The Witcher S01E04 Episode Review
This is a review and recap of ‘The Witcher’ Episode Four called “Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials”. It was written by Declan De Barra and directed by Alex Garcia Lopez. It was released on Netflix on 20th December 2019.
The last few episodes The End’s Beginning, Four Marks and Betrayer Moon, introduced the key characters and main story elements – basically, we can now just sit back and they this excellent saga wash over us. We will begin to understand the way The Continent works and enjoy the political and cultural machinations of each of the regions. This episode is more fun and more exciting than the others (it’s arguable – I’m already getting people telling me off about that 🙂 ) We also learn how the lovely Ciri becomes the ward of Geralt of Rivia – omg! I know, right! – they aren’t even on the same timeline! Yennefer’s story is moving forward very quickly too – like 30 years!.
In December 2019, fans initial reaction wasn’t too favourable of this episode (although they really liked it) the estimated early season viewer ratings only rated it 8.9 – which is a shame because this episode was the foundation for the steady increase in ratings to the end of the season.
As You Know (….but do you though, really?)
Ciri is on the run from the Nilfgaardian Empire – a very dangerous senior soldier called Cahir is after her. She has some sort of ‘special skill’ or power that currently manifests itself as a scream. She doesn’t understand it or know how to control it, she just knows that it happens when she is stressed out.
Yennefer has graduated as a Sorceress and is considered (though you wouldn’t think so by the Sorcerers Councils behaviour) as a prodigy. Geralt is continuing as normal, visiting different regions and killing monsters for money.
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) and moves forward quite a bit during this episode (even though she looks as though she is getting younger!). Geralt’s timeline, I think, is somewhere in between. I won’t be dwelling in this during this review unless it’s important to the episode story. As long as you are aware of the difference in timelines, it won’t stop you from enjoying the story.
The Witcher Episode Four Recap & Review – Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials
We start with the scary scene of Ciri entering a forest. She doesn’t seem to be aware of her surroundings and had, in the last episode, left her friend Dara behind.
Cirilla’s Encounter with Dryads
Ciri is called deeper into the forest of Brokilon. As she goes deeper, we see that the forest is less harsh, it is more green and looks considerably warmer. An attractive but quite aggressive looking woman confronts Ciri who suddenly seems to come out of her hypnotic state. Ciri is justifiably taken aback by her surroundings and is shocked to be there. Lets face it, the forest does not look quite like it should and there are mysterious bright lights and women dressed in warm weather clothes pointing arrows at her.
The a dryad woman tells her to follow and they soon meet the leader. She s, Queen Eithné. Less scary but still quite intense. She asks Ciri to follow her deeper into the forest.
Covered in Entrails
Then we are taken to a pub! There, a story is being told of the heroic exploits of Geralt by the person whose life he saved (he refers to Geralt as the White Wolf). Jaskier is sat at the table confidently taking notes. The dude explains that The White Wolf fought bravely but alas, he was eaten alive by the monster (something called a Sekimore).
Jaskier is unmoved and comments that Geralt has most certainly survived. Sure enough, Geralt bursts open the door to the Inn and enters. He is bloodied and covered in Sekimore entrails. He had to kill the beast from the inside!
I have to admit, there is a consistently high eww factor in each Witcher episode. Jaskier is avidly writing the story of the Sekimore. He is gradually providing stories and songs about Geralt and his exploits. This partnership is gradually beginning to improve Geralt’s reputation and is certainly helping Jaskier with material for his stories and songs.
Geralt is gratefully paid the money for killing the Sekimore. Jaskier leads the crowd in song, – yep, you guessed it – Pay A Coin to Your Witcher. It’s noticeable that many people sing along, it seems that the song (along with Geralt’s reputation) is quite popular.
A Hand Washed Geralt
Jaskier asks Geralt for a favour and adds some extra enticements to sweeten the deal – good food, (possibly bad) women, and lots of wine. Later, Jaskier actually helps bathe Geralt though we don’t actually get any indication of anything ‘unsavory’ going on (much to the disappointment of many of the lady viewers).
