Warning: Major spoilers for The Winter King episode 1 below!


  • Merlin’s vision in episode 1 of The Winter King sets up the show’s final villain, Mordred, who is depicted as a dangerous and evil figure.
  • Merlin believes that if Mordred becomes the king, Britain will face its demise as he will be a tyrant and do the bidding of the Saxons.
  • The Winter King has the potential to become one of the best new fantasy dramas on TV if it resonates with viewers and stays true to the Arthurian legend depicted in Bernard Cornwell’s books.

Merlin’s “Death of Britain” vision from The Winter King’s first episode sets up the fantasy epic’s final villain. There have been endless reinventions of the legend of King Arthur on the big and small screen, from Richard Harris’ 1966 musical Camelot to BBC’s Merlin or Guy Ritchie’s failed franchise starter King Arthur: Legend of the Sword from 2017. The tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table has long proved fascinating to filmmakers and authors, with one of the most acclaimed literary takes on the story being Bernard Cornwell’s The Warlord Chronicles, a trilogy of books that began with 1995’s The Winter King.

Cornwall’s Winter King blended Arthurian legend with dashes of historical fact. The Winter King show cast Iain De Caestecker’s as Arthur, the illegitimate son of King Uther Pendragon (Eddie Marsan), who is banished from Britain but returns years later when his father’s kingdom comes under threat. In The Winter King episode 1, Uther fathers a new heir named Mordred, but shortly after the child is born, Merlin (Nathaniel Martello-White) has a terrifying vision of what will happen if Mordred becomes King.

Related: The Winter King: Trailer, Release Date & Everything We Know About The MGM+ King Arthur Show

What Happens In Merlin’s “Death Of Britain” Vision & What It Means

Iain De Caestecker as Arthur and Nathaniel Martello-White as Merlin in The Winter King

When Merlin holds the newborn child in The Winter King’s first episode, he has an ominous vision of a grown, hooded Mordred wearing a golden mask and wielding an ax. He’s shown beheading people, with pools of blood flowing freely from a pile of corpses while screams are heard in the background. Naturally, Merlin is quite disturbed by this and tells Uther there is “evil” in the boy that will fester and grow with each passing year.

Merlin believes that if Mordred becomes King, the country will be “enslaved” by a tyrant who will do the bidding of the Saxons. In short, Merlin sees the “death” of Britain itself if Mordred becomes King. Uther refuses to heed Merlin’s warnings or reach out to the exiled Arthur and bring him home. Merlin decides to seek out Arthur himself despite Uther’s warning he will also be banished if he does so.

Mordred Is Destined To Become The Winter King’s Final Villain

mordred in excaliber movie

Time will tell if The Winter King becomes a Game of Thrones-inspired success that adapts all the books, or if it makes it past the first season. Those familiar with Arthurian legend (or movies like Excaliber) will no doubt recall Mordred becomes the monster Merlin predicts, and in The Warlord Chronicles he grows from a child who enjoys inflicting pain to a King unfit for the throne. This forces Arthur to question his vow to protect him, which encompasses the second and third novels in Cornwell’s trilogy. Hopefully The Winter King hits with viewers, as it has the potential to become one of the best new fantasy dramas on TV.

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