The fourth episode of Netflix's The Witcher, "Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials", brings the funny in an enjoyable romp. It also sets up several major threads that will tie the different storylines of the show together.
"'The Witcher's Guide to Partying with Royals" by Geralt
We already know how taciturn and stoic Geralt of Rivia gets when he doesn't want to talk. Pair him with Jaskier, who can't stop talking and keeps trying to get him to talk and you have your buddy comedy right there.
Jaskier has been hired to sing at a royal ball in Cintra where Queen Calanthe – younger here and in her prime – plans to marry her daughter off. Jaskier has slept with way too many of the attending lords' wives and begs Geralt to come along to protect him from potentially murderous husbands.
Geralt's grouchiness gets more and more hilarious, especially when he's with Jaskier. Who would have thought watching him be a surly bastard at a party full of royals would be so entertaining? Henry Cavill has always had some talent in deadpan comedy and it's on full display here.
"The Witcher": Gotta Love that Law of Surprise
Just as Calanthe is about to marry Princess Pavetta off to a drunken prince, a knight named Duny crashes the party and demands Pavetta's hand in marriage. He invokes the Law of Surprise, a binding social contract where one is promised a boon for doing someone a great service. He saved Pavetta's father's life years ago and was a reward via the Law of Surprise. That reward turns out to be the princess. And she's been in love with him all along. The problem is, Duny has been cursed to have the head of a hedgehog. Calanthe orders Geralt to kill him, but he chooses to side with Duny instead.
Everyone fights. You can't have a ball with horrible royals without a big fight breaking out. It's broken up by Princess Pavetta unleashing a superpower that knocks everyone over – the same power that Ciri has.
Calanthe allows Pavetta to marry Duny, which lifts his curse – this was a variation on Beauty and the Beast all along. Duny offers Geralt a boon via the Law of Surprise for saving his life, and Geralt casually asks for a reward that threatens to bite him in the ass later. Sixteen years later.
Destiny starts to weave her threads around everyone here – Geralt has been promised Duny and Pavetta's firstborn – the future Ciri. Calanthe humiliates the king of Niilfgard, which triggers their invasion and total destruction of Cintra 16 years later, in the first episode.
Yennefer's Very Bad Day at Work
Yennefer's storyline feels tacked on here. On the run through various regions and portals, she fails to protect a queen and her baby from an assassin. She ends her segment monologuing at the dead baby about regretting giving her fertility as the sacrifice for her status. That's too much telling and not showing to have any great emotional impact, I feel.
The theme of this episode seems to be about the legacy of children. Queen Calanthe agrees to let her daughter be happy rather than languish in a loveless marriage. Pavetta's baby Ciri is now tied inescapably to Geralt. Yennefer's inability to bear children is her greatest regret and will drive her future actions.
Ciri Doesn't Say No to Drugs
As for Ciri, she and elf friend Dara end up deep in the forest and meet a group of Dryads. They offer the kids sanctuary and a way to erase their memories to start anew. Things get trippy for Ciri when drinking the water doesn't work and she ends up talking a tree in the desert. Oh, and the Niilfgardians have figured out how to find her. Good times ahead.
If each new episode of The Witcher keeps getting better in the first season like this, then we could be on to a good thing. That's a big "if", though. Anything can go wrong at the script stage…