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The Hidden Story Fans Are Missing In The Witcher

You can learn a lot about a person from the way they fight, and in a new featurette for Netflix's The Witcher, fans discover who series hero Geralt of Rivia truly is through a clash of swords. The nearly six-minute, shot-by-shot breakdown of the White Wolf's second fight sequence on the Netflix show sees star Henry Cavill explaining "the dance" between Geralt and Emma Appleton's Renfri. It represents a hidden story fans have missed on The Witcher, and reveals a core part of Geralt's season 1 arc.

"[Stunt coordinator Wolfgang Stegemann] and I really wanted to make sure that the story was told through the fight," Cavill said. "It's not just a random fight of people swinging swords at each other. These are two people in a dance, and through that dance, a story is told."

The story is one centered on two equally difficult lives within the ruthless and unforgiving world of the Continent. Geralt is a mutated monster-hunter thanklessly called upon to stop creatures from attacking the very communities whose dehumanizing myths have caused many to fear and loathe him. A former princess exiled due to a spurious prophecy, Renfri has come to exact revenge on the man who stole everything from her. 

Cavill described Renfri as viper-like, doling out quick and calculating blows that Geralt must swiftly counter. As viewers learn, her upper-hand in most of the fight isn't because Geralt can't take her — it's because the monster-hunter would rather not fuel others' beliefs about who either of them is. 

"Renfri was very much the aggressor, and Geralt is on the defensive, right up until within four moves she is completely defeated," Cavill continued. "And then Geralt stands back and gives her the space. He allows her one last chance — walk away from Blaviken, forget and you won't be a monster."

Throughout the rest of The Witcher's first season, viewers watch this scene play out over and over again with new characters, new fights, and new locations as Geralt negotiates jobs, relationships, and even his own life around being seen as more than a heartless, for-hire killer.

The fight is a dance between Renfri and Geralt, two people with dark pasts

For all that scene reveals about Geralt, it tells just as much of a story about Renfri. 

As the two characters stand face to face, swords locked, the exiled princess tells Geralt through gritted teeth, "They created me just as they created you. We're not so different." She's referencing the many ways in which the two characters have walked the Cntinent, often painfully and alone. 

Geralt's life as a witcher began when, as a young boy, he was subjected to the Trial of the Grasses at a witcher training academy. The harrowing experience requires one to consume mutagenic compounds and undergo a combination of alchemical processes while receiving extensive physical and magical training. After having his humanity altered through ritual and magic, Geralt now subsists on loneliness and humans' hostility. 

Renfri, known to fans of Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher novels as Shrike, is the show's version of Snow White — if the Disney princess was a highly-skilled fighter with a penchant for impaling her victims and a massive appetite for revenge. The young woman was the princess of the small northern country born just after the Black Sun eclipse, a lunar event prophesied to bring about the births of 60 "possessed" girls who would end the world. 

After Renfri's step-mother sees a dark, murderous vision of the girl in a magic mirror, she has the princess investigated by the town's council. They, in turn, bring in a sorcerer named Stregobor (Lars Mikkelsen), who makes up lies about the young girl torturing animals to get her cast out of her family. With her isolated, it's easier for Stregobor to enact his plan to steal her organs to help maintain his youth.

Now on her own, Renfri goes on the run after killing a man Stregobor sends to murder her. Born of ritual and magic, ostracized over others ignorances, and now a face that strikes fear, Renfri and her band of thugs build a reputation that almost rivals Geralt's.

Geralt and Renfri's pasts may be similar, but their moral compasses aren't

Because they've both seen so much darkness and violence from a young age, Geralt's connection to Renfri is understandable. Unfortunately for Geralt, the recognition of shared trauma and a silent plea to defy other's expectations isn't enough to stop her. 

Renfri's entire life as a princess was taken from her as a result of an evil sorcerer's lies and other people's unsubstantiated fears. Raped and robbed by Stregobor's first thug, she escaped only to have to steal and sell her body to eat, all while fighting off a seemingly never-ending wave of assassins sent by the sorcerer. 

While Geralt believes that refusing to engage in others' violent politics, bigoted misgivings, and baseless fears is an act of freedom, Renfri doesn't think they can live outside the moral bounds of other men. There's no choice to abstain, only a choice between a lesser of two evils, as she tells Geralt. And so, the two engage in a fight where once their swords touch, they won't be able to stop. 

Geralt does eventually give pause, proving they're quite different despite all their similarities. Letting Renfri have space was as much about helping her decide her fate as establishing her — and his — definition of freedom. It would, however, be a wasted move. Renfri had long decided what she wanted, and she wasn't going to stop until either she or Stregobor were gone. 

"As much as he hates the idea of it, he's not going to lose his own life in the process of someone who is determined to die," Cavill said of Geralt's decision to kill Renfri. 

Among the many deaths and significant scenes of The Witcher's first season, Renfri's is one of the most difficult to watch — if only because of the heart-wrenching stories it tells and subtle character details it offers to viewers.