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The Witcher Season 3 Repeats A Huge Mistake From Season 1

While the response to "The Witcher" Season 3 has remained mostly positive thus far, one episode in particular has received a slew of criticism from fans and critics alike.

The episode in question is "The Art of Illusion," in which Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) and the sorceress Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) attend the Conclave Ball of Aretuza — where they unravel a messy web of political intrigue and conspiracy helmed by Vilgefortz (Mahesh Jadu). The real issue with "Art of Illusion" is the convoluted method through which this conspiracy is revealed; as the ball itself is replayed three separate times while Geralt and Yennefer recall different points of their night.

These "replays" frustratingly run us through events we've already seen while adding minor bits of new information, which results in a bloated mess of conflicting perspectives and timelines. The critical disdain for the episode is palpable, with Paul Tassi of Forbes calling it "an episode that thinks it's wildly smarter than it is," and Scott Meslow of Vulture calling it "not clever enough for a plot structure that's too clever by half." Unfortunately, the confusing story structure and overlapping narratives that make this episode so difficult to follow are issues that have plagued "The Witcher" since its very first season. 

Season 1 was lambasted by critics for trying to tell three different storylines at once across multiple different time periods, and the sloppy structure of "The Art of Illusion" proves that "The Witcher" still struggles when it comes to nonlinear narrative.

The episodes's bloated narrative structure is actually pulled from the books

The dreadful reception to Season 1's story structure was so intense that showrunner Lauren Hissrich actually had to speak out about how Season 2 of "The Witcher" would be less confusing than its predecessor; though her assurances don't seem to have extended to Season 3.

Many fans online are simply attributing the convoluted nature of "The Art of Illusion" to poor execution by the production team behind the episode. In fact, many fans on Reddit have gone so far as to criticize the director and editor for the confusing way this episode is presented. "I really disliked how this episode was edited," wrote u/grosstahr. "If you want to go for out of sequence storytelling, fine, but it was all so on the nose." Another user, u/Shaftell, echoed similar sentiments, saying, "I really liked the idea of this episode but I don't think it was executed well. I think it needed much tighter editing and possibly even a more experienced director."

Although many of these fans are criticizing the episode's execution over its content, it's worth mentioning that the convoluted story structure presented in the episode does come directly from the books the series is based on. Speaking to Netflix about the making of "The Art of Illusion," Lauren Hissrich explained that the flashback structure you see in the episode is the same way this ball is presented in the novel "Time of Contempt" — that is to say, through Geralt and Yennefer's conflicting memories of said ball. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, it's clear that most find this episode to be far too convoluted and confusing, and consider it among the worst episodes that "The Witcher" has to offer.