The Winter King – Season 1 Episode 2 Recap & Review

The Return of Arthur 

The Winter King episode 2 picks up where we left off, with Merlin trying to convince Arthur to return to Dumnonia. Arthur has heard about his father’s ailment and the birth of the new Crown Prince, but he has no plans to return. He tells Merlin that High King Luther set him free when he banished him. Arthur has now come to be grateful and found his path. 

Merlin informs Arthur of his visions about Mordred and the danger Gundleus poses for the kingdom. He feels Arthur might be resentful and thus refuse to return. However, Arthur simply wants to revel in his freedom and be his own man. He believes the old country has no hold on him. He is thankful for Merlin’s love and care but adamant he won’t return to Dummonia.

Back in Caer Cadarn, High King Luther summons the other tribe leaders. Queen Morgan tries to talk him against trusting Gundleus, but her pleas fall on deaf ears. High King Luther addresses the tribe leaders and explains he is getting old. He fears his time is near and, as such, wants to select three people to protect the young future king, Mordred. 

He names Bishop Bedwin, leader of the Christian Church in Britain, and Owain, the champion of Dumnonia. However, his third choice leaves an unsettling feeling among everyone. He proclaims King Gundleus as Mordred’s third protector, which is met with immediate rejection. One of the leaders points out that King Gundleus has been nothing but trouble for the kingdom. 

High King Uther insists that King Gundleus has promised to break his alliance with his uncle Gorfydd. King Uther believes that King Gundleus will be able to protect Queen Norwenna once he dies. He wants her to have a fierce protector and since King Gundleus is unwed, he seems like the best choice to become Norwenna’s future husband. After hearing this incentive, King Gundleus vows to wage war against his uncle, who is planning to attack Dummonia and steal their harvest. 

After the meeting, Derfel decides to take a chance and attack King Gundleus before he leaves Caer Cadarn. Luckily, Nimue steps in and stops him from making such a terrible mistake. She curses King Gundleus and warns him that the gods are on to him. King Gundleus doesn’t appreciate the disrespect but Owain stops him from hurting Nimue. He explains she is their druidess and must be respected. 

Later, Derfel confronts Nimue for ruining his revenge plans. Nimue tells him that the gods have other plans for him, and he can’t die just yet. Derfel finds it ironic that she gets to choose her own path but interferes with his. Nimue admits it has not been easy staying on the lonely path. Derfel feels she lets Merlin make decisions for her, never questioning if he is right. 

In the meantime, High King Uther passes away after making Queen Morgan swear to protect Mordred with her life. Even in his last moments, High King Uther was still determining if he could trust King Gundleus. He asks Owain and Bishop Bedwin to keep an eye on King Gundleus. He admits he sent Arthur away because he shone too bright and Merlin favoured him. As per his last wishes, the King is burned in Avalon and the people pay their last respects.

Queen Norwenna and Morgan are still in Avalon three weeks after High King Luther’s death. All seem peaceful but Nimue starts having dark visions. Unfortunately, she is not sure what the visions mean.  She only realizes when King Gundleus is on his way to Avalon the next morning. 

He claims he has come to pay his respect to the Queen and her son. He pretends that he has defeated his Uncle Gorfydd and brings an inscribed sword belonging to his uncle as proof. Bishop Bedwin welcomes him and feels grateful that Gorfydd will no longer be a problem. Queen Morgan remains wary of King Gundleus, who brought a mysterious lady with him. 

Nonetheless, Queen Norwenna allows King Gundleus to hold baby Modred and pay his respects. Unfortunately, to the horror of everyone present, King Gundleus strikes the infant with a sword. As screams rent the air and many try to process what has just happened, King Gundleus’ men launch an attack on Avalon. 

They tear the village apart and many die, including Hywel. As the fight ensues, Nimue tries to hold a ritual, but King Gundleus stops her. He refuses to heed her warnings and proceeds to rape her. Derfel tries to save her but he is hit by the mysterious woman who came with King Gundleus. By the time he recovers, King Gundleus is raping Nimue. Later, King Gundleus takes Nimue’s necklace and leaves her to burn to death with Derfel.  

He heads over to Queen Norwenna. He humiliates her before killing her. He then sends Bishop Bedwin to Caer Cadarn to inform the other tribe leaders about the death of Mordred and asks them to surrender to him. He also announces the mysterious woman as his betrothed. H gives Nimue’s necklace to the woman and declares her the new queen of Dummonia.

Defel and Nimue manage to escape through the river but Nimue is terrified that the gods have abandoned her. She throws herself into the river, hoping to die, but Derfel stops her. He refuses to let her go, saying King Gundleus will have taken everything he loves if she dies. Other survivors, including Queen Morgan, Hywel’s daughter and an infant, soon join them. 

It turns out Queen Morgan switched the babies and Modred is still alive. The survivors are hoping to get to Caer Cadarn and keep the baby alive. However, King Gundleus realizes he killed the wrong kid and sends his men after them. Two men find the group; thankfully, Derfel kills them with the help of another survivor. 

They walk through the forest but unfortunately, King Gundleus spots them and gives chase. He corners them in an opening and is about to kill them when someone attacks his men from the hills above. The survivors look up to their saviour and are surprised to see Arthur and his army. 


The Episode Review

Seeing the numerous deaths unfold in this episode was quite a shock. It felt too gruesome and showed the bloody reality of what war probably looked like in the 5th century.  The only death that didn’t shock us was High King Luther’s. He died in his bed and was buried with the respect accorded to one of the greatest Kings in the history of Britain. 

King Gundleus betraying Dummonia was something we saw coming. However, we didn’t expect him to attack Avalon. This brings us to our next question: Where is Merlin? Does he know that his beloved Avalon is in ruins? 

The return of Arthur was the highlight of the show, though. He arrived just in time to save his people but the question is, will they accept him, and what happens now? It will be good to see how Merlin convinced him to return, and let’s hope we will learn more in the next episode.

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Expect a full-season review when this season concludes!

  • Episode Rating
    (3.5)
3.5

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