‘The Winter King’ Episode 3 Recap & Ending Explained: What Is Arthur’s Punishment For King Gundleus?


MGM+’s historical fiction drama series The Winter King is back this week after no release last Sunday, and the show once again picks up from where it had left off. King Gundleus, the evil leader of Siluria, had betrayed the trust King Uther had shown in him, and after the latter’s death, Gundleus raided the village of Avalon and butchered innocent men and women. His intention was to get rid of baby Mordred, who was to be the future king of Dumnonia, but the man realized after some time that the baby he had killed was not his real target. Therefore, Gundleus chased down the survivors from Avalon when Arthur suddenly emerged, after he heroically returned to England to bring matters under control.

Spoiler Alert

What Is Arthur’s Punishment For King Gundleus?

Once Arthur arrives in the open fields with his band of warriors, the entire situation changes since Gundleus’ men are quickly killed, and only he and his pagan lover are kept alive. They are taken back to the castle in the capital city of Caer Cadarn, where Dumnonians also welcome back their banished prince Arthur with quite a shock. Nobody had expected Arthur to return, as it had been long since his father had turned him away from the city, but his next decisions shocked the people even more. The people of Dumnonia are obviously enraged at Gundleus for having not just betrayed their late king’s trust but also for the massacre he had just led. Almost all want to immediately kill the traitor, not even letting him be taken to the main castle. Among these vengeful people is also Nimue, the new druid of the kingdom, who had been sexually assaulted and violated by Gundleus during the attack on Avalon. Nimue wants her revenge now, just like all of the other people who have angrily gathered, and they also do not want to spare the traitor’s lover, Ladwys.

However, it is Arthur who swiftly brings an end to such calls for violence, and he even personally stops Nimue from striking Gundleus. Instead, the prince decides to keep Gundleus captive for the time being, and since there are no prison cells at the castle, he arranges for the traitor and Ladwys to be put up inside the king’s chamber. Morgan and the others are shocked that Arthur is allowing the vile enemies to reside inside the chamber where their father, King Uther, and Queen Norwenna lived only some time ago. But unlike everyone around him, Arthur is unmoved by any emotion or sentimentality, and instead, he is truly capable of thinking forward and making plans according to the situation. So far in The Winter King, Arthur’s character is being shaped up as a masterful tactician along with a brave warrior and fighter. We are not really given any firm idea about why Arthur has suddenly decided to return to his homeland. The only thing he mentions in this regard is that he once made a vow to his father that he would protect any of his half-brothers with his life. Therefore, after learning of the danger facing baby Mordred, Arthur decided to return.

While there might be other underlying reasons as well, which Arthur is not yet revealing, it is also undecided as to whether he will stay back in England or return to Gaul. Many of the men in his group are also not aware of what decision will be taken in this regard. However, Arthur does seem willing to stay back, or he at least decides to help his homeland for the time being. After returning to Dumnonia, he learned of the increasing Saxon attacks, as the enemy had been gradually closing in on the isles. Thus, he realizes the need for all lords and rulers in England to unite and fight together against the common enemy—the Saxons. Although England had never been united at the time, and all the different kingdoms usually stayed at war with each other, Arthur intended to try this for the first time. He believes that King Gundleus would be a crucial tool in trying this, and therefore, Arthur decides to keep the traitor alive, even arranging for his protection against the angry people of the kingdom.

How Do Owain And Nimue React To Arthur’s Decision?

In The Winter King episode 2, we had seen King Uther choose the three protectors for his baby son, and while Gundleus had already betrayed the trust, the other two—Bishop Bedwin and Owain—were still with Dumnonia. It is now technically Owain, as stated by Arthur himself, who is the rightful king of Dumnonia since he is responsible for the safeguarding of the baby and is also the champion of the kingdom. Owain and Arthur had been close friends for a long time, since their younger days, and now they are both elated to see each other. Owain had not immediately heard of his friend’s return from exile, and so he was excited to see Arthur after all these years. However, the latter’s decision to keep Gundleus alive does not fit well with Owain either, since he is bound by his promise to the late king to protect the baby boy.

