MGM+’s historical fiction series The Winter King had left us amidst a romantic dilemma in last week’s episode 6, in which Arthur of Dumnonia had traveled to Powys in order to marry Princess Ceinwyn, to strengthen the ties between the two kingdoms. However, in an almost magical manner, Arthur had fallen in love with Ceinwyn’s close aide and friend, Lady Guinevere. The Winter King episode 7 continues with this plot, as Arthur has to make the difficult decision of whom to choose. Derfel also makes an appearance in this episode, as a secret about the attack on his village and his mother is now revealed.
What happens between Arthur and Guinevere?
The Winter King episode 7 begins at the capital of Powys, Caer Dolforwyn, where Arthur and his men are still staying as the guests of King Gorfydd. Since the matrimonial alliance is about to give him extensive power over Dumnonia, which he also fully intends to make use of, King Gorfydd has evidently changed his way of treating Arthur. At the beginning of the episode, the two men are seen in Powys’ library, which is home to numerous religious scrolls and artifacts from all over the Isles. Unlike his previous image of only a plotting and conniving ruler, Gorfydd’s interest in literature and culture is revealed here. Arthur, too, is quite surprised by this revelation, and knowing that the once rival king is going to be his kin, he asks King Gorfydd to teach him more about Britain. Through this interaction, Arthur also learns about Gorfydd’s love for Britain and understands that he would be loyal to the cause of protecting the land against invaders.
When Arthur first met Guinevere by the side of the lake before he had even arrived at Powys, the woman had been trying to heal her injured horse. Arthur now remembers this information and asks Derfel to make an ointment specifically used to heal hurt horses. He informs Guinevere about this as well, in a very short instance that he gets with her. The preparations for the royal marriage still continue, as the ceremony will take place about two or three days later, when the full moon will appear. Gorfydd shows Arthur around in his castle, and whenever the young King of Dumnonia comes across Princess Ceinwyn, there is a raging dilemma in his mind. Arthur remains extremely respectful and courteous to Ceinwyn, which the woman obviously cherishes, and there is a sense of true feelings developing from her side for her husband-to-be. However, when Arthur has further interactions with Lady Guinevere, it becomes clear both to him and to us viewers that the man is unable to suppress his genuine attraction towards her.
The fiery bond between Arthur and Guinevere takes a brief halt when he sends Derfel to the stables with the ointment for Guinevere’s horse instead of himself going with it. Guinevere’s reaction, in which she simply turns away Derfel, stating that she does not need such piteous help from anyone, makes it very apparent that she, too, is immensely attracted to Arthur. Nonetheless, the difficult situation that they find themselves in takes precedence for the time being. King Gorfydd recognizes Arthur’s evident attraction towards Guinevere, and he tells him that he, too, had tried to pursue the woman. Since his plan is to send Guinevere to Dumnonia as a sort of spy for him, Gorfydd asks Arthur to present one of his trusted men in order to be the husband of Ceinwyn’s companion. Lanval, a warrior in his group, steps up and pursues Guinevere, but this is once again more of a ruse for Arthur and Guinevere’s bond to strengthen.
When Arthur and Ceinwyn talk about this possible marriage for Guinevere, he asks the princess to describe her companion to him, and the more she does so, the more Arthur finds a resemblance between her and himself. Walking up to Guinevere and Lanval, Arthur has an indirect conversation with his lover, and this is the first time Ceinwyn suspects something is up. Later that night, the two lovers secretly meet at the stable, where Guinevere finally speaks her mind. Even though she does not expect any change of fortune, she admits that despite her love for Ceinwyn, who is like a younger sister to her, the agony of Ceinwyn getting everything that Guinevere ever wants bothers her a lot. This is definitely a first expression of love, for Guinevere admits to wanting Arthur, and the two share a passionate moment. But reality once again strikes back before they can celebrate each other for long, since the marriage as part of the peace agreement would still be taking place. Guinevere walks away from the stable, saying that she and Arthur should not meet again and that they should put an end to their affair.
What is revealed about Derfel, Gundleus, and Gorfydd?
Derfel goes around Caer Dolforwyn in search of the medicinal plant needed to make the ointment Arthur had asked him for, and reaches the orchards where he sees Gundleus’ pagan lover Ladwys plucking fruits from a tree. The woman uses a hand knife to get this done, but injures herself in the process, drawing the attention of Derfel. Looking at her from a short distance, Derfel is shocked to see the knife that Ladwys has is actually the very same one that his mother used to carry. When he was a young boy, his mother would cut fruits for him using that very same knife. During his childhood, Derfel’s village had been raided by Gundleus and his men, in which the entire village was burnt down, and Derfel’s mother was taken away to be the horrible man’s slave.
