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Breaking down The Witcher’s complicated, crisscrossing timeline

40 years of history pass in just 8 episodes

Yennefer stands in a desert, splattered with blood, in The Witcher
Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) on the run in the desert.
Photo: Katalin Vermes/Netflix
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

The first season of Netflix’s The Witcher covers approximately 40 years of the main characters’ history. To make it through all those experiences, the series takes place in four different timelines. Unless you’re familiar with the books, the time jumping can make the action somewhat difficult to keep track of. So let’s clear it all up.

[Ed. note: The following contains spoilers for The Witcher through the end of the first season.]

The easiest way to think of The Witcher’s story, in the first season, is as a series of flashbacks. The “present” time is always Ciri’s storyline, which begins just before the invasion of Cintra by Nilfgaard. Geralt of Rivia’s stories, which take place in the fairly recent past, all lead up to his meeting with Ciri.

Meanwhile, about 30 years before Geralt’s adventures as depicted in season 1. the sorceress Yennefer trains to become a mage. Once the two cross paths, their stories are mostly concurrent (but still in the past compared to Ciri’s tale). Making it more confusing, characters who die early on jump in and out of the story, depending on the time period in which a particular scene takes place.

With that idea in mind, here’s a breakdown of where — or rather, when — the key characters are during each episode of The Witcher’s first season.

Episode 1: ‘The End’s Beginning’

Geralt: the past (before Ciri’s birth)

Arrives in Blaviken and meets Renfri and the sorcerer Stregobor. He realizes there is such a thing as a “lesser evil.”

Ciri: the present, (during the invasion by Nilfgaard)

Flees from Cintra as Nilfgaard attacks, using her magical powers to defend herself during her escape. Sets out to “find Geralt of Rivia.”

Ciri walks through a dense forest carrying a stick
Ciri (Freya Allan) tries to survive in the forest.
Photo: Katalin Vermes/Netflix

Episode 2: ‘Four Marks’

Yennefer: the distant past, (more than 30 years before Nilfgaard attacks Cintra)

While living in Vengerberg, the capital of Aedirn, she is sold by her father to the sorceress Tissaia de Vries, who trains her in magic at Aretuza.

Geralt: the past

Meets Jaskier the bard; both are captured by elves. This adventure becomes the basis for Jaskier’s Witcher ballad.

Ciri: the present (days after Nilfgaard’s invasion of Cintra)

Meets Dara and finds a Cintran refugee camp that is soon destroyed.

Episode 3: ‘Betrayer Moon’

Yennefer: the distant past (more than 30 years before Nilfgaard attacks Cintra)

Completes her training. At the behest of Stregobor, the mage that Geralt will later meet in Blaviken, she is assigned to serve the Nilfgaardian Empire as an adviser. Unhappy with this outcome, she forces her way into the employ of the king of Aedirn, her original home.

Geralt: the past,

Saves the princess of Temeria.

Ciri: the present (days after Nilfgaard’s invasion of Cintra)

Becomes entranced and wanders into Brokilon Forest.

Episode 4: ‘Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials’

Yennefer: the past (three decades after she started serving the kingdom of Aedirn)

Is escorting Queen Kalis of Lyria when an assassin ambushes them, likely because the queen had not given birth to a male heir.

Geralt: the past

Attends the betrothal feast of Princess Pavetta of Cintra, where he saves the life of one of Pavetta’s suitors, Duny, the Urcheon of Erlenwald. Geralt chooses to receive payment through the Law of Surprise, and his reward ends up being Duny and Pavetta’s child — Ciri.

Ciri: the present

Meets Queen Eithné and the dryads of Brokilon Forest.

Queen Calanthe, a dark-haired woman wearing a golden dress and a golden crown, framed by light behind her in The Witcher
Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May)
Photo: Katalin Vermes/Netflix

Episode 5: ‘Bottled Appetites’

Yennefer and Geralt: the past (years after the betrothal feast of Princess Pavetta)

Finally meet during an unfortunate run-in with a Djinn.

Ciri: the present

A doppler masquerading as the druid Mousesack, Queen Calanthe’s adviser, attempts to trick Ciri and Dara into leaving Brokilon Forest.

Episode 6: ‘Rare Species’

Geralt and Yennefer: the past (before Nilfgaard invades Cintra)

Go on a dragon hunt. Geralt reveals that in his third wish from the Djinn, he bound his and Yennefer’s fates together. Yennefer is furious with Geralt for taking her freedom, insults him for neglecting Ciri — to whom he is bound through the Law of Surprise — and leaves him.

Ciri: the present

Contends with the doppler, and continues her attempts to evade capture from the Nilfgaardians that are chasing her.

Episode 7: ‘Before a Fall’

Yennefer: the past (shortly before Nilfgaard invades Cintra)

Meets with the Brotherhood of Sorcerers at Aretuza. Some of the mages team up to defend the Northern Kingdoms from the encroaching Nilfgaardians, and they recruit Yennefer to join them.

Geralt: the past, (days before Nilfgaard invades Cintra)

Arrives in Cintra and attempts to claim his Law of Surprise reward — Ciri — in order to take her away from Cintra and keep her safe from the approaching Nilfgaardian army. Queen Calanthe of Cintra, Ciri’s grandmother, does not want to give Ciri to Geralt, so she tries to trick him and later jails him. When the Nilfgaardians arrive at Cintra’s doorstep, the queen changes her mind, but Geralt is gone, leaving Ciri to escape as we saw in episode 1.

Ciri: the present

Ciri runs into some fellow Cintrans, but they attempt to capture her. She uses her powers to kill them.

geralt rides roach the horse in the woods in the witcher on Netflix
Geralt (Henry Cavill) and his trusty steed, Roach.
Photo: Katalin Vermes/Netflix

Episode 8: ‘Much More’

Yennefer: the present

The mages attempt to hold a strategic point to stop Nilfgaardian army from advancing northward across the Yaruga river. When all appears lost for the mages and Northerners, Yennefer decimates the attacking Nilfgaardians, but eventually disappears from the battle.

Geralt: the present

Defends a farmer from undead monsters at the ransacked Cintran refugee camp, but is wounded during the battle. He is taken back to the merchant’s farm to recover.

Ciri: the present

Is taken to the same farm as Geralt, and the two finally meet. Ciri asks Geralt, “Who is Yennefer?”

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