RECAP & REVIEW: The Last Kingdom – Series 1, Episode 2

So what happened?

In the aftermath of last week’s showdown between Uhtred and his Uncle, he and Brida narrowly escape from the current Elderman’s men by heading into the forest, and come across a ransacked village. There they’re attacked by a solitary survivor and after they mortally wound him, they coax him to tell them that it was the Danes that had pillaged the place and killed everyone as punishment for an English uprising. Seeing the link between what happened with Earl Ragnar and how it could have been misconstrued, Brida warns Uhtred against approaching Ubba, but he ignores her; seeing the man as a means to get Bebbanburg back and avenge his adopted father. On the way to East Anglia, his travelling companion has the idea to take the Danish leader’s sorcerer, Storri, as insurance, and after Uhtred witnesses Ubba and his men murdering King Edmund, it’s having the hostage that saves his life when his story about Kjartan, Sven and their cohorts killing Ragnar isn’t believed.

Ubba (Rune Temte) doesn't believe Uhtred when he tells him that Kjartan and Sven were responsible for Ragnar's murder.
Ubba (Rune Temte) doesn’t believe Uhtred when he tells him that Kjartan and Sven were responsible for Ragnar’s murder.

Having sent Storri back to Ubba, naked, slung over the back of a horse and with a branch stuck up his backside, and with their bridges with the Danes well and truly burnt, Uhtred decides that the best course of action would be to head to the only remaining English stronghold, Wessex. Stopping off on the way in a village, in between ‘humping’ with Brida, the young protagonist approaches a blacksmith and commissions a sword that will ‘last a lifetime’ complete with the amber pendant his real father gave him shortly before his death incorporated into the hilt. Just as the weapon is finished, the pair are attacked by a group of men that could have been conceivably sent by Ubba or his Uncle.

Narrowly escaping with their lives, they make their way to the court of King Aethelred, and after initially butting heads with Leofric, a Saxon warrior, they are finally given access when Beocca realises who he is and vouches for him. Once there, however, Uhtred realises that the King’s brother, Alfred, doesn’t trust him and so heads off to gain intel about the Danes, finding them mooring boats on a lake just outside the kingdom, and discovering the remains of burnt offerings to the Gods, signalling that they intend to fight in the next few days, significantly earlier than the Saxons expected. Riding back to Wessex he tells Aethelred and Alfred about what he’s found and advises them to march just outside a small village where they’d be able to get the higher ground and cut the advancing Danish warriors off at a bottleneck. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, Alfred marches with an army to where he was told to go, but still wary that it’s a plot by Uhtred, he has him and Brida put inside cages and kept as prisoners for the time being. As the episode ends, the Saxons and the Danes, headed up by a surprised Guthrum, are about to square off in battle.

Scene of the Week

Marieke: Again, hard to chose one. I particularly liked the scene with Ubba and Uhtred having to explain baptism to him. There was humour present there, which in the end turned dangerous for Uhtred, who turned out to be a target to test God. I like how the darkness and violence of the show do not stand in the way of light humour. Who can forget the branch sticking out of Storri’s arse? Uhtred and Brida being chased was also a visually striking and exciting scene. It was not complicated to see who was chasing who and I did not get nauseous watching the chase. These scenes might not be as memorable as Ragnar on fire, but they fit perfectly in a show that is beautifully shot.

King Edmund (Jason Flemyng) met a sticky end at the hands of Ubba and his men.
King Edmund (Jason Flemyng) met a sticky end at the hands of Ubba and his men.

Danielle: I was also a fan of the scene where King Edmund was made to test his faith in God, and ended up dead long before the clubbing that St. Sebastian lived to endure. Not only was it simultaneously funny and dramatic, it also gave us clear indication of the differences between the English and Danish mindsets and their similarities too, especially in terms of their own brands of dogmatism and superstition. Seeing Uhtred barter with the blacksmith and swing his new sword for the first time also felt pretty significant, and no doubt it’ll play a large part in the battles he’s bound to engage in in the future.

Quote of the Week

On returning to the forest and seeing their hostage, Storri, slung over a horse in his birthday suit:

Uhtred: He has a branch up his arse!

Brida: Which is why he’s naked.

Familiar Face

Adrian Bower as the surly Leofric.
Adrian Bower as the surly Leofric.

Perhaps most famous for his role as the ill-fated P.E./Geography teacher, Brian Steadman, on the Channel 4 series, Teachers, Adrian Bower popped up this week as the the straight-talking Leofric, who took an instant dislike to Uhtred. No doubt we’ll be seeing more of him.

The Verdict?

So far this show is doing a great job of getting the balance right between exposition and action. Bloodshed and murder, romance and friendship, allegiance and trust, they all intertwine easily in this show. Consequently viewers aren’t thrown into a pit of despair by the almost constant violence and hardship that was a part of everyday life in the era The Last Kingdom is set. Life in Viking times is hard, but there is time for Brida and Uhtred’s romance to develop and flourish, and her excellent comebacks, intelligence and insanely accurate axe-wielding skills make her an excellent foil for the main character, which is doubly refreshing to see in a period drama. However, as Game of Thrones fans, we’re both afraid the humping duo might not be humping for long. Hopefully we’re wrong. Now there’s a big set up for a battle and we can’t wait to see how that plays out, although the clues were there to suggest that it’s not going to go too well for Guthrum. The events in the second episode directly followed the first and there is no reason to assume episode three won’t take off where we left it, unless the Beeb are saving their budget for a much bigger altercation towards the end of the series. Perhaps we’re about to get a better idea of where Uhtred’s loyalties really lie too?

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