Based on the manner in which MGM+ produces its shows and also from the narrative in the very first season, it can be safe to say that the historical fiction drama The Winter King will be returning for a second season. Based on the works of Bernard Cornwell, The Winter King will ideally want to cover all facets and major events of the legends of King Arthur, and the show’s first season has only been the beginning. Season 1 seems to mostly lay the groundwork for the character of Arthur Pendragon and the circumstances that he has to face after taking on the position of leader of Dumnonia. Here are some of the expectations that we can keep for season 2 of the series, whenever it arrives in the future.
What will happen when the Saxons come?
Ever since his return to his homeland, Arthur has been fearful of just one fate, which he knows is speeding towards them—the invasion of Britain by the Saxons. Arthur knows well that the Saxons have been raiding lands and approaching Britain, even having captured some outer fringes of the lands. The fact that Britain is not a united nation but is made up of many various kingdoms with many different leaders does not help his concerns either. As most of these kingdoms are always at war with each other, all of them would be easy targets for the fierce intruders. It is obvious that if one such kingdom falls, then all of its neighboring kingdoms will also face a similar fate, and the land will soon be ruled by the Saxons.
Arthur desperately wanted to prevent this fate, and it was in order to achieve this, that he proposed to make a council of kings with the rulers of each kingdom. This would indeed be the first step towards what would later become a united Britain, but King Gorfydd had expressed disinterest in this agreement. Since Gorfydd’s kingdom, Powys, was one of the most powerful in the region, no deal could be made without his consent. Therefore, Arthur proposed a matrimonial alliance that would build friendship between the two enemy lands. However, this did not work out well either, since Arthur ultimately betrayed the promise and married Guinevere. The protagonist seems extremely devoted to his feelings of love and does not want anyone to suffer the fate that his mother once had to. Since his mother was an illegitimate lover of King Uther, she was never given respect by the king, and Arthur seemed desperate to avoid repeating this.
Despite a possible arrangement where he could secretly be with Guinevere while being married to Ceinwyn for political reasons, Arthur realized that he would hurt both women if he did so. Thus, he chose to be with his lover, and therefore, an immediate cancellation of any plans of the council of kings followed. However, the point at which The Winter King season 1 ends leaves open the possibility of such a council being formed in the future. Despite not wanting to, Arthur has to make an alliance with Aelle in exchange for a detailed map of Gorfydd’s fortress at Ratae. This obviously means that the Saxons will soon invade Powys and take over the land. What would happen to Gorfydd when this attack takes place would be interesting to see.
It is possible that Aelle will kill the current king to then take his place, since the Saxons have been presented to be extremely ruthless in this regard. In that case, Arthur’s promise of pushing out the Saxons from Powys will be crucial, as once he achieves that, there will be no opposing king in Britain against him, and the council of kings can be easily formed. If Gorfydd is not killed, though, and if he is kept a prisoner, then it is possible that Arthur and his men will help him out during their attack on Powys. This would considerably improve the relationship between Gorfydd and Arthur, and an agreement might be reached. It has been shown in the last episode of season 1 that Aelle was very interested in marrying Ceinwyn, and so it is very possible that he will take the princess captive during his attack on Ratae. Arthur saving Ceinwyn from such a situation will also go a long way in ensuring his political relations with Gorfydd.
But beyond these internal battles, the Saxons are still swiftly moving towards Britain, led by their King Cerdic. What ultimately will happen when the foreigners invade the land and how the kingdoms of Britain will be quite interesting to see. Historically, the Saxons had indeed entered Britain and ruled over the island nation, and how this plays out in the series needs to be seen.
What are the druids up to?
Ever since The Winter King started streaming, its medieval fiction setting has drawn some comparisons with HBO’s blockbuster Game of Thrones. Completely ignoring questions of production value or overall quality, one major point of distinction in The Winter King has been the absence of any direct supernatural or totally fantastical presence. There have been moments when it seemed like we would finally get to see something supernatural, but they have all been ultimately roped into the domain of logic. For example, episode 10 has a horde of what seems to be zombies attacking Derfel and Nimue. Their frail bodies, violent nature, and absolute fear of sunlight make them seem like zombies or some similar undead creatures. However, these people are actually the helpless prisoners who had been kept inside the prison caves for many years without proper food or any access to the outside.
The powers of the druids are also not entirely explained and are kept in an equally undecided position, almost as if the creators of the show are not sure whether any supernatural beings or scenes will be shown in the series even in the future. Nimue is accused of witchcraft and using her pagan religion to hurt the woodsmen, but then Arthur finds some poisonous herbs in her possession, which he believes she had fed to the woodsmen, leading to their deaths. However, this is revealed to be untrue, as the reason behind the deaths was a rotting animal carcass in the water source of the woodsmen. This, once again, brings back the possibility that Nimue had indeed used her pagan powers to curse the woodsmen. But like always, The Winter King does not further confirm anything with regard to this.
Derfel deciding to go help Nimue only because of the cut on his palm suddenly hurting is another similar instance. When the two finally meet at the Isle of the Dead, Nimue also states that Derfel had come to her only because she had conjured him and magically called out to him. She implies that the cut she had made on Derfel’s palm towards the beginning of the series had indeed established a magical connection between the two. However, Derfel deciding to go save his beloved after looking at the cut on his palm also suggests that this connection is, after all, emotional and psychological. Remembering the deep bond that the two share through that cut, Derfel decides to reach out to his friend in need. The people who had taken Nimue away had also been reported to have had some supernatural powers in them. This, too, is debunked, as the wardens of the prison are unnatural because of their lifestyle and dietary choices.
It is almost certain that magic exists in the world of The Winter King, especially since Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, itself is very unnaturally strong. He is seen using the sword to even bring down a wall of rocks at the end of the series, and there is definitely some other-worldly strength in it. The fact that all the characters trained as druids—Merlin, Nimue, and even Morgan—had seen the same flashes of an extremely bloody future whenever they touched baby Mordred also seems to ascertain that the druids do have some supernatural powers. But what exactly these powers are and whether they have any physical manifestation remain to be seen.
Merlin had also been away looking for treasures that he believed would be adequate to help Britain win the war against any intruders. The artifact he had been looking for, the Horn of Bran, is found to be filled with blood, suggesting a very violent future for the lands of Britain. What exactly these treasures are and how Merlin might use his powers to help Dumnonia in the fight against the Saxons might also be explored in the next season.
Will religion play a further part?
The Winter King season 1 interestingly also sets up a conflict between two religious groups: the more established Pagans and the up-and-coming Catholic Christian believers. Towards the end of the season, the Pagans clearly lose power, and people start turning to the Christian faith. This even includes Morgan at the very end of the last episode, when Sansum gives her a book of poems that have Christian roots. Morgan refuses to take it as she is a practicing Pagan, but eventually, she does read the poems out to baby Mordred. This clearly suggests that Mordred will be raised as a Christian, and Christianity is expected to spread faster among the common masses. This religious angle had indeed played a part in the temporary divide between Arthur and Nimue, and whether it continues to play a role in the next season will be interesting to see.