‘The Winter King’ Episode 3 Review/Recap: Why Did Arthur Let Gundleus Go?

The third episode of The Winter King introduces Arthur and his intentions after returning to Caer Cadarn in a completely unexpected way. He returned from Gaul, the Land of King Ban, and did things his own way. Everybody was surprised by how he didn’t seem to believe in vengeance. Only Arthur knew what his plan was. The most affected was Nimue. She had been saved by Arthur and his men, who were soldiers for King Ban, and yet felt betrayed by his decisions. The episode tried to give us a closer look into Arthur’s mind. His beliefs and passions were explored, and an attempt at contrasting his thinking with the others’ was evident. As far as Derfel and Lord Owain’s arc is considered, they, too, had their own perspective about Arthur’s return. Here is a recap of The Winter King Episode 3:

Spoilers Ahead

Why Did Arthur Leave Gundleus Alive?

Arthur arrived and saved the cohort that was carrying the Edling King. He killed Gundleus’ men, but to everyone’s amazement, he left Gundleus and his lover, Ladwys, alive. He wasn’t foolish enough to let them go. He took them in as prisoners and brought them to Caer Cadarn. Everybody was delighted to see Arthur back, but their sentiments differed when it came to seeing Gundleus still alive. Arthur didn’t buckle under pressure. He ordered that Gundleus and Ladwys be kept prisoners in Uther’s chamber, which was the only cell-like place they had. Others didn’t believe in taking prisoners. His justice always ended in the captive’s death, but Arthur was different. When Morgan inquired about his decision, Arthur hinted that Gundleus was a powerful man, and such men are much more useful alive than dead. Later, his plans were revealed, but Nimue, who had been raped by Gundleus, couldn’t swallow the fact that he was still alive.

How Did Arthur Stop Owain From Killing Gundleus?

Lord Owain, aside from Bishop Bedwin, was one of the protectors of Mordred the Edling King. After Uther’s death, he and Bedwin were in charge of the realm. Arthur seemed to not be interested in disputing their power, but he urged Owain not to kill Gundleus when he was hell-bent on taking revenge. Owain, like all the others, couldn’t comprehend Arthur’s rationale at first. Gundleus had killed Queen Norwenna, and it behooved Owain to kill Gundleus, but Arthur told him about Gundleus’ uncle Gorfydd’s threat. Caer Cadarn didn’t have the strength to fight the Saxons, who were nearing Caer Cadarn and Gorfydd at the same time. If Owain killed Gundleus, then Gorfydd could attack, and it would be very hard for Dumnonia to defend itself. Arthur even managed to save Ladwys from Owain’s lustful vengeance, as he asked her to help the wounded men who returned with Owain after fighting the Saxons in Caleeva. Ladwys had healing skills, and Arthur urged Owain to put her to good use. Owain thought about Arthur’s intentions and discussed them with Bedwin, and there seemed to be a slight doubt about Arthur’s plan of action. Yet Arthur was working tirelessly to keep Caer Cadarn from falling apart. No soldier worked in the fields, but when Owain saw Arthur collecting harvest with the peasants in the field to fast-track the process, he lent a helping hand.

Why Did Nimue Ask Derfel For Help?

The one person most affected by Arthur’s decision to leave Gundleus alive was Nimue. She wanted revenge as if her life depended on it. The gods seemed to be still with her, but she was sensing that something had changed in her relationship with them. When she tried to kill Gundleus, Arthur stopped her. Gundleus was safely resting in Uther’s bed, while Nimue was in agony. Arthur had the key to Uther’s chamber, and Nimue asked Derfel for help. He had met Arthur, and he even expressed his wish to join him as a warrior. Arthur remembered Derfel as the ‘death pit boy,’ and Nimue sensed that Derfel could get the key from Arthur. She gave Derfel a potion to mix in Arthur’s drink and instructed him to bring the key when Arthur fell unconscious. Arthur was one step ahead of everybody, as he anticipated Nimue’s plan to use Derfel. Derfel returned without the key, even though Arthur had offered it to him to test his integrity. Derfel couldn’t aid Nimue in her revenge, but perhaps he had proven himself a potential candidate for Arthur’s war party.

Why Did Arthur Let Gundleus Go?

Owain refused Derfel’s request to join Arthur, as he couldn’t let another one of his men leave Caer Cadarn. Arthur hadn’t shown any certainty about staying back. He could leave one day when he saw that the situation had returned to ‘normal.’ This was Owain’s theory. Arthur had something else in mind entirely. He wanted this tribal warfare between different kings to stop. One kingdom attacked the other to show their supremacy, and Dumnonia took taxes, leading to the weakening of Britain. These were the old ways, according to Arthur. He didn’t see them as ‘normal.’ The new way, according to him, was to have a Council of Kings, where all the kingdoms in Britain would have equal representation. This could reunite Britain, and then the Saxons could be defeated. So, taking responsibility, he let Gundleus go to call his Uncle Gorfydd, the Powys King, to join Mordred’s Naming Ceremony. Owain and Bedwin were bewildered by Arthur’s actions. Owain left to collect tax from Cadwys, basically showing his own assertions about the old ways. Derfel followed Owain. If the plan went well, Arthur would be hailed as a great tactician, but if it failed, there would be chaos again, and the Saxons would capitalize on the fractured state of Britain. Arthur had shown he was a step ahead of everyone. It seemed he had a backup prepared if everything failed. He had vowed that if Gundleus faltered, he would kill his beloved Ladwys.

Episode 3 Review

The Winter King Episode 3 was definitely weak when compared to the first two. The intrigue created by the previous episode was followed by Arthur letting Gundleus go. This might have been engaging, but the anticipation created by the heroic entry made this episode a bit of an anti-climax. Arthur did not come across as a thinking man but more of a scheming man, which wasn’t the sentiment I was hoping for. His return was tentative, and perhaps the hero’s journey requires this limbo where he could take that definitive step to fulfill his destiny. However, the episode’s point of view from other characters was too overwhelming and didn’t let Arthur seem like a hero in the making.

The harvest sequence lacked the enthusiasm that the background score was trying to imply, and the dialogue was hinting at The characters had an almost ubiquitous tone throughout the episode regarding Arthur, and there seemed to be a lack of rich characters except Nimue. The next episode can introduce us to Gorfydd, who has been talked about so much in the series. Hopefully, the next episode will help connect this episode to a broader picture so that this, too, will fit the canvas.

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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 Winter King Episode 3 was definitely weak when compared to the first two. The intrigue created by the previous episode was followed by Arthur letting Gundleus go.'The Winter King' Episode 3 Review/Recap: Why Did Arthur Let Gundleus Go?