Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Witcher.
One main reason the events of The Witcher are so scattered across time is that they are adaptions of different short stories by Sapkowski, set at different periods of Geralt’s long life. Another reason for the time displacement, as showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich explained to The Wrap, was so that the show could get power players Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri all on screen from the get-go. This way, viewers meet Ciri and Yennefer on their own terms, rather than encountering them only when Geralt’s life story overlaps with theirs. Since the books are told exclusively from his perspective, the show greatly expands Yennefer’s story line to show us what she was like before meeting Geralt.
Characters are therefore key to time in The Witcher; following them is the best way to keep track of everything else. Each main character’s journey is told chronologically on screen, they’re just out of sync from each other. So we see Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May) of Cintra die in episode 1 at the beginning of Ciri’s journey, but see a younger version of Calanthe in episodes 4 and 7 as she pops up during Geralt’s journey. As the show progresses to the season 1 finale, the timelines start to match up as we see Geralt and Yennefer’s various encounters.
There probably won’t be as much timey-wimey confusion in future seasons because (spoiler alert!) the final scene of season 1 is the long-awaited meeting between Geralt and Ciri. Ciri’s first question to the man she’s been told is her destiny (“Who’s Yennefer?”) indicates that the three main characters of The Witcher will soon, finally, be on the same page.