The Witcher S01E03 Episode Review – Betrayer Moon
This is a review and recap of ‘The Witcher’ Episode Three entitled “Betrayer Moon”. It was written by Beau DeMayo and was released on Netflix on 20th December 2019.
The last two episodes The End’s Beginning and Four Marks introduced us to the main characters, Geralt, Cirilla, Yennefer and Jaskier, though Jaskier is more of a secondary character – much as it would upset him to hear that :). There are no further main characters left to introduce and this episode gets into some great storytelling and action. In particular, the development of Yennefer was really well timed and the monster battle was superb. If I had a criticism, it was that Ciri wasn’t in the show much..
This episode was considered one of the best episodes of the season by viewers and critics alike. See the estimated early season viewer ratings here.
As You Know (but we need to make sure just in case)
Ciri is on the run from the Nilfgaardian Empire. It seems that they are after the Princess of Cintra because of some ‘special skill’ or power. This seems to manifest itself as a scream that debilitates those in earshot (animal or human). I think she is as surprised as anyone else that she can do this and Cahir is a high ranking soldier from the Nilfgaardian Empire focused on capturing her. Indeed, it looked like Cahir was the leader of the army that invaded Cintra – it’s possible that the invasion was more than a ‘land grab’ – maybe Ciri was actually the main goal!
The time settings of Geralt, Yennefer and Ciri are different. It may look like the stories are running in parallel timelines, but they aren’t. Broadly speaking, Yennefer’s story started 100 years (or longer) before the invasion of Cintra by the Nilfgaardian Empire. Geralt’s timeline, I think, is somewhere in between, though maybe not quite as far back. I won’t be making any comments about the differences during this review unless it’s important to the episode story. As long as you are aware of the difference, it will be ok.
The Witcher Episode Review & Recap – Betrayer Moon
This episode opens with a young boy explaining why he believes he is the victim of a Vudodlak (this is a creature like a werewolf). The poor boy, has some horrific wounds! His father pays a Witcher (not Geralt) the princely sum of three thousand orrens to slay the beast. Soon after, the boy dies of his wounds.
The Witcher sets off to find his prey.
He manages to find some sort of slaughterhouse or meat storage room (carcasses are hanging on hooks etc.) The Witcher is ambushed and killed.
Elsewhere, Geralt is chatting to a lady friend (a self confessed whore). Despite her ample attentions, he doesn’t look as interested as half the viewing audience. It seems that she knows him pretty well and notices a new scar (the one Renfri had made). Later, she remarks that a Witcher like him had gone to Temeria, where he was paid 3,000 orrens to kill a monster. Unfortunately, he didn’t. It seems that the miners who paid him believe he simply ran away. Geralt pays his companion for her hospitality but this causes him to go into debt for the room.
He leaves his horse, Roach as collateral and heads out to Temeria to see if he can profitably resolve the situation with his colleague and the miners. He expects to return a few days later to claim his horse. Jeez, how is he going to do that? Catch a train?
Ok, so you may have noticed that every episode we hear of different money and rates of value. A pig in Vengerberg for instance, costs 10 marks. A little hunchback girl costs 4 marks and the monster slaying in the last episode costs a measly 150 ducs whereas it can cost 3000 orrens in the country of Temeria. It seems that the regions in The Continent are definitely countries with their own monetary systems. The key thing to remember is that each region is autonomous. Each country has its own money, method of government, rule of law and likely, different moral values. It is also noticeable that The Witcher ‘gets around’, (no, I don’t mean about his ‘companions’), this is his third country in as many episodes.
Eventually, Geralt finds a group of angry miners and the father of the boy that had died. Geralt apologizes for the deceit of his colleague and offers to do the job at a third of the price (with payment only after killing the Vudodlak).
Foltest’s Men and the Sorceress
Soon after, some soldiers from King’s garrison disperse the miners.
