The Winter King Season 1, Episode 4 Recap – Where Does Arthur Find Excalibur?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: September 17, 2023 (Last updated: May 4, 2024)
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The Winter King Season 1, Episode 4
The Winter King Season 1, Episode 4 (Credit - MGM+)

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

3.5

Summary

An agonizing episode bides its time revealing the outcome of Arthur’s controversial leadership decisions, while certain characters make some big, bold moves that’ll have repercussions down the line.

The Winter King Episode 3, the first to properly feature Arthur in a story that is largely about recontextualizing Arthurian legend, was mostly about the protagonist making controversial political decisions in the wake of Gungleus’s massacre at Avalon in Episode 2. Episode 4 is largely an agonizing wait to see the outcome of those decisions, the most pressing of which is whether Gungleus, now free and very much alive, will return to Dumnonia with Gorfydd in time for Prince Mordred’s naming ceremony.

If he comes back, Arthur can make a play for peace and earn the trust of his people. If he doesn’t, the complete upheaval will surely follow.

Nobody at Dumnonia liked Arthur’s decision, but there were few who would be willing to do anything about it. One of them, though, is Merlin.

Why does Merlin try to kidnap Prince Mordred?

Despite famously being Arthur’s staunchest ally, Merlin is also deeply concerned about Mordred’s potential future, having magically sensed the kid’s inherent evil and inevitably ruinous future in a vision during Episode 1. So, he decides to kidnap the kid and take him to live a life of anonymity and hopefully not masked evildoing.

You can kind of see things from Merlin’s perspective since nobody seems to listen to him. He warned Uther of Mordred’s innate evil and was ignored. Now, Arthur has decided to take his responsibility for protecting the child incredibly seriously and won’t let Merlin take the baby away, especially since he thinks Merlin is being coy about letting him grow up and live a “normal” life and will instead pitch him off a cliff at the first opportunity.

But you know… it’s a baby. Merlin hands him back over for now, but don’t be surprised if down the line he enacts some other plan to curtail the nipper’s already short life.

The Winter King Season 1, Episode 4 (Credit – MGM+)

Nimue leaves Avalon

Along with Merlin, Nimue remains extremely cheesed off with Arthur, and her frustration only worsens when Merlin gives him some phenomenally bad news – she’s pregnant with Gungleus’s child.

It was bad enough that Nimue thought being sexually assaulted would sever her connection to the Gods. That connection does seem to be intact, by the way, though on the fritz because of her lingering anger about the situation, but she’s understandably not buying Merlin’s claims that the pregnancy has been willed by the Gods themselves.

The problem with being a druidess, it seems, is that absolutely everything that happens to you can be hand-waved away as some kind of divine intervention, which doesn’t engender much sympathy. Nimue has had enough of her trauma being judged on its magical or political value, so she legs it from Avalon posthaste.

Arthur finds Excalibur

When you think of King Arthur, you think of Excalibur, and the famed blade finally makes an appearance in this episode when Arthur digs it out of his blacksmith mother’s grave.

Of more immediate importance, though, is the conversation that Arthur has with his sister Morgan, who reveals that his beloved mother actually hated him because of how his birth affected her relationship with Uther. Arthur’s adamance that his mother was really just swell and was always there when he needed her seems a touch naïve given how he was historically treated by Uther, but whatever. It makes a nice metaphor when she, in a roundabout way, gifts him the sword of legend.

Derfel

Elsewhere, the gradual heel turn of Owain unfolds through the perspective of idealistic Derfel, who gets laid this week with someone other than Nimue, which is sure to come up again.

But his romantic travails aside, Derfel is on the road with Owain, who is out to collect an overdue tax from King Cadwy. Cadwy’s tight enough to bury his gold so that he can feasibly pretend not to have any, though he’s not quite smart enough not to do it in full view of Owain, who arrived a day early.

Owain strikes a deal to rob some local tin miners so that they’ll start paying Cadwy protection, but he gets a bit carried away and kills a bunch of them when they defend themselves. It’s senseless, villainous greed, and Derfel hiding away some young kid who bears witness to it echoes his own past.

The Winter King Season 1, Episode 4

The Winter King Season 1, Episode 4 (Credit – MGM+)

The Winter King Season 1 Episode 4 Ending Explained

At the end of the episode, Gungleus and Gorfydd do indeed turn up for Prince Mordred’s naming ceremony, proving Arthur right and giving him both a chance to win some public favor back and also to test out Excalibur.

With Gungleus’s mission accomplished, Arthur orders him back into custody, having promised him life, not freedom. Gungleus doesn’t love this idea, though, and takes up arms against him, but Excalibur, in all its glory, snaps his blade clean in half.

Arthur now has all the negotiating power and wants Gorfydd’s loyalty to Mordred.


Additional reading:

MGM+, Streaming Service, TV, Weekly TV
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