Like everyone else, Owain also wants to see the end of Gundleus, and he states how keeping the traitor alive poses a direct threat to baby Mordred’s life. But Arthur is not willing to change his mind, and he tries to convince his friend that Gundleus can be used for other political purposes, but to no avail. This does give birth to misunderstanding and distrust between the friends, at least from Owain’s side. He is still confused and, therefore, suspicious of Arthur’s plans and intentions. The man goes to the extent of mentioning that Dumnonia is facing a threat on both sides. The first obvious threat is, of course, the Saxon invasion, and by mentioning the second threat to the kingdom, he refers to the internal threat that Arthur is creating against his own kingdom.

On the other side, Nimue has turned completely different from how she was at the beginning of the series, and now, in episode 3, she is totally vengeful and driven by this one motive—to kill Gundleus. When Arthur stops her from doing so, the woman immediately curses him, warning that stopping the druid from performing her duties will not bode well for him personally. These threats do not work, and so Nimue remains extremely driven to get her revenge against her rapist, especially after Gundleus is kept inside the castle. At Nimue’s disposal is obviously her lover and greatest admirer, Derfel, and the woman now makes a close symbolic gesture towards him. Cutting both his and her own palms and then touching their wounds together, Nimue promises that she and Derfel will be one and the same from now on.

Derfel is touched by this gesture since he is still in love with Nimue, and he gets convinced to try and help the woman. However, the toughest matter for them both is that the key to the king’s chamber, inside which Gundleus is kept imprisoned, always stays with Arthur personally. The only option remaining for Nimue is to knock Arthur unconscious, and she appoints Derfel to do this as well. Handing over some sedative drugs to mix in Arthur’s drink, she sends her lover to execute the plan, but this does not really work out. Arthur had already guessed that something like this would happen, since he knew of Nimue’s hatred for Gundleus and also of Nimue and Derfel’s unfulfilled love. Now, when he confronts Derfel about this, the latter accepts the truth since Derfel also has a constant feeling of dedication and respect for Arthur, who once saved him from certain death. Thus, Nimue does not get her revenge yet, and all her plans to kill Gundleus fail.

What Is Arthur’s Plan With Gundleus?

Now that the current situation has settled a bit and the subjects in Dumnonia have accepted that their sworn enemy is living inside the castle, Arthur reveals his real plans to Gundleus. The Silurian king’s uncle, Gorfydd of Powys, was an established enemy of the Dumnonian kingdom, and Arthur now plans on striking a relationship with him. He has already realized that the threat posed by the Saxons is much greater than any of the internal feuds in the land, and so Arthur’s focus is now to bring all the lords and kings together. There is a great occasion to do this at Mordred’s naming ceremony, which is to take place in the coming days, and so he decides to take his chance with Gorfydd as well.

Arthur now strikes a deal with Gundleus and even sets the prisoner free. He wants Gundleus to go to his uncle in Powys and convince him to travel to Dumnonia for the naming ceremony. Gundleus does not take this with any seriousness at first, but then he does realize that Arthur is indeed being earnest when his cuffs are actually taken off. The traitor is indeed set free, and Arthur also promises that Dumnonia and Siluria will become trade allies if this intention of his succeeds. But the clever prince also keeps Ladwys behind at the castle, who will probably only be released after Gundleus successfully brings Gorfydd to have talks.

When asked by the others about why he had set Gundleus free without consulting with anybody else, Arthur admits that he wanted to take the whole blame upon himself in case this plan backfired. He truly does not have too much to lose, as he is ready to leave England once again. But Arthur does not want to let go of the opportunity to help his homeland against invaders, and so this is his attempt at doing something for the kingdom that once turned him away.

What Can We Expect From Episode 4?

Now that Gundleus has been set free and he does seem convinced of Arthur’s plan, it is still uncertain as to whether the man will act as a connection between the prince and Gorfydd. While it seems unlikely that Gundleus will take another turn and betray Arthur, too, this could also happen considering the character he is. Meanwhile, Arthur has also grown a few doubters because of his unusual decisions, and his close friend Owain is the most prominent among them. Whether this leads to more serious feuds remains to be seen. Also, some interactions between Nimue and Ladwys can also be expected since the two already scuffled once, with the latter claiming that she had been made to do things by her lover. Nimue can either learn more about Gundleus from Ladwys or, considering the grim tone that The Winter King is trying to set, she might also kill the woman as part of her revenge. This could lead to further complications between Gundleus and Arthur.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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