Rhodopsin, the visual pigment of the rod photoreceptor cell contains as its light-sensitive cofactor 11-cis retinal, which is bound by a protonated Schiff base between its aldehyde group and the Lys296 side chain of the apoprotein. Light activation is achieved by 11-cis to all-trans isomerization and subsequent thermal relaxation into the active, G protein-binding metarhodopsin II state. Metarhodopsin II decays via two parallel pathways, which both involve hydrolysis of the Schiff base eventually to opsin and released all-trans retinal. Subsequently, rhodopsin's dark state is regenerated by a complicated retinal metabolism, termed the retinoid cycle. Unlike other retinal proteins, such as bacteriorhodopsin, this regeneration cycle cannot be short cut by light, because blue illumination of active metarhodopsin II does not lead back to the ground state but to the formation of largely inactive metarhodopsin III. In this review, mechanistic details of activating and deactivating pathways of rhodopsin, particularly concerning the roles of the retinal, are compared. Based on static and time-resolved UV/Vis and FTIR spectroscopic data, we discuss a model of the light-induced deactivation. We describe properties and photoreactions of metarhodopsin III and suggest potential roles of this intermediate for vision.