Later on in the episode, when Derfel confronts Ladwys about where she had got the knife, she replies that her beloved Gundleus had given it to her. Derfel then tells her about his past, and what Gundleus and his men had done to his mother and him. Ladwys is unconvinced at first, for it is almost impossible to have been alive despite being thrown into the death pit, but Derfel had indeed survived with Arthur’s help. He now shows Ladwys the scars on his body that being impaled in the death pit had left behind, and the woman is now equally shocked and scared. She gives back the knife, acknowledging that Derfel is its rightful owner, and then scurries away from the place.
When Derfel tells Arthur about how it was Gundleus who had killed his entire family and village, Arthur is truly surprised and also very proud of the fact that Derfel has been able to contain his emotions till now. The young man reveals that although he had been desiring to take revenge on Gundleus, seeing Arthur’s way of dealing with the man and making use of him for political benefit had also taught him a lot. Taking lessons of restraint and a much-needed control over one’s emotional self from Arthur, Derfel had matured into a much more composed individual. It becomes quite clear from his words that Derfel does not intend to take any revenge, at least for the time being.
On the other side, Gundleus is extremely agitated at his uncle suddenly treating Arthur like his own son. Gundleus had always craved for Gorfydd’s attention and blessings, and seeing Arthur getting to marry the princess is upsetting for him. When he discusses this with Ladwys, she sees it as a good opportunity, since they can now marry without having to be answerable to anyone. Ladwys is far more intelligent that the impetuous Gundleus, and so she states how being on the good side of Arthur is a beneficial thing for them. After some time, Gundleus goes to meet his uncle with the demand that he and Ladwys also be married by him on the same day as Arthur and Ceinwyn’s ceremony. However, Gorfydd does not want to give his nephew the same respect or adoration as his daughter, and so he turns him down.
Gundleus now reveals that it was Gorfydd who had told him to attack Avalon, asking him to take away the Edling King, baby Mordred. However, Gundleus had messed the plan up, as he thought that killing the baby, all the residents of Avalon, and also forcing himself upon Nimue would all be dealt with by his uncle. Since the situation had escalated because of Gundleus’ violent decisions, there was technically no chance for Gorfydd to blow it off, and the man now angrily dismisses his nephew. Throwing some meager amount of money his way, Gorfydd tells Gundleus to return to his home in Powys, cutting off ties with him in a way.
Later in the episode, Ladwys also tells her lover about what she had got to know from Derfel. When Gundleus states that he would kill the young man before he could even think of any revenge, Ladwys warns him not to do anything like this. According to her, the fact that Derfel was alive even after the death pit was proof of his support from the supernatural. However, Gundleus does not listen, and he attacks Derfel from behind, intending to kill him. Derfel is able to fight back, though, and when Arthur also enters the scene and breaks up their fight, Gundleus leaves the place with a grudge, stating that he would see an end to this.
Does Arthur and Ceinwyn’s marriage take place?
At the end of The Winter King episode 7, both Arthur and Guinevere realize that they are heading towards more trouble by suppressing their true feelings. When the two dance rather passionately, Ceinwyn realizes that her future husband has fallen in love with her closest companion. She is willing to share Arthur with Guinevere, as she tells her, but this all would make Guinevere only a mistress to King Arthur. The woman definitely does not want any such fate for herself, and she makes this very clear to Arthur as well. To her surprise, though, her lover says that he does not want such a fate for her either, and he finally decides to take some action.
Arthur goes to Ceinwyn and directly tells her about his true feelings for Guinevere. He says that he does not want to hurt or disrespect her by marrying her and then being in love with someone else. Ceinwyn understands the situation and accepts letting him go, and the princess helps him out as well. Stating that her ruthless father would surely kill him after this decision, Ceinwyn reveals that Gorfydd had killed his own wife when she had wanted to leave him. Ceinwyn insists that Arthur and Guinevere secretly leave Powys, and on that very night, Arthur and his men leave Powys along with Lady Guinevere.
The next morning, Arthur and Guinevere get married to each other on their way to Caer Cadarn, finalizing their love once and for all. On the other side, Gorfydd realizes what has happened and grows vengeful against Arthur. He now reconciles with Gundleus, telling him to stay back and suggesting that he will marry off Ceinwyn to Gundleus.
What can we expect from Episode 8?
Snubbing the king’s daughter and eloping with the commoner woman, Guinevere, has surely turned Gorfydd against Arthur. What effect this anger and vengeance have will be seen in the upcoming episodes, for Gorfydd and Gundleus would surely launch a joint attack on Arthur and his kingdom. Along with Nimue, who was already against Gundleus, Derfel also now has enough reasons to kill the man, and whether the two team up in this regard would be interesting to see. The Winter King Episode 7 also has Bishop Bedwin going away from Arthur’s camp after the latter’s decision to marry Guinevere, and whether this has any effect on Dumnonia also remains to be seen.