The Winter King had ended in a rather politically challenging situation last week when Arthur finally decided to give in to his love for Lady Guinevere and marry her. But in doing so, he had betrayed the agreement with King Gorfydd and left his daughter Princess Ceinwyn without a groom. This action was sure to have repercussions on Arthur and Dumnonia, but the extent of it is only seen in episode 8. Along with this, newer problems also crop up with regard to political boundaries and religious sentiments.
Why does Arthur have to go to Isca?
The Winter King Episode 8 opens a week after Arthur’s sudden marriage with Guinevere, and the two have grown even closer to each other. More pressing matters with regards to the kingdom of Dumnonia come Arthur’s way, though, when Cadwys, the self-proclaimed king of Isca, arrives at Caer Cadarn. The kingdom, or area, of Isca, had always been under Dumonina, and the earlier king Uther had appointed Cadwys as the ruler of this land. This position was not in any way similar to that of a king but was more like that of a caretaker who would always be under the rule of Dumnonia and King Uther. Now that Arthur has been appointed the new king of Dumnonia, Cadwys comes to visit him and his wife, also with a special demand.
When the two men meet in the court of the castle at Caer Cadarn, Cadwys asks Arthur to appoint him the new champion of Dumnonia and also one of the caretakers of the Edling King, Mordred. Cadwys recalls the death of Owain, who had managed both of these responsibilities during Uther’s rule, and asks that he be given the same positions as Owain. Interestingly, Cadwys had been the one to give Owain the plan of raiding the tin mines, which ultimately led to the man’s death at the hands of Arthur. It could be that Cadwys had chalked out this entire situation very well in his mind earlier, or in general, he was envious of Owain’s role in the Dumnonian kingdom.
But Cadwys’ demand at present falls flat, even though he presents the plan as an agreement between Isca and Dumnonia as well. His words of promise that Isca would always provide support to Dumnonia if he was given the responsibility of the Edling King make him sound exactly like the ruler of a land. This is what seems to irk Arthur the most, because Isca was technically always under Dumnonia and not any free kingdom. It is also during this scene that the easygoing partnership of Arthur and Guinevere in matters of politics is evident, for they together hold a grasp over Cadwys. While Guinevere praises Cadwys for his skills and bravery at the beginning of the discussion, Arthur simply reminds the man that he is just a caretaker under his rule. Although Cadwys does retaliate in action a short while later, he is unable to say anything else at Caer Cadarn.
Only a few days after this meeting, Arthur receives news of Cadwys’ rebellious acts. Cadyws and his men have now infiltrated into the region of Kernow, taking the tin mining camp hostage while also claiming Isca to be a free and independent kingdom with no ties to Dumnonia. Arthur obviously has to react to the situation, and hoping to find some peaceful solution, he rides towards Isca with his men. Right after crossing over the claimed border, Cadwys and his men face off against the Dumnonians, leading to a sword fight between Arthur and Cadwys. Throughout this fight, Arthur gives his opponent multiple opportunities to discuss the matter and find some peaceful solution instead of having a fight over it. However, Cadwys perhaps knows well that Arthur will not yield to his demands of autonomy, and so he does not care much for any peace treaty.
The man instigates our protagonist even more, calling out his overreaching ambition and greed for power. Cadwys says that Arthur had killed Owain because he had wanted to be the King of Dumnonia without any competition against him, and the man also reminds of how Arthur had rushed to Dumnonia right after his father’s death to claim the throne. All this angers Arthur, but he still gives Cadwys a chance for peace at the end of the fight, when he has disarmed the rebel. However, Cadwys pulls out a knife and goes for a blow, with Arthur quickly responding and piercing him with his sword, the Excalibur. The rebellion at Isca ends with the death of Cadwys, but this once again leaves Arthur quite disturbed and stirred. The claims that Cadwys had made about him being selfish particularly affect the man, and he has to be comforted by Guinevere after his return to Caer Cadarn.
What happens between Nimue and Sansum?
When Arthur had expressed his desire to marry Guinevere to his men at the end of episode 7, the trusted Bishop Bedwin had excused himself and taken leave from the scene. This was because Bedwin had made the vow to marry Arthur and Ceinwyn, but then Arthur deciding to marry Guinevere meant that he was breaking his holy promise. Bedwin could not therefore support Arthur and had chosen to go away from the place. In his absence, a young Catholic priest named Sansum had stepped up and agreed to marry Arthur and Guinevere. It was indeed Sansum who oversaw the wedding, after he was promised by Arthur that his church would soon be built in Caer Cadarn.
