Breaking Down The Witcher‘s Mid-Season 3 Cliffhanger Ending

4 minute read

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first five episodes of The Witcher season 3.

Following a year-and-a-half hiatus, The Witcher is back for a highly-anticipated new season that will mark Henry Cavill’s final outing as titular monster-hunter Geralt of Rivia before Liam Hemsworth takes over the lead role of the popular fantasy series. Netflix dropped the first five episodes of the show’s third season on Thursday, setting viewers on a crash course for the release of the final three installments on July 27.

Season 3 opens with Geralt, Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra), and Princess Cirilla “Ciri” of Cintra (Freya Allan) testing the bonds of their makeshift family as they travel the Continent attempting to fend off a myriad of threats while Ciri continues training to hone her magic and defend herself.

But with everyone from the rogue fire mage Rience (Sam Woolf) to the elven queen Francesca (Mecia Simson) to Nilfgaardian emperor Emhyr “The White Flame” var Emreis (Bart Edwards)—who we now know is actually Ciri’s believed-to-be-dead father Duny—hunting for Ciri, Geralt, and Yennefer soon decide they’re going to need some reinforcements to protect their ward.

While Geralt attempts to track down Rience, Yennefer escorts Ciri to the magical academy Aretuza to meet with her mentor Tissaia (MyAnna Buring), hoping that the rectoress will be able to help teach Ciri to control her powers. As it comes to light that a much older and more powerful mage is not only pulling Rience’s strings but is also responsible for the disappearance of a number of half-elven Aretuza novices, Yennefer proposes holding a Conclave of Mages to unite the Brotherhood, the organization that governs the Continent’s magic users, and the rulers of the Northern Kingdoms in the coming war against Nilfgaard, and suss out the mysterious figure who’s really behind these evil deeds.

And how better to kick off the Conclave than with a glamorous ball.

How does part one of The Witcher season 3 end?

Believing that Stregobor (Lars Mikkelsen), a mage with a history of experimenting on young girls and hating elves, is their prime suspect, Geralt and Yennefer formulate a plan to bring the wizard’s treason to light. While Geralt and Istredd (Royce Pierreson) create a distraction at the ball, Yennefer sneaks into Stregobor’s office and breaks into his safe, finding a hoard of items belonging to the kidnapped novices as well as the missing Book of Monoliths, an old elven tome that supposedly “holds the key to traveling between spheres.”

But exposing Stregobor and getting him arrested is a bit too easy.

Following ominous conversations with both Redanian spymaster Dijkstra (Graham McTavish) and Vilgefortz (Mahesh Jadu), the powerful mage romantically involved with Tissaia, during which Geralt is told that he must pick a side in the battle to come, Geralt and Yennefer put the missing pieces of the puzzle together and realize that Vilgefortz is the true villain at work and wants Ciri for his own gains.

While Yennefer stays behind to try to locate Tissaia and warn her about Vilgefortz, Geralt exits the room to the sounds of screaming and suddenly finds a knife pressed to his throat by Dijkstra. “Should have chosen a side, witcher,” Dijkstra tells him.

Although Vilgefortz’s ultimate motives remain unclear, in Andrzej Sapkowski’s books on which The Witcher is based, the mage is a central antagonist who gives Geralt a serious run for his money in his quest to protect Ciri.

“Our villain has been playing a very long game. A very long game—decades,” showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich told Netflix’s Tudum in April. “[The writers have] obviously known who the villain was since the moment we started writing season 1. So the writers have also been playing a very long game, and there have been scenes and actions in the past where a character will seem to do something that is well out of character, or that’s not who the fans believe he or she actually is.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Megan McCluskey at