The Witcher Season 1 Review: Episode 3: "Betrayer Moon"

“Betrayer Moon” is a definite step up from “Four Marks”. It gives exactly what you’d want from a Witcher show: Some crazy magic tomfoolery and a rip-roaring Geralt monster-hunting adventure. If one of the things you wanted most from Netflix’s The Witcher was Geralt solving a monster mystery and then getting flung around like a rag doll, then “Betrayer Moon” is the episode for you.

What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse

SPOILER ALERT: The following review contains details and spoilers from Netflix’s The Witcher Season 1.

“Betrayer Moon” starts out by introducing a new witcher, who you shouldn’t get too attached to as he gets torn apart rather quickly by an unknown creature. Meanwhile, Geralt is enjoying a multiple night stay at a brothel in a nearby town. However, he’s unable to pay up for the night, so upon being told of some turmoil in the kingdom of Temeria, he ventures out to find work.

He meets two important people once he gets into town: Ostrit, a high ranking knight of Temeria, and a sorcerer named Triss Merigold who you may be familiar with. Triss is the royal sorcerer to King Foltest of Temeria. She covered up the previous witcher’s death so the townsfolk wouldn’t panic over the fact that the monster plaguing Temeria is so deadly that it even bested a witcher. It’s here that we get a good demonstration of Geralt’s abilities, as his analysis of the dead witcher’s body reveals that the monster is a striga, a woman who is cursed to turn into a horrible monster during a full moon

“Betrayer Moon” suddenly turns into an episode of CSI with Geralt and Triss as the lead investigators. They need to figure out how the striga came to be, and in classic Game Of Thrones fashion, it turns out that King Foltest wound up in love with his sister Adda, which led to a child being conceived. Unfortunately for both of them, there was another guy who had feelings for Adda: Ostrit, who cursed Foltest, leading to their lovechild becoming the striga.

All of this builds to an absolutely badass fight between Geralt and the striga that, so far, is the ultimate high point of this series. It’s incredibly tense, like something out of a horror movie. The striga’s design is awesome and grotesque, and Geralt has to pull out every trick he has to keep it at bay without killing it. This includes having to drink multiple potions and casting various “signs”, including Aard to push the striga away. The curse is eventually broken, but ironically, after doing battle with massive monsters for years, it’s a small child that almost ends The Witcher’s life. Along with my internal counter every time the word “destiny” is uttered, I think I’m going to keep track of all the “mankind is the true monster” metaphors being thrown out as well.

Overall, I loved this. Geralt solving a mystery which then leads to a violent brawl is pretty much what I want, both from this series and the video games. It’s also yet another great job by Henry Cavill, as he’s able to play Geralt’s subtle emotions when he confronts Foltest and Ostrit, or when he’s talking to Triss about how he kept saying Renfri’s name in his sleep. Anna Shaffer does a good job as Triss, although we don’t have a real sense of her character just yet. I’m sure we’ll see her in the future and Shaffer will be able to show us more sides of Miss Merigold.

Pretty Hurts

This is a major episode when it comes to the development of Yennefer. I thought this show would spend a significant amount of time showing us Yen’s schooling and we wouldn’t get her radical transformation into the Yennefer we know until much later. Instead, she’s already got a handle on this whole magic thing and she’s ready to become the sorcerer to an important king.

We’re introduced to a council of sorcerers – that includes Tissaia and Stregobor – that make the decisions on what kingdom each student will be assigned to. Tissaia wants Yennefer to go to Aedirn, but Stregobor uses this opportunity to reveal the information he gained from Yen’s lover Istredd, and tells them that she’s a quarter elf. Thus, Yennefer is going to be sent to Nilfgaard instead. It’s starting to look like Stregobor will have a larger role in this series, either as an antagonist or just a casual troublemaker with ulterior motives.

Once she’s informed of this, Yennefer flips out as she wanted to go to Aedirn, so she comes up with a plan that allows The Witcher to give us some delightfully disturbing body horror. Sorcerers are often enchanted to become very beautiful, but this is usually done once the sorcerer is assigned to their kingdom. Yen decides to get the enchantment done despite her rejection of her Nilfgaard placement. The enchanter doesn’t have time to grind up the medicinal herbs to knock her out, so he’s going to go through with the transformation without any anesthetic. We then get a horrifying sequence where a part of Yen’s womb is removed for the ritual, and her body bloodily contorts and reforms until her deformities are gone.

We then cut to a very fancy ball, and even though Aedirn has been given to the niece of a high-ranking sorcerer, Yennefer struts in with her new body and basically steals the king much to the chagrin of Stregobor and the others. While I thought Anya Chalotra did a fine job with what she was given in the last episode, this is where I saw what she might be capable of when it comes to portraying this character. This is the strong-willed Yennefer that we know, the one who knows how to manipulate and outsmart people and will undergo unbelievable torture to get what she wants. I’m still not at the point where I can say I’m completely sold, but this was definitely a step in the right direction.

And Ciri’s Here Too

Ciri mostly sits this episode out except for a cliffhanger at the end. She’s awoken by whispering voices coming from the woods, which lure her across a field as if she’s in a trance. Poor Dara tries to chase after her but gets an arrow to the shoulder as she disappears into the expansive forest. Hopefully, this development will lead her to Geralt sooner rather than later.

“Betrayer Moon” was a marked improvement over “Four Marks”, and it’s by far the most entertaining episode that The Witcher has had so far. Geralt tracking down and fighting the striga felt like something right out of the games. It was intriguing, well-written and well-acted, and the monster design and fight choreography were spectacular. Yennefer’s storyline also moved fairly quickly, and she’s now a sorcerer in the kingdom of Aedirn.

The only question now is what’s going to happen with Ciri. The next episode looks like she’s finally going to be given something to do, and we’re getting ever closer to the point where the three leads meet and the show truly begins. I just hope The Witcher can keep the momentum going from this episode.

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