Warning: This post has spoilers for Season 1 of The Witcher.
There's a moment in the third episode of The Witcher when a painting depicts a pair of nobles who are long dead. In the next scene, those same children are shown to be very much alive in a storyline that we previously thought was happening concurrently with the first. Whaaaaa? It's in that moment that we realize that The Witcher is totally f***ing with us with regards to time.
Within episodes, the Netflix series not only bounces around between the stories of Geralt (Henry Cavill), Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), and Ciri (Freya Allan), it also bounces around points on the timeline that span decades. But because there's rarely any cues that it is doing so, and because Geralt and Yennefer don't age like normal humans, it's virtually impossible to tell when the heck things are happening. The jury's out on whether that's a bug or a feature of The Witcher, but we can all agree on one thing: It's confusing, especially for those of us who haven't read the books.
Below, we untangle the timelines as best we can, focusing on the events that happen in the show so you can easily identify when the scenes you're watching take place relative to scenes from the rest of the season. The Witcher doesn't reference numerical dates (you can check out The Witcher books' wiki if you need numbers), so we're putting the events in the order of when they happened, and because individual character's stories in episodes are the best signifiers of time (and because the show prefers to compartmentalize the stories of Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri), we've indicated whose story within each episode the event takes place in.
Let's untangle the timeline! Note: This is our best attempt at it; there are some instances where things are happening concurrently, and some parts of the story happen with little to no reference points. We placed them where we thought they fit best.
- Yennefer is taken to the magic academy Aretuza as a teen by Tissaia de Vries and begins her trials to become a sorceress. She also begins her relationship with Istredd, and tells him she is quarter-elf. (Episode 2, Yennefer)
- After years of studying at Aretuza, Yennefer sacrifices her uterus to transform herself and goes to Aedirn's court. Meanwhile, King Dagorad bans mages from Cintra shortly before his death. Nilfgaard is in shambles under King Fergus' rule, and Foltest and Adda are still young children. (Episode 3, Yennefer)
- Queen Calanthe takes the Cintran throne while just a teenager and wins her first battle. Geralt becomes the Butcher of Blaviken shortly after Calanthe's victory. (Episode 1, Geralt)
- Foltest's sister Adda dies while she's pregnant and cursed, causing her unborn daughter to become a striga. (Mentioned in Episode 3)
- Approximately 30 years after Yennefer's transformation, she is unable to save the Queen of Aedirn's infant daughter from assassination — by that dark mage and that bug thingy — and leaves court. (Episode 4, Yennefer)
- Geralt meets Jaskier in a tavern and Geralt is hired to kill a "devil" that's stealing a local's food. Geralt and Jaskier are taken captive by elves (and Jaskier's lute is destroyed!), but they're ultimately freed by their captors, Torque, Filavandreal, and Toruviel. (Episode 2, Geralt)
- Hey look! It's Triss Merigold! She's working with King Foltest, who we see earlier as a child in Yennefer's story in the same episode. Geralt cures the striga. (Episode 3, Geralt)
- Duny and Pavetta, Ciri's parents, wed after secretly dating, despite Calanthe's initial protests. Calanthe and Eist also wed. After saving Duny's life, Geralt invokes the Law of Surprise, unwittingly claiming Pavetta's unborn daughter Ciri. (Episode 4, Geralt)
- Yennefer and Geralt meet (months or years after the betrothal feast) while encountering a djinn. Then they totally do it for the first, but definitely not the last, time. (Episode 5, Geralt and Yennefer)
- Ciri's parents Pavetta and Duny die at some point; the claim is their ship is lost at sea. (Spoken of in the series on multiple occasions)
- Yennefer and Geralt happen upon each other when they each try to solve the problem of a green dragon. They have sex again! (Episode 6, Geralt and Yennefer)
- Twelve years after Pavetta's banquet, Geralt heads to Cintra to check in on his Child of Surprise. Geralt finds out it's a girl. Geralt is told Pavetta and Duny are dead. (Episode 7, Geralt)
- After coming upon Istredd in Nazair and meeting Vilgefortz, Yennefer returns to Aretruza while Nilfgaard plans to attack Cintra. (Episode 7, Yennefer)
- Cintra is falling to Nilfgaardian forces. Geralt is present at Cintra, but imprisoned in a cell by Queen Calanthe. When Mousesack convinces her that Ciri's only chance of survival may be to fulfill her destiny, Calanthe calls for Geralt to be released and protect Ciri, but he's already escaped on his own. Calanthe sends Ciri, now the heir to the throne, off to find Geralt. A gravely injured Calanthe chooses suicide by self-defenestration rather than subject herself to the Nilfgaardian forces. (Episode 1, Ciri; Episode 7, Geralt)
- Ciri goes on the run and meets Dara. The Cintran refugee camp is attacked by Nilfgaard. (Episode 2, Ciri)
- Ciri goes to Brokilon with Dara. (Episode 4, Ciri)
- Ciri and Dara leave Brokilon with the Doppler masquerading as Mousesack. (Episode 5, Ciri)
- Ciri discovers the Doppler is pretending to be Mousesack, and runs. The Doppler fights Cahir. (Episode 6, Ciri)
- Ciri, still on the run, encounters Anton and others, who try to rob her. Ciri goes into a trance and makes a whole mess out of Anton and his friends (and one poor horse), while spouting out some prophetical nonsense. (OR IS IT NONSENSE?!?) (Episode 7, Ciri)
- The Battle of Sodden Hill begins with the Brotherhood of Sorcerers holding an old keep against advancing Nilfgaardian forces. It is brutal! (Episode 8, Yennefer)
- Ciri wakes up to see the devastation around her, not knowing how it happened. She's taken in by the same woman who tried to help her a few episodes prior. Ciri sees the Nilfgaard mages' fireballs shooting across the sky at the Battle of Sodden Hill. (Episode 8, Ciri)
- Geralt is attacked by some gross-looking undead monsters and is bitten. A man whose life he saved takes Geralt in to help him. (Episode 8, Geralt)
- At the behest of Tissaia, Yennefer opens up a can of chaotic whoop-ass on the Nilfgaardian forces and ends the Battle of Sodden Hill. Yennefer vanishes. (Episode 8, Yennefer)
- Ciri secretly leaves the woman's care; we find out the woman is the wife of the man who is caring for Geralt. Geralt and Ciri finally meet, phew. Ciri asks Geralt, "Who is Yennefer?" after getting a peep of her through Geralt's dreams. DESTINY SEALED. (Episode 8, Geralt; Episode 8, Ciri)
Season 1 of The Witcher is now on Netflix.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)