The Witcher Owes Henry Cavill a Farewell Worthy of Heroes

The Witcher season 3 has been the most controversial of the series yet, and it’s been about the backstage drama that led to Cavill walking away from the series.

Trailer via Netflix/YouTube

Published on Jul 24, 2023

As the curtain fell upon the first volume of The Witcher: Season 3, I was left with a bittersweet feeling, eagerly awaiting the second part but knowing that what comes next will be Henry Cavill’s swan song as Geralt of Rivia. And no, the silver-haired, monster-hunting is supposed to be meeting a tragic end; rather, he will be undergoing a radical metamorphosis.

The story has been slowly building toward an epic battle at Aratuza, and the new trailer hints at Geralt’s unyielding determination to “protect his daughter,” as Jaskier puts it.

Unlike the first volume which largely focused on political agendas, the events this time around revolve around magical battles, as the mages at Aratuza go into full spell-slinging mode without making clear where their loyalties lie.

The second season of The Witcher may have veered off-course from its larger narrative, and the Blood Origin prequel only managed to add to the confusion. However, the third season has largely refocused on those where most interests lie: the trio of Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer.

As the first volume unfolded, little changed, except that Yennefer and Geralt have made up, Ciri is beginning to tap into her powers, and some of the show’s dark forces have come to light. Amidst the political agendas, the first five episodes felt more like a prelude — building up to blood-soaked battles that end up in a major showdown, one that will likely set up Liam Hemsworth tagging in as Geralt.

A still from The Witcher Season 3 Volume 2 showing Yennefer.
A still from The Witcher Season 3 Volume 2 with Ciri stranded in a desert.
A still from The Witcher Season 3 Volume 2 with Geralt battling some soldiers.

Photos via Netflix

The series was involved in major behind-the-scenes drama as things progressed toward a third season, leading to Cavill’s decision to part ways from the show and understandable outrage from fans.

  • “My journey as Geralt of Rivia has been filled with both monsters and adventures, and alas, I will be laying down my medallion and my swords for Season 4,” Cavill wrote on Instagram. “I pass the torch with reverence for the time spent embodying Geralt and enthusiasm to see Liam’s take on this most fascinating and nuanced of men.”
  • Of course, the show must go on, especially when Netflix has staked hundreds of millions into the first two seasons alone.

Dropping Cavill from the series might seem like one of the most outrageous decisions Netflix has made, and that’s coming from someone who wholeheartedly enjoyed shows like “Final Space” and “The OA.” Understandably, however, it was Cavill’s extreme professionalism that likely led to this outcome.

  • A long-time fan of the Sapkowski novels, the Witcher has been a personal journey for the actor. Cavill has described his opportunity to play Geralt as an “extraordinary opportunity to live my childhood and adult life franchises.”
  • Previously committed to the series’ seven-season run, Cavill insisted that he was up for it only “as long as we can keep up telling great stories which honor Sapkowski’s work.”

Cavill is likely already done playing Superman and previously lost out on a stint as James Bond to Daniel Craig, which makes his exit from the show seem even rougher — a fact that the show’s makers realize abundantly well.

Speaking on Cavill’s departure from the series, showrunner Lauren Hissirich teases a send-off worthy of his character’s epic status. “Geralt’s big turn is about giving up neutrality and doing anything that he has to do to get to Ciri. And to me, it’s the most heroic send-off that we could have, even though it wasn’t written to be that,” she told Entertainment Weekly.

How “The Witcher” season 3 sends off Henry Cavill

Despite the inevitable letdown that approaches with the end of the third season, Netflix has no plans of slowing down when it comes to expanding its “World of the Witcher.” We’ve already had an animated film featuring Geralt’s mentor and a live-action prequel series starring Michelle Yeoh, and the central series itself has been renewed for a fourth and fifth season.

Most superhero franchises have been progressing toward their own version of the multiverse for the past decade. When living in a world inhabited by multiple Batmans and Spider-Mans, a new “Witcher” may not have to make much sense lore-wise — especially in a world where magic governs all. But the show’s makers want to get the change right.

  • According to the show’s makers, Geralt’s metamorphosis will make more sense as the third season ends.
  • Series producer Tomasz Bagiński has revealed that Cavill’s exit draws in a storyline “very, very close to the meta ideas which are deeply embedded in the books, especially in book five,” adding that the transition will to Hemsworth will be “quite flawless.”

It seems weird when the real-world fate of an actor takes precedence over the character they play. But the recent drop in viewership for The Witcher made clear how much the audience cares about who plays the titular character.

Nonetheless, the grand narrative of the series has continued to pivot toward Ciri, which makes this a great time for Cavill to lay down the arms, if he really has to. The show now has three final episodes to give the original Geralt the farewell he deserves: a path of bloodshed that eventually reunites the man with his daughter.