I can’t get over the idea of a dude bathing another naked dude while trying to persuade him to do him a favour….. erm… the favour is that Jaskier wants Geralt to accompany him to a party. Jeez!, how many of us need to be bathed by a bard …. naked…. to be encouraged to attend a party with lots of wine, women and good food!? I personally believe that this scene is a ‘nod’ from the female Showrunner to a female editor of PC Computing (see the whole Bathtub Geralt story thing).
Apparently, it’s important that Jaskier attends as he is the ‘entertainment’ booked for the event. Jaskier had previously been a little too entertaining to a number of the ladies (some were married). He needs the services of a bodyguard and apparently bathing the naked monster killer seems like the right thing to do in the circumstances.
Geralt insists that he is still not Jaskier’s friend (yeah right!), but reluctantly agrees to go to the party – but he he wont kill anyone. Jaskier dresses him in a clothes befitting a nobleman.
The event is in Cintra and it is a celebratory banquet in honour of the Princess of Cintra, daughter of Queen Calanthe (and the soon to be mother of Ciri). This scene is therefore set approximately 15 years before the Cintra we saw in the first episode.
As soon as they enter, Jaskier sees that Geralt is recognised by Mousesack the Druid we saw in the first episode. The two greet each other as old friends and Mousesack explains to him that the banquet is to find a suitor for the lovely Princess Pavetta.
Moushack by the way, is not a Sorcerer as many people suspect, he is a Druid. The reason I bring it up is that Calanthe and her father have a thing against Mages and Sorcerers (as we learned from the last episode) and wont have them in the kingdom. Geralt mentioned that he hasn’t seen his old friend since ‘the plague’.
Sure enough, Jaskier is eventually approached by a disgruntled gentleman who accuses him of having an affair with his wife. He demands that Jaskier drop his trousers so that he can see can confirm his identity from his ‘pimply ass’. As everyone knows, everyone’s pimply ass is unique (?!). The justification is that he never actually got to see the man’s face (a likely story – he was too busy looking at his ass!). Geralt explains that it can’t be Jaskier as he was kicked in the testicles by an ox as a young boy.
The Queens Bloody Entrance
The Calanthe enters the room to a fanfar of applause. The crowd are pleased to see her. She has literally arrived at the banquet for her daughter with blood and guts from a recent battle with rebels in the south. She asks Jaskier to sing a lively song.
Queen Calanthe and her family should be considered more than simply ‘hard-ass’. They weren’t benevolent rulers and the queen prefers ruling with an iron fist than diplomacy. Cintra is considered harsh to all races other than humans.
Princess Pavetta, her daughter, doesn’t want to be married off for the political gain of the Queendom. She is not a fan of the prejudices of the monarchy and its politics – she uses this when arguing with her mother.
Calanthe is unmoved. She tells the lovely princess that she can do whatever she wants after she is married, implying that this is a family trait and considered acceptable behaviour – or, that anyone who argues can suffer whatever consequences she prefers. “You have yer mother’s Blood, you’ll be fine.”
The Waters of Brokilon
Ciri is talking to the leader of the Dryads when she hears a scream. It is Dara struggling with his arrow wound. He has been brought into the Forrest and the arrow is removed. The ‘waters of the forest’ are then poured onto the wound to cleans it and help with healing. The Druid Queen Eithné had previously explained that there are only a few Dryads left since the ‘Conjunction of the Spheres’ (hundreds of years ago). She tells them that they will drink the ‘waters of the forest’, which have magical healing properties. If they have ill intent, the waters will kill them, if they are pure of heart, they will be healed and, they will forget their suffering. Queen Eithné suggests that this would be a good thing for Fiona.
Dara and Ciri both seem to be in a bit of a dilemma. Forgetting is not a particularly good option – even if you need healing.
Who Knows How to Kill a Manticore
At the Banquet, two noblemen (one of whom is supposed to be Pavetta’s suitor) argue about how to kill a monster (a Manticore). The disagreement is about how a Manticore should be killed they both accuse each other of lying as they recount their respective experiences. Queen Calanthe asks Geralt to declare who is telling the truth (she assumed the monster killer would know).
