MGM+’s historical fiction drama series The Winter King has mostly built its protagonist, Arthur Pendragon, as a very intelligent and crafty character who always has a plan behind his decisions. However, episode 9 seems to be more about the failures in judgment made by Arthur and his regrets about them. The man also has disagreements with some of his closest individuals, making the new episode slightly more drama than action. As the series nears its end, new problems and unique solutions to them are also presented in this episode.
What is Gorfydd’s plan against Arthur?
The Winter King episode 9 begins at the capital of Powys, inside Gorfydd’s castle, where he has only recently tortured and killed Bishop Bedwin in the most brutal manner. Gorfydd’s only reason for having done so was to traumatize Morgan and Derfel, who would then spread the news of his anger and vengeance back in Dumnonia. Unlike it had seemed earlier, Gorfydd does not keep Morgan captive in his castle and instead lets both her and Derfel leave. After being subjected to the utmost humiliation and shock, Morgan and Derfel leave the kingdom, amidst more wolf-cries by Gundleus, who wants to remind Derfel of the trauma he had inflicted on the Saxon and his family during his childhood. The dead body of Bishop Bedwin is also tied to their horses, to be dragged back to Caer Cadarn as a direct message to Arthur.
While Morgan and Derfel are traveling through the forest near Powys, they are met by Ceinwyn, the daughter of King Gorfydd. The compassionate princess first apologizes for her father’s brutality and then also reveals a crucial piece of information. She states that King Gorfydd has been secretly making an alliance with a Saxon leader, for he has fixed her marriage with this Saxon. Although Ceinwyn does not know exactly which Saxon leader her father is conspiring with, she is intelligent enough to understand that this would be extremely helpful information for Arthur. Despite being left at the altar by Arthur, Ceinwyn seems to understand the reason for which he did this and respects the love between him and Guinevere. Also, Ceinwyn does not want any more bloodshed over her and is definitely against her father making alliances with intruders.
When Morgan and Derfel reach Caer Cadarn, Arthur first expresses his shock and grief at what had happened to them, as well as to his ever-trusted ally, Bishop Bedwin. There are also some disagreements between Arthur and Morgan in this regard, for the sister is still unable to accept the loss of her beloved. Earlier in the show, Bishop Bedwin had expressed his romantic interest in Morgan, and despite the man’s religious vows, the two of them quite enjoyed each other’s attention. Thus, to see him tortured and killed in such a horrific manner still haunts Morgan, and she cannot help but blame her brother for all of this.
When Arthur asks for Morgan’s forgiveness, she replies that she has always had to do things that she has wanted from her, and this time would be no exception either. But she also firmly mentions that neither Bishop Bedwin nor the gods above would forgive him for these avoidable deaths. In a confrontation, Morgan expresses her anger at Arthur for having betrayed the trust of King Gorfydd in such a foolish manner and for thinking that his actions would not have any repercussions. Both the slaughter of the bishop as well as the dangerous alliance between Powys and a Saxon leader are attributed to Arthur’s decision to marry Guinevere. This is true as well, since it seems like all these decisions are part of Gorfydd’s plan to punish Arthur.
How does Arthur intend to counter this alliance?
After hearing of Gorfydd’s alliance with the Saxons, Arthur calls for a meeting with his closest aides and immediately wants to find out more about it. Between Dumnonia and Powys is a neighboring kingdom, Gwent, and the leader of the land, King Tewdric, has been an ally of Dumnonia ever since King Uther’s days. Arthur now sends his trusted warrior Lanval to inquire about this alliance from Tewdric, also asking for an explanation from the man as to why he had not been informed about this alliance earlier. When Lanval finally returns from Gwent, he reveals what he has learnt from Tewdric, and once again, Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere is put to blame.
After Arthur had left Powys with Guinevere, the Saxon leader, Aelle had written a letter of condolence to King Gorfydd, and this had been the beginning of their relationship. This bond had soon grown into friendship, and then there was talk of an alliance between the two kingdoms. Therefore, this too seems like a severe repercussion of Arthur’s decision to side with love, but this piece of information is also not completely verified. Towards the end of the episode, when King Tewdric arrives at Caer Cadarn, he talks of this very matter, saying that if Gorfydd and Aelle had actually started their talks earlier, then Arthur would not have to bear any guilt. Otherwise, the resulting war and the fate of Britain would definitely be associated with Arthur’s decision. Both Tewdric and Morgan mention how the alliance between Dumnonia and Powys could have been a historic union, one that could not be achieved for many years, and so Arthur was extremely foolish to blow it off.
