So what happened?
Relenting to Alfred’s request to further prove his loyalties to him and Wessex, Uhtred agrees to marry Odda the Elder’s goddaughter, Mildreth; the added bonus being that it annoys the hell out of Young Odda who clearly wants her for himself. What he doesn’t realise until after the ceremony has taken place and he’s riding back to his new homestead however, is that his new bride has a huge debt of 2000 shillings over her head as a result of her now deceased Father gifting 10% of the proceeds from his lands to the Church. Understandably annoyed at the deception, the newlyweds initially argue, but Uhtred soon agrees to direct his anger at the King and her godfather when he realises that she’s been swindled out of half of her dowry.
Several months later we find out the marriage is apparently going swimmingly, and Mildreth is carrying his child when the marital bliss is threatened by the arrival of around 300 Danish soldiers stalking across the land and making their way to the fortress at Wareham to attack; amongst them Guthrum, Ragnar and Brida. Deciding the best course of action is to head to Winchester, Uhtred takes his heavily pregnant wife with him to the safety of the court and eventually convinces Alfred to confront the invading force with an army of their own. Their advance is too slow though and the fortress is taken before they have the chance to reinforce it. There is a fly in the ointment for the victorious Vikings, nevertheless. Ubba’s brother, Ivor, has been murdered in Ireland, compelling him to head there and take revenge on his killers, leaving Guthrum and Ragnar’s men too small in number to launch any kind of meaningful attack on the English. Realising that there’s a real chance of his men starving to death without Alfred lifting a single sword to fight, Guthrum meets with the King and eventually agrees to leave Wessex via boat within the next month in return for food and ale for him and his troops, along with the swapping of ten hostages from both sides.
Seeing an opportunity in having allies behind enemy lines, Alfred convinces Father Selbix to be amongst the hostages in order to attempt to get Guthrum to turn away from his heathen ways and convert to Christianity. Likewise, despite an earlier clash between them over the debt Uhtred unknowingly married into, the monarch convinces his newest Elderman to be amongst those taken behind the fortress walls so that if there’s news of Ubba returning from Ireland he can escape and light a fire on the hills to alert the Saxons of the impending threat. In return, if he’s killed by his captors, the burden of his debt won’t be passed onto his unborn child and wife. Once inside the walls, Uhtred merrily reacquaints himself with his adopted brother and his former lover, quickly finding out that Ragnar and Brida are now together, and telling them that he’s married now. Their happy reunion lasts well into the night until Uhtred let’s slip that he’s going to be a Father too and the duo fail to hide their disdain that the man they grew up with is so subservient to an English King who’d happily risk his life by sending him to the enemy without a care for his previous loyalty and the fact he’s about to become a parent.
A day or two passes and the priest continues to work his godly ways on Guthrum, who appears to be humouring him. That is until news comes from a messenger that Ubba is returning with a fleet of ships and enough men to wage war on the English. In light of this knowledge, the self-proclaimed King of East Anglia stabs Father Selbix in cold blood and orders the other hostages to be executed too. Fearing for his life as the others are murdered, Uhtred manages to fight off a number of attackers but is eventually cornered and looks certain to die when Ragnar and Brida race to his rescue, the former telling Guthrum that he’ll have to kill him first if he wants to get to his brother and that in the event of his death his men won’t follow him into battle. Pragmatically, he allows his ally one final ‘charity’ by letting Uhtred go, unaware that the young warrior can now complete his agreed duty and light the warning fire to alert Alfred of the incoming army, himself oblivious to the fact that Mildreth has already given birth to his son.
