The Winter King (Season 1) Episode 1: Recap & Ending Explained

The Winter King (Season 1) Episode 1 Recap

The Winter King (Season 1) Episode 1: ‘The Winter King’ is a new British television series based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Warlord Chronicles novels. Created by Kate Brooke, Ed Whitmore, and Bernard Cornwell, this drama series stars Iain De Caestecker in the role of King Arthur. It is a retelling of the Arthurian legend and is set in Post-Roman Dark Age Britain. Due to its fusion of historical fiction with fantasy drama elements, it will undoubtedly be compared to Game of Thrones.

At the same time, the series premiere shows enough promise to make it rise above the mediocrity of the same crop. It introduces us to Arthur, who was banished after the battle with the Saxons. Besides the family drama, we get a sense of the simmering tension between the pagans and the Christians. The grim narration, backed by an impressive production value, is enough to keep someone glued to the screen. Spoilers ahead.

The Winter King (Season 1) Episode 1 Recap: What happens in The Winter King Episode 1?

The Introduction

The narrative begins in 5th century Britain where the decades of warring groups left the country divided. Their High King, Uther Pendragon (Eddie Marsan), struggled to unite the groups to take on the threat of the Saxons. Arthur (Iain De Caestecker) fought the battle against the Saxons with all his might. He fought them hard and stayed loyal to the kingdom. Unfortunately, King Uther’s real heir – Prince Mordred, got killed in the battle, which put him in a difficult position. After returning to Caer Cadarn, the capital city of Dumnonia, he faced the brunt of Uther’s wrath since he did not fulfill his responsibility to protect Prince Mordred.

Besides, Arthur was Uther’s illegitimate son. So, Uther considered him even more unworthy of love or respect. Despite all the insults that Uther hurled at him, Arthur could not accept any abuse directed at his mother. While Uther was about to slash Arthur to death, the shaman Merlin (Nathaniel Martello-White) saved his life. He proposed that Arthur be banished instead of the high king losing another of his sons. Uther agreed. Before leaving the kingdom, Arthur informed his friend Owain (Daniel Ings) to make King Uther realize the importance of uniting the tribal kings and cementing their support for the coming war. Despite the banishment, he cared deeply for the fate of the kingdom.

Derfel’s Existence

After getting banished, Arthur came across a fishing settlement in Northern Dumnonia. He saw places burned down and the dead body piled up in a pit. Among them, he found a young boy – Derfel (Jordan Dark), on the verge of death. So, he brought the boy back to Avalon to save his life. Upon touching him, Merlin saw visions of all the horrific things he had survived. Arthur asked a young girl – Nimue (Lucy Allix), to nurse Derfel and provide him with the necessary comforts. Later, a man told her that the boy was a Saxon. Young Nimue mentioned how he still is from one of their settlements.

Nimue’s Dilemma

The Winter King (Season 1) Episode 1 Recap - HOF
Simon Merrells in The Winter King (2023)

Eight years later, we see Derfel (Stuart Campbell) and Nimue (Ellie James) all grown up and in love. Hywel, who cared for him all those years as a father figure, asked if he would take over the farm. Later on, after a local ritualistic ceremony, Derfel and Nimue got intimate with each other. Upon witnessing a terrifying vision, she broke off their tie. She said that the Gods expect her to choose between Derfel and them.

Then, Merlin reminded her that she would be needed to offer her sacred gift as a druid during the times Britain was divided. That was her true purpose. For this reason, she could not form a union with any partner. They would not speak with her if she did not choose the Gods. Since she could not deny her past, she broke off with Derfel.

A Future Tyrant

After this sudden change in his life, Derfel saw visions from his past. He glanced at the man who brutally killed his family in those visions. Derfel tried to drink his sorrows about this discovery and about the sense of his impending loneliness. Then suddenly, he took off on his horse through the woods. Back at his residence, he saw people in a rush in the morning. He learned that Queen Norwenna was in labor. The queen finally gave birth to a male baby. Nimue held him in her arms, and Merlin glanced upon his deformed foot. He held the foot to see gory visions from the future of a cruel ruler who butchers his own people.

The Winter King (Season 1) Episode 1 Ending Explained:

Merlin met King Uther and informed him that the baby was a boy. However, he warned about the deformity, which Uther did not find concerning. Merlin also mentioned the son’s evil nature, which he worried would grow and fester with every passing year. He believed the heir would bring death and ruin to the kingdom, and the Saxons would take the isle. But none of it concerned Uther. He was more inclined to consider this baby as his successor. He named it after the prince and called it Mordred. Since Uther continued to ignore his suggestions, Merlin urged the king to consider bringing Arthur back.

Merlin believed the isle had been in peril since Arthur’s banishment. But Uther ignored that suggestion and asked him to take the baby to Avalon and nurture him there. Despite Uther’s threats, Merlin decided to go seek Arthur himself to bring him back. As Uther wanted, his heir was sent to Avalon. Three months later, Derfel came across Owain practicing a swordfight.

Meanwhile, the person who killed Derfel’s family – Gundleas, comes to meet King Uther. Over the period, he became the King of Siluria. He continued his streak of violence and later converted to Christianity to gain Uther’s trust. Despite Gundleas’ gory past, Uther agrees to join hands with him for a deal. On the other hand, Merlin reached Gaul, the land of King Ban, and asked him to come back to the kingdom.

Read More: Everything Coming to Disney+ in August 2023


The Winter King (Season 1) Episode 1 Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia
The Winter King (Season 1) Episode 1 Cast: Iain De Caestecker, Daniel Ings, Jordan Alexandra, Stuart Campbell, Ken Nwosu
The Winter King (Season 1) Episode 1 Genre: Historical fiction, Fantasy drama | Runtime: 10 Episodes, 55–60mins each
Where to watch The Winter King
Akash Deshpande

Obsessed, fascinated, and always nerding out about cinema! You can find me in the corner of a room ruminating over the last TV series I watched.