Lanval further explains the route and the exact meeting location that Gorfydd had decided with Aelle, and the group now tries to find a solution to this problem. While looking at the maps, Arthur finds a shorter route to the place from Caer Cadarn and decides that he and his warriors will reach the place first and offer an alliance to Aelle. Since the Saxons were in dire need of tin, the resources from Kernow would be given in exchange for some time and trust. Arthur is confident that this alliance will work, and he dismisses Tewdric’s advice for a different alliance. Tewdric points out the fact that Aelle had separated from Cerdic, the older and more renowned Saxon leader, meant that there was tension and rift in the Saxon camp as well. But Arthur is of the opinion that Aelle would be easier to convince than Cerdic, simply because of his younger age.
Tewdric also expresses his frustration at Arthur having doubts over his loyalty, and the latter now apologizes for his rash behavior. At the end of the episode, as Arthur prepares to leave with his troops, Guinevere meets him privately and hands him a map. She makes it felt that her husband’s plan of offering tin might not be enough to convince Aelle, and so she gives him a hand-drawn map of Gorfydd’s castle. This would surely win over Aelle, as the Saxons would readily take over Powys, but Arthur is extremely against this plan, and he refuses to take the map with him. According to him, he would never hand over land to intruders, even less so to win his own personal feuds.
What has happened to Nimue?
Nimue had played a very major role in The Winter King episode 8, when she was extremely angry over the fact that Sansum had been given permission to build a Catholic church near Avalon. Since Avalon was considered the region of Pagan religion, the druidess felt let down by Arthur once again when he allowed Sansum to build his church near to the place. Although we had seen Arthur seemingly catch Nimue having killed some of the Catholic woodsmen with some poisonous herbs, what exactly had happened to her was not revealed. Now, when Derfel returns to Dumnonia and wishes to meet Nimue at Avalon, he is told by Arthur that he has banished the druidess. Derfel is distraught to hear this and asks more about where she has gone off to, and Arthur responds that he does not know.
Derfel reaches Avalon and tries to inquire about Nimue’s whereabouts from their acquaintances Culwyn and Ralla. It is from them that he gets to know about how Arthur had ordered Nimue to be locked up in the tower after he believed that she had killed the woodsmen. A day or two later, some unknown men had come to Avalon and took her away, and nobody knows who they were or where they had taken her. There were even rumors that these men were not really humans but had some supernatural aspects about them as well.
The young Saxon keeps desperately looking for his beloved Nimue but finds no trace of her until Guinevere comes to meet with him at Avalon. Even though Guinevere has never met Nimue, she shows great interest in the druidess, for she believes that she can be of great help to Dumnonia’s fight. It is while going around with her that Derfel finds some of Nimue’s things and realizes that she must have been taken away against her will. Guinevere’s conversation with him makes Derfel try even harder to find out about Nimue, and he finally decides to go talk with the Catholics.
Derfel speaks with the woodcutters who had fallen sick, some of whose brethren had also died after Nimue’s curse. He is suspicious of the fact that only the woodsmen have died, and so he decides to find out more about this group. When Derfel reaches the forest, where the group is known to spend a lot of time, he finds a very different reason for their sickness. In the stream of water from where they drink is the rotting dead body of some animal, and it was some infection from this corpse that caused the ailment and the deaths.
Derfel immediately confronts Arthur about this and demands that he tell him where Nimue is. Arthur admits his mistake, as it was difficult for him to assess the situation at the time since Nimue had never denied killing the Catholics either. Holding her responsible for the murders, Arthur had banished Nimue to the Isle of the Dead. Although not much about this mysterious place is revealed, it is an island from which nobody is able to return. Extremely angry and hurt that Arthur had trusted Sansum more than Nimue, Derfel denies fighting by his side against Gorfydd and leaves. The next day, while Arthur prepares his warriors to go to meet Aelle, Derfel is seen riding towards the Isle of the Dead in a desperate attempt to rescue Nimue.
What can we expect from episode 10?
The most important matter in The Winter King now is definitely the alliance with the Saxons, as Arthur also has to side with his enemies for political reasons. Even though Arthur had intended to keep the Saxons away from the lands, he too, now has to attempt an alliance with the enemies. Whether we see any action or warfare, or whether it is all kept away for the next season, remains to be seen. Nimue’s situation, along with that of Derfel and Merlin, might also be shown in the next episode. Although The Winter King has made mentions of magic and the supernatural, we have not yet seen such elements, and whether anything like that is shown in the next episode would also be interesting to see.