Lord Ostrit, the officer in charge of the guard of the local monarch (King Foltest) attempts to calm the miners and consoles the boys father telling him that revenge will not ease his pain. The miners are angry that the monster is killing them and the King doesn’t seem concerned. The officer stays calm as he talks to them – even when spat at, but the miners eventually leave.
Geralt is unwelcome however, and the soldiers insist of escorting him back to the border. On the way, they soldiers are suddenly afflicted by something and rendered unconscious. They fall to the ground. The perpetrator reveals herself to be Triss Merigold (played by Anna Shaffer) who is the sorceress of King Foltest. Triss wants Geralt to ‘save’ the beast and not kill it!
Something Fishy about the Werewolf
She tells Geralt that she had told the story of the werewolf to his prostitute friend in the hope that it would entice him to visit Temeria to right the wrong of his compatriot. Geralt goes with Triss to the castle and she tells him that that six years previously, people went missing near the crypts where the king’s sister Adda was buried. It was rumoured that she was having an affair and was pregnant when she died. The unborn child would have been the heir as King Foltest had not married.
Triss believes that the creature is not a Vudodlak and offers 2000 orrens reward if Geralt can figure out what killed the victims. She shows Geralt the secretly stored (in salt) bodies of all the victims and Geralt inspects each one, including the Witcher. He had not run off as the miners had assumed, but had been killed by the creature too. Geralt continues his inspection.
A Witcher is not only good at killing monsters, he is an expert and recognising each species from various characteristics that they display, especially at the scene of an attack or on the bodies of their victims. Witcher study monsters in great detail and this knowledge is one of their greatest defences – their lives after all, depend on it. They are excellent trackers and know a great deal about the flora and fauna for the The Continent. They need to prepare properly and sometimes need special elixirs and potions. These need to be chosen carefully – the wrong potion can be useless against the wrong foe. Witchers typically undertake meticulous forensic examinations and can be considered excellent detectives.
In a scene which was reminiscent of the Witcher 3 game, Geralt explains as he examines, “the livers and hearts are missing in each of them.” He determines that they died at the hands of a Striga and not a Vudodlak.
He also adds that Adda must have been pregnant with a daughter as all Strigas are female. The creature is the cursed unborn child of Adda (and therefore a Princess) that had continued to live after Adda’s death (eeew much!)
The Witcher Episode Review – From Striga To Orgasmic Applause
Just as we are about to throw-up at the thought of the ‘creature’ slashing and chomping on it’s victims, we are taken to a passionate lovemaking session between a hunchback girl with a deformed jaw and a normal(ish) dude. Istredd and Yennefer are erm.. hard at it… but can you believe it, we were actually distracted by the appreciative audience watching them! I’m sure I’ve had similar nightmares! As they climax, the watching group attentively applaud – Nope, I never had a dream like that – though I damned well should have!
There was no cheering – which somehow seemed appropriate.
Dress Fitting and Body Change
They dress and we learn that they have both been at Aretuza for years. They have both been very good at their studies and are about to graduate (if that’s a thing). Yennefer will soon be assigned to the ruling body of a country called Aedirn. Istredd however will not be going with her, he is destined to go to Temeria. It’s not clear if the two had previously confessed (or discovered) their deceit of the last episode but if they did, it would explain the viewing audience. They were, apparently, members of the sorceress council.
It may be that there is a ceremony for their assignment as later we see Yennefer being fitted for a dress. The sorcerer tells Yennefer that she is the ‘first draft’ of what nature intended. She is shown a collection of dresses. I’m not sure why he would think that a dress is going to help her condition much?
She is joined by Tissaia who tells her that her current ‘form’ isn’t permanent. Yennefer is capable of changing herself, she can re-make herself through magic.
A Right Royal Cursed Monster
Triss Merigold and Geralt visit King Foltest to tell him what they have discovered and that they might be able to save the monster.