He replies that neither of them tell the truth but then, realising that the answer is probably going to cause trouble, accepts that they each may have fought a rare sub-species he isn’t aware of. His answer satisfies both arguments and the situation is diffused. There were a few comments about excrement and death but belligerent toilet humour seemed a bit too reminiscent of Game of Thrones to review here.
Queen Calanthe asks Geralt how he killed the elves at the ‘end of the world’. Geralt explains that despite the songs, he was actually the one that got his bottom kicked. The queen appreciates the self effacing way Geralt explains what happened and asks him to accompany her while she gets changed.
The Witcher Episode Review – A Confession to an Elf
As they are about to take the ‘waters, Dara quietly asks why Ciri is calling herself Fiona. She explains that she is the Princess of Cintra and that Calanthe was her Grandmother. When a surprised Dara explains in horror what atrocities her family had inflicted on his, Ciri is shocked into disbelief.
Although Dara appreciates that Ciri is not part of that slaughter, he is still shaken. They both seem to consider the benefits of forgetting after drinking the ‘waters’. We too realise that although Calanthe is a lot of fun, she and her family are actually despotic racists that rule Cintra with an iron fist. They don’t enjoy much love or appreciation from their subjects.
The Suitors Line Up
At the banquet, the queen has dressed appropriately and is chatting candidly with the Witcher to try and persuade him to butcher a few of the more ‘ill-suited’ sutors. Geralt refuses. The Queen is insistent but not to the point of doing anything about it. She is convinced that there will be bloodshed later.
She doesn’t help matters much when the first of the suitors approaches, Lord Peregrine of Nilfgaard requests the hand of the Princess. The Queen responds with stream of insulting comments and Peregrine leaves insulted. The irony isn’t lost, but we should appreciate that this is 15 years before the Nilfgaardian Empire invades and at that time, the Nilfgaard monarchy was an ineffective bunch of fools and the region was falling to bits.
The Witcher Episode Review – The Assassin and His Pet
Elsewhere, (in a different timeline) we finally get to meet the miraculously magnificent looking Yennefer of Vengerberg. She is travelling with a precocious Queen Kalis of Aedirn who isn’t impressed with her lot in life. She complains that she is simply a ‘womb’ to the King for squeezing out royal heirs (alas, only girls so far it seems). Yennefer, when allowed to speak freely, complains that in the thirty years (wow! thirty years since the last episode – still, she doesn’t look a day older than 21!) all she has done is clean up stupid political messes.
Suddenly, the carriage is attacked and all the guards except one are killed. Yennefer, the guard, Queen Kalis and the baby princess face an assassin and his ‘creature’ (the best way I can describe it is that it looks like a Ravager from the game World of Warcraft – very bloody scary actually!)
Yer Own Fault Queenie
Yennefer immediately creates a portal to a desert somewhere and tells the Queen that the reason she is being attacked is likely because she has run out of her opportunities to provide the King with a male heir.
No matter how ungrateful she may seem, the king is definitely harsh. It seems that he isn’t hugely impressed with his Sorceress either! The assassin presumably, has been commissioned to kill the whole group! Looks like Yennefer needs to start updating her CV for a position elsewhere.
Shortly after, the assassin too, teleports onto the same place. It seems that he is able to trace their steps each time they escape. Yennefer creates another portal to escape but the last guard is killed by the Ravager as the assassin seems easily capable of keeping up. A crazy portal jumping game unfolds but eventually, Yennefer opens a portal and this time leaves the queen and the baby to die!! Omg, that is so mean!
It was all gripping stuff and just as we begin biting our nails, we were taken back to the banquet.
Jaskier is entertaining the guests with his songs while Geralt and the Queen talk about the silliness of ‘male traditions’ around The Continent. A new suitor for the hand of Princess Pavetta enters the banquet hall. He is Lord Urcheon of Erlenwald and requests that he be allowed to marry the Princess. He doesn’t actually take off his helmet! which is a bit peculiar. Perhaps he’s really ugly and doesn’t want to put the princess off… erm… Even the unflappable Queen Calanthe is surprised.
Lord Eist, who seems a little impatient with the antics knocks of the cheeky knight’s helmet to reveal the head of a Hedgehog-Man!