It is very possible that Arthur had made such a promise at the time only to get his purpose served, i.e., to get married to his beloved, but Sansum obviously remembers about it. Now, around a week later, Sansum comes to court and brings up the topic of the promised church. He has already chosen a spot for his church to be built, and he now shows it to Arthur, seeking his permission. While Arthur does not find it too strange and grants Sansum permission to build, Morgan is very quick to remark about the spot being extremely close to Avalon, which is still a community that is religiously Pagan.
In fact, Sansum’s whole purpose to build a church so close to Avalon does seem to have ill-intent, either to mock the Pagans or to lure more people over to his own religion. Thus, when the construction of the church begins, Nimue is livid and tries her best to stop it. She is all the more angered by Arthur, who had earlier let Gundleus go and is now letting the Catholics take away her land. Nimue curses the Catholics, saying that they will all fall sick internally and die if they continue construction, and within a day or two, many of the workers and the Catholic followers fall sick and die. In response, Sansum marches up to Nimue’s residence in Avalon and demands justice for her actions, for he believes she had imprisoned her men. Nimue turns this situation into an attack of her own and manages to stop Sansum.
However, news of this reaches Arthur at the capital very soon, and he rushes to Avalon to investigate the matter. Like with most other things, Arthur’s perspective is different from the others in this regard, for he believes that Catholics and Pagans have to coexist in this new Britain in order for them to survive. But Nimue has no intention of agreeing to such an existence, and she tries all she can to stop the construction of the church. In the end, Arthur also finds out that Nimue had really poisoned the workers at the construction site, and it was because of this that people had been dying. Even though he confronts her about this act of multiple murders, Nimue has no guilt for it, and she admits that she had only carried out what her God had intended for her.
How Does Bishop Bedwin Die?
Following the betrayal with regards to royal matrimony, Arthur and the rest of the Dumnonian kingdom knew that they would still need to sort the situation out with Gorfydd. Arthur is well aware of the power of Gorfydd and the sheer necessity of having him by his side in their fight against the Saxons. In the last episode, Arthur had gotten the idea that Gorfydd would remain loyal to the cause of Britain and would, therefore, fight against the Saxons no matter what. Not wanting to make the King of Powys an enemy of the kingdom, Arthur had sent Bishop Bedwin to negotiate with Gorfydd and find some solution. But while he and his people were waiting for news about Bedwin’s negotiations, Cadwys started his rebellion in Isca, and so Arthur had to go there instead.
Finally, when a note from Bishop Bedwin arrives, it is Morgan who receives it and then decides to act on behalf of her brother. A monetary settlement with a certain amount of gold to be given over has been reached, and although it would have been ideal for Arthur to have gone with it, Morgan decides to do so instead. Since there is no news from Isca till now, she doesn’t want to make King Gorfydd wait for long, hence opting to go herself. Guinevere tries to convince Morgan to wait for Arthur’s return, but the sister-in-law refuses to listen to her. Throughout the episode, Morgan’s displeasure and discomfort at her brother’s decision to marry Guinevere are felt. But she does listen to Guinevere’s advice about taking Derfel along with her in order to avoid any unforeseen situation.
Morgan is confident that her visit to Powys will go just as planned, and therefore, she does not want to take a large group with her. She is wary of upsetting Gorfydd and sending him the wrong message, and instead takes a more informal approach to this visit. Upon their arrival, King Gorfydd welcomes them with apparent courteousness, until it is clear that his behavior is only a front and the man is hiding his true feelings. After Morgan hands over the gold coins, Gorfydd invites her to the dinner feast to be held at his castle that night. Derfel always stays by Morgan’s side, but he cannot help the situation that soon follows.
During the feast, Gorfydd finally makes his anger against Arthur felt when he suddenly orders Morgan and Derfel to be dragged out of the hall and taken to an open field. Gorfydd had gotten Bishop Bedwin nailed to a cross alive, torturing the negotiator and leaving him to die. Morgan and Derfel are now made to witness this very bloody scene as the King of Powys finally kills Bedwin with a rake. This is all the more difficult for Morgan, as she has a soft spot for the bishop. Gorfydd tells Derfel to return to Caer Cadarn and notify Arthur about all that has happened, while it seems like Morgan will be kept hostage at Powys.
What to expect in episode 9?
The events at the end of episode 8 suggest that The Winter King season 1 will end with a conflict between Arthur and Gorfydd. While the Saxon intruders might be teased at the end of the season, it could also be that the very emergence of the Saxons stops the feud between the two sides. What happens with Morgan would be interesting to see, since Gundleus and Ladwys might be harsher on her as revenge for their imprisonment at Caer Cadarn. How exactly Arthur will react to this situation also remains to be seen, and he will most probably be helped by Guinevere as well. The situation with regard to the conflicting religions will also be quite interesting, as Nimue definitely seems to be under threat after her actions against the Catholics.