‘The Winter King’ Episode 2 Review/Recap: Whom Did Gundleus Kill? And Why?

Chronicling Arthur’s journey in the new MGM series The Winter King, we are already in battle mode as, in the second episode, Gundleus sheds his meek persona and reveals who he truly is. Arthur’s return to Caer Cadarn is imminent, and the question that must have mattered to the creators is, ‘How heroic can Arthur’s journey really be?’ The stakes in episode 2 go through the roof, and one has to squeamishly watch every frame, as you never know when and how another gruesome and unpredictable death will occur. As we know, Arthur was banished in the previous episode, and Merlin went to bring him back after the birth of Prince Mordred. According to Merlin’s vision, Mordred was going to grow up to be an evil tyrant, and Arthur was the only hope for fighting him and reuniting Britain.


Spoilers Ahead

Why Did Uther Select Gundleus?

High King Uther was right when he started to feel that his end was near. He was terribly ill and knew that if he did not declare his will, there could be utter chaos in the future. So he got up, mustered up the courage to stand in front of the kings, and chose the three men who would act as the guards for Prince Mordred until he came of age and was fit to rule Britain.


The first two choices, that of Bishop Bedwin, leader of the Christian Church in Britain, and Owain, the champion of Dumnonia, seemed easy to swallow, but the third choice really shocked everyone. Another chose King Gundleus out of everyone present. The other kings started to remind him of Gundleus’ betrayals in the past and how his streak of violence had caused so much carnage, yet Uther didn’t budge. His decision was based on the fact that Gundleus was without a wife. Uther was soon going to perish from old age, and he feared Queen Norwenna would have no protector. So he chose Gundleus to be the guard for Prince Mordred and Norwenna’s future husband. Gundleus had the incentive now to prove his loyalty to Uther, as he was being handed such power and responsibility.

Soon after this announcement, Uther passed away. He did remember Arthur in his final moments, as, in a state of delirium, he envisioned Britain’s well-being. Gundleus had proved his loyalty to him by going to war against his own Uncle Gorfydd, who was coming to attack Caer Cadarn. Maybe Uther had made a good decision before moving to the ‘Otherworld,’ where he would ask the forgiveness of the gods.


Why Did Nimue Stop Derfer From Taking Revenge?

Nimue had parted ways with Derfel, as Merlin had commanded her to. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t friendship between the two. Nimue still cared for Derfel and didn’t want him to take any such step that would place him in harm’s way. She saw that he was fuming with anger and that the spirit of revenge had possessed him when Gundleus was chosen to be the guard and protector of Prince Mordred. Even if he hadn’t been appointed to the post, Derfel still wanted to kill him, as he had killed his entire family and left him to die. His attempt at retribution was thwarted by Nimue, who knew that Derfel wasn’t ready to face Gundleus.

Derfel would have ended up dead, and his quest for revenge would have been cut short. So, right before Derfel was drawing out his dagger in front of Gundleus, Nimue stopped him and instead diverted his attention towards herself. She gave him an earful about how he had deceived Uther and that the god’s wrath would befall Gundleus if he betrayed Uther’s trust and his oath to Christianity.


Whom Did Gundleus Actually Kill, And Why?

Gundleus returned to Avalon, acting like he had defeated his Uncle Gorfydd. He had bought a bloody sword as well, as proof, suggesting he had snatched it from lifeless Gorfydd. Bishop Bedwin invited him in as the Edling King’s protector, i.e., Mordred’s guard. As he had the right to see the young prince, when Queen Norwenna presented him with the child, Gundleus brutally stabbed the baby, making Avalon shudder with Norwenna’s scream. Gundleus had yet again proved that he wasn’t worthy of anybody’s trust.

The future king of Britain was still alive, and he needed to kill him to claim the throne for himself. That was his plan all along. He’d gained Uther’s trust by promising to go against his own uncle, but now the truth was in front of everyone. He was as evil, cunning, and violent a man now as when he killed Derfel’s family eight years ago. Was the Edling King Mordred dead? No, he was still alive. Gundleus may have been trusted by Uther, but in Avalon, he had been fooled. An ordinary couple had sacrificed their own child. Gundleus had been shown their baby, not Mordred.

How Was Mordred Saved?

After Gundleus killed the baby, there was utter chaos in Avalon. A cohort safely got Queen Morgan and some other villagers out. After Nimue was raped by Gundleus, she wanted to kill herself as she feared that her gifts had been lost. Derfel managed to save her and later joined the cohort carrying Prince Mordred to safety. Someone from Gundleus’ army showed him the undeformed legs of the baby he had killed, and Gundleus realized that he had been tricked. The cohort had to get to safety as soon as possible, but they were on foot, and Gundleus could easily reach them with his mounted army. Derfel seemed to be the last man standing who would put up a fight, but when Gundleus arrived, his men were massacred by none other than Arthur and his army.

Merlin had arrived to bring Arthur back, but initially, he had declined. He wasn’t ever coming back to Caer Cadarn. But Merlin must have pressured him and ultimately persuaded him to at least see the mayhem that was being caused after his father’s death. Had he not arrived, Mordred would have surely been killed. But not just him; Queen Morgan, Derfel, and Nimue, too, would have met with the same fate. Maybe Arthur would have to stop Gundleus’ terror and restore peace, up until Mordred started his own reign of terror.


Episode 2 Review

The remarkable thing about The Winter King Episode 2 was that it had one of the most sublime death scenes in recent memory. Uther, performed brilliantly by Eddie Marsan, was given a proper sendoff by the creators. The scene lingered on quite a bit, and it ensured that the passing of one of the greatest kings Britain has ever had was shown properly. The gruesome violence and the brutal deaths, whether it was Norwenna’s or the stabbing of the poor baby, were both effective. In fact, they were a bit too effective, as they really made me look away. In fantasy dramas, the anticipation of someone’s death has become as important a factor as how the death occurs. Usually, it’s quite brutal, and The Winter King does not disappoint those viewers who are into seeing unnerving deaths on screen.

Arthur has finally returned, and his entry is truly heroic. The second episode of The Winter King had the burden of ensuring that the legendary status of King Arthur’s journey was matched with equally great visuals. Why Gundleus left Nimue and Derfel alive is a bit of a mystery, and it seemed like a really out-of-character thing to do. The series is set up nicely, with enough intrigue. But the interesting thing to see is if the shocking death scenes are able to hold the viewer’s attention. They have to be used sparingly, and does the show have enough gravitas to keep moving the story forward in an authentic way? It will depend on Iain De Caestecker’s performance as Arthur. He was not on screen for most of both episodes. Now he seems to have returned, and the central performance will decide how good the upcoming episodes are.


Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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The remarkable thing about the second episode was that it had one of the most sublime death scenes in recent memory. Uther, performed brilliantly by Eddie Marsan, was given a proper sendoff by the creators. 'The Winter King' Episode 2 Review/Recap: Whom Did Gundleus Kill? And Why?