. One of the reasons for her great power as a sorceress is this prideful fact. She will push herself no matter the cost, to be better than those around her. She is also manipulative as we saw with the whole not-wanting-to-go-to-Nilfgaard escapade when she graduated from Aretuza. As Borsh pointed out in the previous episode, the aggressive and fanatical Nilfgaard inclinations to The Continent might not have happened if a more strong-willed Mage had been appointed instead of Fringilla.
The Vilgefortz Encouragement
Istredd backs away, he doesn’t want anything to do with Yennefer.
She is joined however, by another sorcerer called Vilgefortz of Roggeveen. He is there to encourage Yennefer to return to Aretuza. He talks about the growing threat of Nilfgaard and indicates that Tissaia De Vries, her teacher and mentor, is reaching out for her to return.
When Yennefer returns to Aretuza, she learns that Tissaia didn’t actually request her to visit but Vilgefortz wanted her there as some important decisions would be made that she should be aware of. Yennefer doesn’t actually care. She wonders around the corridors and meets up with three apprentice girls in her old room. She learns that their families purchased them a place at Aretuza and that neither of them had experienced a magical ‘moment’.
The Sorcerers Conference
When Tissaia eventually catches up with her, Yennefer notices that a conference is being held to discuss the Nilfgaard invasion of Cintra. The council are well aware that the impending war with Cintra will cause considerable hardship in the region but Cintra, to a certain extent, have brought it on themselves and the Brotherhood of Sorcerers are not for helping them after being shunned for so long.
Tissaia and Vilgefortz are heading a faction that considers Nilfgaard a greater threat. Fringilla has already stated that Nilfgaard will not interfere with Brotherhood business, but Tissaia and Vilgefortz believe that there is nothing to stop Nilfgaard should Cintra fall. They are determined to do what they can to halt the Nilfgaardian Empires advance. They decide to set up a garrison at Sodden Hill. Tissaia asks (more like begs) Yennefer to join her there. Yennefer agrees. I’m not sure if Yennefer agreed because she genuinely sees Tissaia worried or because Tissaia was begging (meaning she had won their decades long battle of wills) wasn’t clear.
The Witcher Episode Review – The Great Near Miss
Now Further Than Ever
At this point Ciri’s timeline and that of Yennefer and Geralt are all but the same. Geralt is much further away of course and in the final scenes we see that although Ciri is resolute, she’s ill prepared for a journey to Skellige on her own. After stealing the horse belonging to the nice lady (called Zola), Ciri discovers the wisdom in her words when she’s attacked by a gang of boys led by Anton, a Cintran boy she once hung out with as a friend.
They are prepared to steal her supplies – and much worse! Ciri begins chanting magical incantations. These are similar to those Cahir uttered in the previous episode, “The time of the sword and the axe is nigh.…..” etc. She seems to instinctively know how to do this and it isn’t like the simple scream she used to do a few weeks earlier. Ciri’s powers are certainly developing. It looks like the boys will soon be no more.
And there, this marvelous episode ended.
The Witcher Episode Seven Review & Recap – Conclusion
We have now seen the fall of Cintra from a range of different perspectives. Calanthe screwed up …. royally and she paid the price with a terrible defeat where she lost everything. Even her subjects have never been shown to appreciate her so it’s looking like she won’t be missed. We also saw the other perspective – the Nilfgaardian Empire. It may have some wacky fanatical types behind it, but at least its people aren’t starving! Istredd who isn’t as trustworthy as he would like to think, is thriving there. He certainly doesn’t want the delicious and terribly dangerous Yennefer to screw that up for him. So where does that leave Yennefer and Geralt?
So much of Yennefer’s journey in “Before a Fall” is of someone who is in mental turmoil. It was great (and understandable) to see her head back to Aretuza especially after seeing her ex-lover. It also help us, the viewer see she had moved forward from a doting invalid, to a scary Sorceress. As scary as her mentor, who is, as we also saw (quite brilliantly) equally as vulnerable.
The dynamic between Tissaia and Yennefer is wonderful. An alliance between two of the most powerful sorceresses in The Continent (not to mention some of the others) is an exciting prospect for the final episode of Season 1.
The Witcher Episode 7 Review – I’d rate this a glorious 9.2 out of 10
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The Witcher is a Czech-American fantasy drama web television series created by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich for Netflix.
This Witcher TV Show Episode Review is copyright Tony Fawl and not for reproduction without permission.