There is an argument and it’s not clear if people don’t believe what they are trying to say or that they don’t want to believe it. Lets face it, we all know where this is going and it’s pretty much a given that everyone in the room can guess too. Eventually, Geralt confronts the King that he slept with and impregnated his sister, Adda. He must therefore be the father of the Striga. The king gets angry and banishes Geralt from Temeria.
The Sorcerers ‘Chapter’ Meeting
We next get to see a meeting between 12 important sorcerers. They discuss where the current batch of trained sorcerers should be assigned. This includes both Yennefer and Fringilla.
This is a time before Ciri and even before Calanthe is Queen. It seems that Cintra is isolationist in it’s politics. The Cintra before Ciri was a powerful and even arrogant nation headed by a monarchy that was very sure of itself and mistrustful of mages and sorcerers. We learn that King Dogorad (the monarch before Calanthe) had banned mages in the country and Calanthe is just as arrogant/closed-minded.
A sorcerer reveals that the Nilfgaardian King Fergus is ‘excitable’. “Horny” corrects Stregobor. Apparently, he is wasting the kingdom’s money on bedding prostitutes and partying as his people starve. The group believe that they need a good mage assigned there but nobody wants the job. They consider others but Stregobor suggests sending Yennefer revealing to the council that she is part elf. A trait most Nilfgaardians dislike and that Aedirn would refuse. The council votes and agrees to send Yennefer to Nilfgaard.
Yennefer leans of their decision and Tessaia explains that she was unable to persuade them otherwise because they knew she is part elf which prohibits her from knowingly being assigned to Aedirn. It is clear that Tessaia didn’t tell the chapter, this information could only have come from Yennefer or Istredd.
The Witcher Episode Review – Geralt is Duty Bound
In Temaria, Geralt decides to defy the King and continues his pursuit of the beast. There could be lots of reasons for this, possibly he feels duty bound to ‘fix’ the cursed creature and return her humanity – although the princess is likely to be very, VERY mentally ill because of the way it has lived for the last few years. Triss Merigold also joins as they sneak inside an abandoned areas of the castle.
They visit Adda’s castle, now derelict after her death and in her bedroom, find hidden letters from the mother, Queen Sancia. This is evidence that Queen Sancia may have cursed her own children because they had an incestuous affair and so Sancia wanted Adda’s child killed. Geralt and Triss then talk to Lord Ostrit whom we met earlier with the miners. He believed that Foltest raped his sister and then cursed the child to cover it. Geralt accuses Ostrit of lying as he was able to smell Lord Ostrit on Adda’s bed sheets – to the point where he could smell what they had been up to (eh! – like 7 years earlier!)
Ostrit admits to cursing Foltest. Unfortunately the effect was to kill Adda and the curse would also turn the unborn child into a monster that would feed of the mothers remains until it was strong enough to kill for itself. Lord Ostrit was bitter with jealousy and wanted to watch as the kingdom deteriorated and see his rival suffer.
The Argument and the Transformation
At the Tower of Gulls, The latest batch of Sorcerers and Sorceresses and other magical graduates are undertaking their oaths ‘to make good on the promise of the Spheres’ to the Brotherhood. Istredd is among the graduates but Yennefer isn’t. When he goes to find her, she rebukes him for betraying her to Stregobor about her elven heritage. He apologises but points out that they both knew they spied on each other for their respective mentors. Yennefer doesn’t like the idea.
This is definitely a breakup argument and we were left in almost no doubt that there would be no hunchback make-up sex following the harsh words that they threw at each other.
In the other rooms, the graduation ceremony is complete and the the monarchs of other kingdoms are meeting up with the mages that have been assigned. We see Fringilla dancing with the arrogant King of Aedirn and the whole royal family of Temaria including the young Prince Foltest and the doomed Princess Adda.
Yennefer meanwhile, has asked the enchanter to transform her into a beautiful woman. So determined is she, that she does not to wait for herbs to be prepared to render her unconscious. She believed she can take the pain.
