“The Winter King” is the first episode of a fantasy show that combines Arthurian legend and historical fact. The episode sets the stage for an epic narrative by introducing the characters and conflicts that will drive the story. Arthur, the illegitimate son of King Uther Pendragon, is banished from Britain after his supposed failure to save his brother’s life. He is saved from execution by Merlin, who convinces Uther to spare his life but banish him instead.
Season 1 Episode 1: The Winter King
Arthur, wounded and alone, steals a horse and encounters a Saxon slave boy named Derfel, whom he rescues. They make their way to Avalon, a safe haven run by Merlin, where Derfel becomes part of the community. He falls in love with a young priestess named Nimue, but their romance is forbidden by the Gods, who will strip Nimue of her powers if she has sex. Despite their love for each other, Nimue chooses the Gods over Derfel.
Meanwhile, Derfel secretly trains to become a warrior, idolizing Arthur and hoping for his return. Merlin, having a vision of Arthur’s future tyranny and the destruction it will bring, seeks him out in Gaul and asks him to return to Britain to unite the clans and save the country. However, King Uther, still resentful of Arthur, refuses to bring him back.
The episode ends with the revelation that Gundleus, the King of Siluria, killed Derfel’s mother and will seek revenge in the future. Despite this, there is a note of positivity as Merlin finally catches up with Arthur and asks him to “come home.”
Overall, “The Winter King” introduces the main characters, their conflicts, and the central themes of the show. It combines elements of Arthurian legend with historical fact to create a gripping narrative. The episode sets the stage for a dramatic and epic story that has the potential to become the next big fantasy show in the vein of Game of Thrones.