Queen orders Geralt to kill the prickly suitor. Geralt of course, refuses. He recognises that the hapless suitor has been cursed. Lord Urcheon quickly claims the hand of Princess Pavetta by the ‘Law of Surprise’. lol, it certainly surprised me. Queen Calanthe is less amused and screams for the guards to kill the knight. Gestalt runs to the knight’s rescue and a battle starts.
After a while, Lord Eist (who, as you will remember, is actually the Queens boyfriend) asks her to honor the Law of Surprise and joins in Lord Urcheon and Geralt’s defence. The queen is horrified at the brawl taking place and commands everyone to stop fighting.
The Witcher Episode Review – Yennefer and the Baby
In the battle between Yennefer and the Assassin, Yennefer opens another Portal to return and grab the baby. As she does so, she kills the assassins prickly animal, the ravager. Queen Kalis had begged for her life and offered to kill the baby (to ensure a male heir to the throne) but the assassin had killed her anyway.
Although Yennefer returned to grab the baby and kill the Ravager, the assassin had thrown his dagger at her as she was making her escape. It had gone through her shoulder and struck the baby, killing it.
Yennefer’s efforts were in vain and she talked to the dead child saddened by the conclusion of the fight with the assassin.
The Witcher Episode Review – The Surprising But Unshakable Law
The Banquet and ‘Suitor Introductions’ change dynamically over the next few minutes and it all gets a bit bonkers to be honest. Suddenly, the lovely Princess Pavetta runs towards her knight the porcupine man, yeah I know right! She was apparently having an affair with the dude! She calls him Duny (he is played very swashbuckling and chivalrous – no mean feat under the circumstances, by Bart Edwards). Pavetta and Duny are head over heels in love.
Duny explains to everyone, that he claims the the ‘Laws of Surprise’ as payment for her deceased husband’s debt. He had saved the life of the King and when it was offered (i.e. “how can I pay you back young knight?”) he would have said something like, “Oh it’s alright your majesty, let’s make it the law of surprise.” Basically this means that whatever the indebted person is surprised by, when he gets home – it will then belong to the hero.
This is a very dodgy law and you and me and lots of others could see lots of problems with it, but essentially, it means that when the King returned home, if he was surprised to find that his pet dog was pregnant, the puppies would belong to the hero. If he was to find that he had inherited a title because of the untimely death of a relative, that would then belong to the hero or, as in this case, if his wife is pregnant, then the child would belong…. yep, to some other dude! Weird huh?
The Witcher Episode Review & Recap – Admiration From Afar
Duny had unknowingly claimed the Kings unborn daughter. The Queen is livid with anger. She harshly chastises her daughter for falling for this lowly cursed knight. But, in his defence, her very own boyfriend, Lord Eist reminds her that the Law of Surprise is an ancient law that shouldn’t be broken because such a thing is Destiny. Duny explains apologetically that he never wanted to cause trouble and observed Pavetta from a distance in admiration (stalker much!?). They met accidentally and fell in love anyway.
The Queen asks for the Witcher’s opinion as she is sure he will tell her that the Law of Surprise is not worth her support. He tells her that a promise given should be kept. He is mildly miffed too that she knew Duny would appear and this was the reason she asked him to kill any unwanted upstarts claiming Pavetta’s hand.
She only whirls when she’s excited
Pavetta claims Duny as her suitor and, with tears in her eyes, Queen Calanthe attacks Duny with a dagger. Pavetta stops her – with a magical whirlwind!
Gradually the whirlwind grows more powerful and the people are thrown against the wall and in danger of being seriously hurt.
Mousesack and Geralt cast their own spells and manage to interrupt Pavetta. The whirlwind stops and people are saved. Eist asks his girlfriend, the Queen, if she believes in destiny and begrudgingly (and very impressed by Pavetta’s power) she apologises to her daughter and tells everyone that she will honor her decision.
Lord Eist declares his love for the Queen and indicates that they too should be married. The Queen agrees and they she and her daughter become betrothed.
Later that evening they will be married. All who attend, cheer in agreement (except possibly Geralt who, I’m pretty sure, never sheds a tear at weddings).