Foltest Transforms His Feelings
The now grown up King Foltest meets with Geralt at the gates of his kingdom. This time, the King greets him enthusiastically after learning from his sorceress that it is possible to make his daughter human again. He tells Geralt that he loved Adda very much although he always regretted the trouble it caused them both.
Geralt had previously punched Lord Orstrit and tied him to Adda’s bed in the old and derelict castle that was once Adda’s home. He had asked him to reveal how to lift the curse. Ostrit would later die at the hands of the Striga but not before Geralt learned that if he fights the monster until dawn while keeping it away from the crypt, the curse would be lifted and the Striga would become human.
Geralt takes a potion and hurriedly prepared for battle.
The Witcher Episode Review – Of Slashery and Surgery
Lord Ostrit is fed to the Striga and the fight begins. Geralt tried to use a silver chain to fight the monster as in Witcher lore, silver weapons are very effective (this is why he usually carries two swords. A normal one for normal enemies and a silver one for magical beasts). The Striga is relentless however and easily breaks the silver chain weapon. A bloody and violent battle takes place where Geralt and the Striga are evenly matched. Geralt wins out ion the end however when he seals himself in Adda’s crypt and stops the Striga returning.
While this graphic and thrilling battle is taking place between the Striga and Geralt, we see the naked battle taking place between the old and the new Yennefer. Both seemed very violent and full of screams and both were disturbing to watch – although we were all transfixed.
The sun eventually rose and the Striga turned into a girl…….
The operation ended and Yennefer lost her deformities……
Yennefer was pretty much the same person but without the hump and jawline, the young princess however was still a monster at heart and she attacked Geralt biting into his carotid artery – he bleeds out and falls unconscious.
She recovers and readies herself to attend the end of the graduation party.
Yennefer is the Belle of the Ball
Although the transformation was painful, it was ultimately successful.
She is immediately a sensation of the party and in particular, gets the attention of the King of Aedirn who is still seeking a mage (after the seeming refusal of the hapless Fringilla for being a bad dancer!). This upsets the council as it now messes up everyone’s political plans.
Yennefer gets what she wants. Alas I think that means that the only ‘slot’ left for the equally lovely (though now distraught) Fringilla, is Nilfgaardian Empire.
The Witcher Episode Review – Geralt is Safe
Geralt wakes to find Triss tending his wounds. She reports that he spent most of the night calling out Renfri’s name. Triss goes on to explain that Lord Ostrit was reported as having bravely lost his life to save the princess.
Geralt is relatively satisfied, especially when Triss gives him the payment they had agreed for the job.
Enchanted Ciri enters the Woods
The show closes with a scene – and about bloody time – of Ciri walking, seamingly enchanted, towards a forest. Dara, her elf friend, tries to stop her. He is shot with an arrow as he approaches and falls to the ground. Corpses (with arrows in them) are all around him.
And that ends another fantastically told story!
The Witcher Episode Review & Recap – Conclusion
Many viewers and critics considered this Witcher Episode episode to be the best of the early season shows. I am pretty sure (even though I’m a sci fi SadGeezer) that it’s not just because of the nudity. I’m convinced it was because the story was so strong. We don’t even need the backstory of Yennefer or Ciri (or Geralt) – if the episodes are all as good as this, most of us would be happy with an episodic monster killing show. Of course that won’t happen – we still have a big story to get through.
There was some exceptionally good scenes where Yennefer starts to develop as a person and as a powerful sorceress. The resulting improvement in her confidence is intriguing and fun and a good sign of a well written story whose characters are still developing. Then the piset de résistance was the very clever cliff-hanger ending with Ciri (who had been absent for the vast majority of the show).
At this point, I’d declared to myself that The Witcher TV show is a modern classic – and then watched episode four. Some of us actually stayed up all night watching the rest of the series!
I’d mark this a terrific and still improving 9.3 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 Two Review is copyright Tony Fawl and not for reproduction without permission.