RECAP & REVIEW: The Last Kingdom – Series 1, Episode 3

So what happened?

In the aftermath of the Saxons’ victory against the Danes, King Aethelred has been mortally wounded during the battle, threatening to leave a power vacuum in Wessex if he dies. Realising it’s an opportunity for the dying man’s son to take the throne in spite of his Uncle Alfred’s strong claim, Odda the Younger urges the Prince to say that his father named him as his successor on his death bed. His plans are thwarted, however, when he leaves the castle for his usual drink-fuelled revelry and is nowhere to be found when the King names Alfred as Wessex’s new monarch in front of much of the court shortly before dying. In order to prevent further conflict between him and his wayward nephew, King Alfred has Odda the Elder and Leofric send the wayward youth to a monastery in Southampton for a long, long education.

King Aethelred (Alec Newman) was mortally wounded in the battle with the Danes.
King Aethelred (Alec Newman) was mortally wounded in the battle with the Danes.

In the meantime, Beocca has petitioned the new King to allow Uhtred and Brida to be released from their cells after their information successfully allowed them to win their battle. He does so, but his former prisoners are left unimpressed with his apologies, and while Brida suggests they leave the kingdom and head to either Wales or Ireland, Uhtred insists he wants to stay on and utilise Alfred for silver and land before heading back to Bebbanberg, something which he’s not shy about telling the King. Instead of relenting, Aethelred’s successor suggests that marriage to a suitable noble lady would afford him the land and wealth he wants, and when the offer is rejected he convinces him to offer his knowledge of the ‘pagan mind’ during negotiations with the Danes. Determined to go down in history as a peacemaker, Alfred shows his mettel by skillfully convincing Earls Guthrum and Ubba that leaving Wessex with a vast amount of silver is favourable to more fighting and risking losing yet more men, whilst also rebuking the offer for peace in return for Uhtred’s head. Somewhat impressed with the King’s unnecessary loyalty, the young man agrees to swear an oath of allegiance for a year and vows to teach his men how to fight against the Danes.

Negotiations with King Alfred didn't go half as well as Guthrum (Thomas W. Gabrielsson) and Ubba (Rune Temte) expected them to.
Negotiations with King Alfred didn’t go half as well as Guthrum (Thomas W. Gabrielsson) and Ubba (Rune Temte) expected them to.

Disillusioned with her lover’s willingness to stay and unable to fit in amongst all the English piety, Brida takes herself to the woods and drinks some mushroom tea, which gives her prophetic dreams about Young Ragnar returning and her leaving with him on a ship. A day or two later she begins to feel ill and tragically miscarries a baby whilst she’s on her own. Uhtred eventually finds her and together they bury the child to ‘mark the passing’. True to her dreams, Ragnar Jr does turn up shortly after that, understandably wishing to confront Uhtred about the rumours that he killed their family. Unarming himself, his adopted brother challenges him to end his life if he really believes he was capable of murdering their loved ones in such a brutal manner. Satisfied that he’s telling the truth, they vow revenge against Kjartan and Sven when the right time arises, and Uhtred makes the heartbreaking decision to allow to Brida to go back to Ireland with the only Dane he trusts.

Scene of the Week

Marieke: My scene of the week is the one which provided some light entertainment. Uhtred show the Saxons how proper shield fighting is done. Serious and comical at the same time, it showed more about the differences between the Danes’ and Saxons’ ways of fighting. There was more banter between Leofric and Uhtred, which is proving to be an interesting relationship. They may be drinking and fighting together, but Leofric will have qualms about offing Uhtred as soon as he decides to be a Dane again. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) teaching the Saxons how to make a Danish shield wall.
Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) teaching the Saxons how to make a Danish shield wall.

Danielle: My favourite scene was altogether much darker: Uhtred discovering that Brida had lost a baby. In that minute or so we saw just how well the show is pulling off portraying a different mindset to both to relationships and the loss of a child, not just between the Saxons and those who’ve been brought up as Danes, but between historical attitudes and our own modern ones as well. There was a level of detachment in both Brida’s and Uhtred’s reaction and their need to unceremoniously bury the baby that seems alien to us, which could only stem from the knowledge that not taking a pregnancy to term was undoubtedly commonplace at the time. As gut-wrenching and slightly bewildering as the aftermath ultimately was, it seemed fitting too that they portrayed the natural consequences of the duo having that much unprotected sex. All actions seems to matter in this semi-fictional Universe.

Quote of the Week

Watching the Danes approach, shortly before the negotiations:

Alfred: Is it Guthrum?

Uhtred: Yes, you can see a bone in his hair. It is his Mother’s rib.

Alfred: How endearing.

Familiar Face

Brian Vernal as the conniving Odda the younger.
Brian Vernal as the conniving, Odda the younger.

It bugged us where we knew him from, but Odda the Younger actor, Brian Vernal, is perhaps best known for his stint in the BBC adaptation of the J.K. Rowling novel, The Casual Vacancy, playing troubled teenager, Stuart ‘Fats’ Wall. We can sleep now.

The Verdict?

With the violence taking a back seat this week, this episode delved into the messy mechanics of what ruling truly involves, and unashamedly championed brains over brawn. With Brida gone and Uhtred divorced from his immediate ties to the Danes, he has to take note of the advice given to him by Alfred, Beocca and his surprise new ally, Leofric. Brute force won’t propel him back to Bebbanburg. In fact it could put him in the ground if he’s not careful. Instead it’s time for him to tap into his Saxon roots and to start thinking his way back to his rightful role as a Northumbrian Elderman, which will undoubtedly involve making yet more sacrifices and choosing his friends wisely. Overall, we’re still incredibly impressed that Stephen Butchard has managed to strike the right balance between gore, emotional drama and much needed laughter. It makes the characters all the more sympathetic for it, tempering what could be a dull affair in less skilled hands, both in terms of the writing and the acting. It’s really great to see Adrian Bower fleshing out Leofric, especially. He’s fast becoming a fave at Fezzy Towers with his straight-forward demeanour and acerbic tongue. Emily Cox shone in this episode too as Brida tried unsuccessfully to deal with her new surroundings/hosts, and then was dealt the worst blow possible for any expectant Mother. Genuinely stellar work from all involved. We really can’t wait to see what the rest of the series will bring!


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