The Witcher Episode Review – The Calling of Shan Kayan
In the forest of Broklion, Ciri has drunk the waters. The waters seem to have affected Dara and he begins to recover from his wounds and starts to feel that ‘everything will be alright’. When Ciri takes the waters nothing happens. Queen Eithné of the Dryads seems un-surprised “Come, Shan-Kayan calls to you.” she says.
Burial of a Baby Princess
Yennefer is sad at the demise of the baby Princess and buries her at the beach. She tells the baby that life would probably have disappointed and that maybe this was the best thing. It was quite a sad and bitter speech, full of regret. I guess she was as angry at the situation as she was sad.
The Witcher Episode Review – Hedgehog > Dog > Human
Back at the Suitor, Betrothal, Wedding Banquet, Thing. Queen Calanthe gives the Duny and Pavetta her blessing and the couple kiss. She wraps some material around their wrists and apparently, this means they are married.
Suddenly, Duny begins to bark (?!) and transforms back into a human. It seems that the marriage lifted the curse. Jaskier is ecstatic, He believes this story will make a very good ballad. As Geralt leaves, Duny calls out to him and asks that his debt for Geralt saving his life be repaid.
Now THAT’s Destiny
Despite all the trouble this has just caused, Geralt tells him that he would like claim the Law of Surprise.
Calanthe is dumbfounded! Poor woman, despite her wedding, this day just doesn’t seem to be going well for her. “NO!” she exclaims.
Geralt tries to console her by explaining that the only reason he would return to Cintra is to kill monsters. Seconds later, Pavetta suffers a violent bout of morning sickness. All eyes turn towards him.
In reply, all Geralt can say is, “Fuck!”. Then he leaves.
Mousesack follows him and tries to explain that the child is also his responsibility. He explains that he has chosen to stay and help with guidance and support. Geralt is possibly a bit miffed that his Law of Surprise wasn’t a bag of coins but the first born monarch of Cintra. He exclaims that this is all bullshit and that all this trouble was caused by a girl using magic to stop her mother from killing her lover.
The Witcher Episode Review – 15 Years Later
We move forward in time to the point where Calanthe had committed suicide by defenestration and lay dead at the base of her tower. A dark Nilfgaardian disciple (honestly, that’s the best way I can describe the dude) cuts a piece of flesh from Calanthe’s dead body and eats it. lol, that was a surprise erm… and eeww!.
Yet more surprising is that the dark dude is then stabbed in the stomach by Fringilla and gutted! His entrails spill out onto the floor as he falls to the ground. Is there no end to the eeww!? Fringilla places her hands on his steaming intestines and declares that Ciri (more specifically ‘Calanthe’s progeny’) is in Brokilon Forest. Cahir is also present and when a soldier tells him that they can ‘take’ the Forest with a few thousand men, Cahir replies that there are other ways.
They leave and we see that Mousesack has been captured and is in tow. He secretly manages to grab a piece of Calanthe’s clothing as he is dragged away.
The Witcher Episode Review – The Blood of Shan-Kayan
In Brokilon Forest, Queen Eithné takes Ciri to a special tree that seems to be bleeding icky water. She is told to drink it.
She drinks the water and sees visions of a desert at night. A great tree is glistening and asks her, “What are you, child?”
And with the talking tree, the episode ends! Awesome!
Witcher Episode Four Review & Recap – Conclusion
This was a terrific episode, the characters are now established and the writers can get on with telling the story without concern for exposition. It is so well written that we were gripped and entertained throughout. Again, a common trait with all the episodes is that it is just as good, if not better, to watch the shows again – they are just as entertaining.
The high points for me were, strangely, the graphics and scenery. In quick succession, we saw completely different and interesting parts of The Continent while Yennefer was chased, The fight sequences, whirlwind romance and bloody special effects were particularly well done. Production on the episode was perfect. Direction kept the show going at a pace and the acting was fun to watch end made the episode gripping. I honestly loved every minute. Low points were the dialogue and daft wedding banquet. the whole, lets-see-the-suitors-and-then-get-them-married-in-the-same-evening seemed a bit silly, maybe I’m just old fashioned.
On to the second screening of Episode 5! Sorry for the time in getting this review and recap out. I’m writing a lot of wordage and it’s taking more time than usual.
The Witcher Episode Review – I’d mark this an almost perfect 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.