blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Witcher (2019) s01e07 – Before a Fall

“The Witcher” never expressly says “we’ve been Westworlding you” but this episode is where they show how they’ve been Westworlding the viewer. It’s Freya Allan’s part of the pilot, only with Henry Cavill mixed in. It’s been twelve years since Cavill was last in Jodhi May’s kingdom, which means Allan is like eleven and a half or something. Okay. Fine. She seems a little older, really doesn’t matter.

So while the show’s revealing how Cavill didn’t actually forget about his responsibility to Allan (which they still haven’t explained other than he feels responsible) and tried to save her in the first episode, May being a tyrannical warlord grandma blinded her to the better choices for Allan’s safety. Again, fine, whatever. If “The Witcher” were confident enough in its story, it wouldn’t have needed the fractured timeline because the show gets nothing out of the fracturing other than some momentary surprises. Lacking momentary surprises.

But while Cavill’s Back to the Future II adventures in the first episode are twelve years after he was last in the castle, there’s also Anya Chalotra’s arc. She’s visiting old boyfriend Royce Pierreson, who’s doing some Planet of the Apes-style archeology to discover the world before the three worlds converged or whatever. He’s basically just a cameo to set Chalotra up for going back to the mage training castle where she spent episodes two and three. There, she avoids mentor MyAnna Buring until the most dramatically effective moment while corrupting the current crop of students. And has flashbacks. Flashbacks to episodes two and three. In case anyone forgot, even though it was only four episodes ago and it’s a Netflix show so the episodes were intended to be binged.

Maybe if Chalotra had been introduced in the first episode instead of second, the flashbacks would… no, they’re just pointless. Worse, they take away from Chalotra getting to act in the present. Because she’s presumably had some character development between this episode and last, only… we don’t get to see it and we don’t get to infer it from her actions because her actions are mostly setups for exposition or flashback.

This episode is the season’s shortest at forty-five and change and it feels like at least ten minutes is reused footage.

The ending has Freya Allan revealing she’s got a different superpower than we knew about before—she’s got some arc about trying to survive among war refugees or whatever, doesn’t matter until the cliffhanger. Only it seems like her time in the magical forest was really important so it’s too bad the show didn’t use that time better.

Also, there’s a big exposition dump from Buring about the bad guys, who are basically medieval fundamentalist Christian Nazis.

But, hey, at least the timelines are all synced? And the “Destiny” drinking game rules are in full effect here as well.

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