The fifth episode of the MGM+ series The Winter King, really showed us a glimpse of how intricate the story can be. The theatricality of the series was one of its unique features, but the fifth episode really puts a premium on it. Arthur goes up against Owain, and the result is difficult to swallow. The previous episode set up the premise for this episode’s main conflict. Derfel remained the mute witness, but he stayed true to Arthur. Merlin and Nimue’s arcs were moved forward, even though they don’t directly converge with Arthur’s, which gives a proper demarcation between plotlines. Owain had gone off to Cadwys in the previous episode and returned with the tax. Derfel was given gold coins almost as a bribe for keeping his mouth shut about the tragedy in the tin mines. But Arthur, a thinking man, caught onto his lie, and the episode took a deadly turn.
Did Gorfydd agree to be part of the naming ceremony?
King Gorfydd had arrived but refused to shake hands with Arthur. He wanted his nephew Gundleus to be freed, but Arthur didn’t budge. In this episode as well, Gorfydd seemed to be requesting Arthur to release Gundleus, as his absence from the Naming Ceremony would tarnish Gorfydd’s own reputation as well. Gundleus was his nephew, after all, and not having him present during the ceremony would attract unwanted attention and cause much embarrassment. Arthur reminded him of the deal he made with Gundleus, according to which letting him go free was never promised to him. Arthur did, however, assure Gorfydd that he would see to it that Gorfydd got to stay with Ladwys. Gorfydd saw that Arthur was a man of his word, and backing out of the Naming Ceremony would make tensions unbearable between Powys and Dumnonia as opposed to the embarrassment caused by Gundleus’ absence, which was still tolerable. Arthur suspected Gorfydd to be the mastermind behind Gundleus’ actions in trying to kill the Edling King. During a heated encounter, the conversation was cut short by the presence of a Saxon spy. The spy was caught, and he revealed the name of Aelle, who was coming to destroy Britain and take away the tribal kings’ lands.
Who was Tristan, and why did he come to Dumnonia?
During Owain’s raid, the workers from Kernow were killed brutally, but a girl survived. Derfel hid her so as to protect her from Owain. Now, a man named Tristan accompanied the girl, Sarlinna, to Dumnonia, asking for justice. Tristan was the prince of Kernow and believed that the raiders were not related to the Irish raider Oengus but came from Dumnonia. He believed so, as the girl had witnessed key details that pointed to Owain. Owain had painted his shields black, mimicking the Irish raiders, but his string of warrior rings gave him away. Prince Tristan wanted justice, and Owain lost his cool, as his ruse was about to be revealed. But as Sarlinna was just a child, Arthur gave Owain the benefit of the doubt, but the serious allegation and how these petty lootings might affect Britain preoccupied his mind. A decision had to be made. Tristan would fight Owain himself if justice was denied. Sarlinna’s entire family had been massacred. The mines were given by Uther to Kernow’s workers, and Owain had defiled that pact. It became essential for Uther to take a stand.
Did Nimue have a miscarriage?
Queen Morgan visited Avalon and asked Merlin to come join the Naming Ceremony. She didn’t see Nimue anywhere, and her concern grew. Merlin declined the invitation, as he couldn’t be part of any event involving Mordred, whom he thought to be an evil king in the making. Merlin wanted to nip him in the bud and couldn’t be a mute spectator in Mordred’s Naming Ceremony, where a druidess had to sacrifice a convicted murderer to the gods. Nimue was nowhere to be found, as she had run away. Merlin deflected the matter and gave permission to Queen Morgan to do the ritual herself, as she was a druidess herself. After this, Merlin went on a trip of his own to locate Nimue. He still cared for her and had an inkling that she might need his help. He found her in a pitiful condition. Nimue, in an attempt to abort Gundleus’ baby, ate a paste made out of leaves in the forest. The paste must have been known to abort pregnancies, and it worked. Merlin chided Nimue for putting her life in danger but was ultimately relieved that he had found her.
How did Arthur find out about Owain’s murderous raid?
The Naming Ceremony commenced, and the prisoner chosen for the sacrifice was slaughtered by Morgan. Arthur was immersed in Owain’s case, but for a brief moment, he inquired about Morgan’s visions regarding Mordred. She refused to speak clearly, as she too saw something too terrible to be spoken about. Later, he knew that he had to give heed to Tristan’s plea as that was the only way the kingdoms would trust him and Dumnonia to bring peace in Britain. Gorfydd was still around, and Arthur couldn’t let others become Dumnonia’s enemies after he had reasoned with the Powys King to be his ally. Arthur checked with the tax manager Lohilt to show up Cadwys’ tax collections. There seemed to be glaring mistakes that hinted that Cadwys hadn’t yet paid his five-years’ worth of taxes with just his coin and gold. This hinted at the fact that Owain might have made a deal with him to raid the tin mine, which went sour, and he ended up killing the workers.
Even Gorfydd had hinted at the fact that Oengus wouldn’t risk crossing the border for tin. The evidence was against Owain. Arthur knew that if nothing was done, Prince Tristan would gallantly fight for justice, but Owain would kill him in a sword fight. So Arthur called for a ‘court of swords’, where he stepped in to fight Owain on behalf of Tristan, Sarlinna and the workers. Owain tried to avoid the fight but was called a coward and murderer by Arthur, after which there was no stopping Owain from stepping into the ring. Owain looked like he would kill Arthur for his provocations, but in the end, Arthur emerged victorious. Derfel, who was present during Owain’s murderous raid, knew that justice had been served. The same couldn’t be said about the others. Even Arthur mourned the loss of Lord Owain, who was a great warrior but wasn’t willing to admit the truth regarding the raid.
Episode 5 Review
The Winter King episode 5 depended heavily on the relationship between Arthur and Owain. The stakes were skillfully raised with Tristan’s entry, and Sarlinna’s casting ensured that her testimony about the raid tugged at our heartstrings. The episode wasn’t too sentimental, but could have invested more in the event’s emotional side. One flaw is that, in order to have everybody in the frame, the characters are never left out of the main event.
In the last fight between Owain and Arthur, Morgan and Gorfydd were both present. They seemed to be adding nothing to the scene. It is here that the series misses the suspense it can build by having the information reach the characters in a different scene so that their reactions can be registered in isolation. Arthur, yet again, in order to be shown in the good light, came across as a man hell bent on going against his own people and that too very quickly. He is ready to listen and believe in Sarlinna at the drop of a hat. The episode did have a chain of events that would make us believe that Arthur really pondered over the case like a detective, but ultimately the events seem rushed and Arthur’s decision a little rash. The repercussions of Owain’s death will be investigated in upcoming episodes of The Winter King.