In the months before the The Witcher season 3 was released, one of the big questions was, How are they going to set up the replacement of parting star Henry Cavill with Liam Hemsworth?
As it turns out, the season finale doesn’t set up the replacement in any way. In fact, it goes out of its way to underline Cavill’s value in the role, through an end sequence that isn’t in the books. Meanwhile recent comments from the producers have suggested a very Marvel movie multiverse idea about introducing Hemsworth that has a lot of fans scratching their heads.
Here’s everything we know. (And, warning: this article is filled with spoilers not only of season three of the Witcher but a key point in the novels. So read ahead at your own risk.)
How does the novel upon which season 3 of The Witcher is based end?
Season 3 of The Witcher is based almost entirely upon A Time of Contempt, the fourth book in the Witcher series. That novel ends with the aftermath of the coup of Thanedd—the mages of the Continent largely wiped out by the Scoia’tael and the forces of the White Flame; Ciri, having been portaled away to a distant desert, eventually getting back to civilization and becoming a member of the violent young outlaws known as the Rats; and Yennefer vanished.
Meanwhile, Geralt, having been beaten to within an inch of his life by the mage Vilgefortz, has been rushed to Brokilon Forest for healing. His injuries are extreme enough that despite being a witcher he never fully recovers. Indeed, when he and Jaskier leave Brokilon in search of Ciri early in the next book, they only survive their first fight because Milva, the human archer who had been bringing them information about what was going on beyond the forest, shows up and saves their lives.
While Geralt’s injuries in the book are not depicted as involving him being facially disfigured, it would have been only a small step to add that wrinkle and use it to 'explain' the changes in Geralt that the change from Cavill to Hemsworth will bring. But that is not the route that the show takes at all.
How does season 3 of the Witcher end for Geralt?
The ending of Geralt’s story in season three of the Witcher has a number of important changes from the novels. First, the show brings Geralt through the first part of the next book, Baptism of Fire, in which Milva is introduced, Geralt hears from Jaskier about Ciri being taken by the Emperor, and they set out to rescue her.
Second, before they leave Yennefer shows up in Brokilon and heals Geralt’s leg. In the books Yennefer is nowhere to be seen after Thanedd, having been turned into a small jade statue by Francesca Findabair. (It is super weird.)
Yennefer’s presence enables the series to return to one of the Witcher saga’s fundamental stories, the tragic romance of Geralt and Yen. Before she leaves Yen begs Geralt to promise he’ll see her again. (Notably, he doesn’t.)
But in some ways that healing is the more important beat. Because it means when the series imagines its own version of Jaskier and Geralt’s first battle post-Brokilon, rather than underlining Geralt’s fragility and establishing the importance of Milva to their company, the scene is a celebration of Geralt’s skills and Cavill’s magnetism.
In this new version, Jaskier and Geralt come upon Nilfgaardian soldiers running a border crossing. After a short interaction, Geralt pays for their passage with the brooch he took from Renfri way back in the pilot of the series. He had her brooch smithed into the hilt of his sword as a reminder not to get involved in the affairs of others, that it leads inevitably to tragedy. In giving it away now, he indicates he will no longer stand aside.
Then, to illustrate the point, as they walk through Geralt notices a poor refugee family behind them trying to cross. Before turning them away, the soldier takes the child’s doll. Geralt immediately steps in, first beating the soldier bloody and then taking on what starts as maybe 5 or 6 other soldiers and turns into dozens and dozens. It’s an outstanding battle sequence, Geralt’s most thrilling in the entire season. Thematically it underlines who Geralt is now, not a brooding monster hunter who refuses to get involved, but a force of nature unleashed and coming for his daughter.
So, instead of setting up the transition from Cavill to Hemsworth, the ending of season 3 seems constructed to highlight just how great Cavill is in this role and to get us excited about his new, Geralt-uncorked mission. Maybe that also makes it a perfect sendoff, but it's definitely a little weird.
Still, it’s unclear when exactly Cavill told the producers he was leaving the series. He didn’t publicly announce he was leaving until a month after shooting finished. The cast only found out when we did.
Is there a Witcher Season 3 post-credit scene?
As I mentioned in the round up on season 3, it is a little odd that the series didn’t do a post-credit scene. Not only are there all these questions about the introduction of Hemsworth, it’s widely known that shooting has completed on a thus-far-unannounced Rats mini-series. Why not tease that, if nothing else?
Potentially some kind of post-credit scene could have been as simple as showing Hemsworth in the role, perhaps in some sort of battle—give us a taste of him as the Witcher to get us excited, and leave the explanation for season 4. Maybe you even place it far in the future, near the end of season 4, another nod to the show’s delight in playing with time.
But given just how exciting Cavill’s final fight was, there was a pretty high risk of a Hemsworth fight scene actually backfiring and diminishing excitement for his arrival. And what a crappy sendoff it would have been for Cavill to be randomly one-upped by Hemsworth. Truly, nothing that invited the audience to compare the two actors seems like it would have served the show.
What does all of this suggest about how Hemsworth will be introduced as Geralt?
The fact that the show chose to end on such a high note for Cavill and avoided anything that suggested a change in cast was coming could indicate that the change is going to be handled along the lines of James Bond. Suddenly there will just be a new actor playing the role. It’s not a story point at all, just a change that’s been made.
Witcher Producer Steve Gaub offered exactly that reading in June. “We love everything that Henry gave us as a Geralt, Gaub told the Radio Times, “and now we’re really excited about what Liam can give us as a Geralt, much like there’s been different James Bonds, different Doctor Whos, different Spider-Mans.”
It’s not the first time the series will have done this, either. The rogue mage Rience was played by Chris Fulton in season two and Sam Woolf in season three.
But there is another, very weird idea floating around from another Witcher producer. Executive producer Tomek Baginski, in a number of interviews collected by Redanian Intelligence, has signaled that the introduction of Hemsworth will be “lore-accurate,” which suggests that it does indeed involve some kind of story point. In an interview with Yahoo he went on to say, “It’s also very, very close to the meta ideas which are deeply embedded in the books, especially in book five.” Book five—which is actually book seven (the first two books were collections of short stories)—is The Lady of the Lake, in which Ciri travels through many other dimensions trying to find her way back to Geralt and Yennefer.
The “multiverse” of the Witcher saga is very different than say, the Marvel multiverse, in that it does not involve multiple versions of the same characters, but instead radically different universes, some of them other fantasy universes, particularly that of King Arthur.
Nevertheless, Baginski’s comments are leading some to wonder whether Hemsworth is going to play a Geralt from another universe. Baginski certainly seems to suggest it: “It will be a new Geralt,” he said. “It will be a new face for this character and I think it will also be very, very exciting to see.”
Perhaps a move like this gives the series the chance to make some adjustments in the character of Geralt. Certainly it would free Hemsworth to not feel like he’s expected to carry on a multi-season imitation of Cavill. And it must be said, the Witcher writers love a big idea that messes with the audience.
Whatever they decide to do, the execution will be everything. So far Netflix has seemed mostly in panic mode about the change. One hopes the writers and producers are able to keep their eyes firmly on the story. It’s true, Cavill was dynamite, but so are the other actors.
And ultimately it’s the universe of the Witcher, and the relationships between Geralt, Yen, Ciri and Jaskier, that keep us coming back for more.
Confused/ Here's how to watch The Witcher in order.