Scene of the Week
Marieke: I particularly liked the juxtaposition of two scenes. Firstly there’s the scene where Uhtred talks to Alfred. Alfred who has given him all: land, a wife, the position of elderman yet he doesn’t trust Uhtred and plays games with him. He even deceives him by letting him wed a wife with a huge debt to the church. Alfred clearly wants to teach Uhtred a lesson about being loyal and the importance of the right kind of religion. He even gives Uhtred up as a hostage. There, in the fortress taken over by the Danes we see the other side, the second scene: Ragnar and Brida still being pro Uhtred even though he ‘works’ for the Saxons, hoping to make him join them because they miss him. He is Ragnar’s brother and Ragnar will always treat him as such. The feeling is mutual, but Uhtred is loyal to his oath and therefore this his land, wife and unborn son. But his passion also lies with Ragnar in killing Kjarten, by avenging their father. The Danes however, cannot give Uhtred the land and titles he want, but the people most loyal to him still live in that camp. Uhtred is in a painful split position and by lighting the fire he has, for now, chosen the Saxons (but mostly his wife and son). No doubt the rest of the series will play out this position more and more and it is hard to see Uhtred truly belonging with one side at the moment.
Danielle: I was a huge fan of the same scene between Alfred and Uhtred as well, but for a different reason. Primarily, because it clearly demonstrated that Alfred may well be lauded as a thinker by the likes of Leofric and Beocca, but that analytical thinking is hampered by his unbending observance to his religious beliefs. He’s literally allowing it to weaken him by refusing to eat meat and not getting the sustenance he needs, which seems like madness with regards to the battles he’s no doubt about to face and his fearsome enemy. In fact his piety shows striking similarities to Ubba’s unwavering faith in his sorcerer’s powers too, which we already saw exploited when Brida and Ubba took Storri hostage. For all of his faults, his hot-headedness included, Uhtred’s experience in both worlds allows him to see things from a very advantageous perspective. Until Alfred heeds Beocca’s words about there being no need to ‘tame’ him, he won’t realise how big an advantage having the young man in his corner really is, which could cost him dearly if he’s serious about uniting the whole of England. Oh and on a shallow note, that opening scene with a butt naked Alexander Dreymon emerging out of the water wasn’t unwelcome either. You know, for it’s artistic merit…
Quote of the Week
After Odda the Younger is made to pay Uhtred the rest of what he owes Mildreth:
Odda: You’re a heathen!
Uhtred: And you’re a virgin.
Odda: No, I’m not.
[Embarrassed, Odda walks away.]
Leofric: Yes, he is.
A stalwart of British television, Lorcan Cranitch is the face you’ll recognise instantly, but the name you might not. He’s been in everything from The Bill, Hornblower and Ballykissangel to more recent shows such as Fortitude and Atlantis. We were sorry to see his character, Father Selbix, meet a sticky end this week.
Time flew by in this episode. Seasons changed and Uhtred quickly became a married man with land, a heavily pregnant wife and a huge debt. We even got a glimpse of a post-gestational Uhtred Jr by the end. However the rest was set at a much slower pace, building up to the exchange of the hostages (which looked like two groups of people at the office greeting each other!) and the inevitable message of the return of Ubba and all of the carnage that brought with it. Still seen as a Saxon by Guthrum and a Dane by Alfred, we were cleverly shown the deepening of the dilemma that the protagonist faces as he puts down roots on English soil, whilst many of his loyalties still lie with his ‘Danish family’.
More generally, there was also a clear and enlightening demonstration of the dogmatic similarities between the two cultures in spite of their opposition to one another. Something which will undoubtedly be revisited. As will the loyalties that Uhtred has won himself from both sides of the battlelines. Mildreth couldn’t be any more different to Brida, but she too sees something in Uhtred that her Saxon peers cannot, and it’s great to see a ‘love square’ set up in such a way that doesn’t involve two women scratching each other’s eyes out. It all felt very grown up as the former lovers accepted that they’d both inevitably had to move on. The same can’t exactly be said of Uhtred and Leofric taunting ‘Little Odda’, but, God, if anybody deserves taunting it’s that weasly trouble-maker, and it’s a joy to see the Saxon soldier continue to disrespect the ‘arseling’. The only real concern we do have with proceedings is how much of a camp archvillain Guthrum is turning into. What with the hair flicking, pushing over altars and the obtrusive ‘This guy is evil’ incidental music, we kept on expecting him to appear in a scene wearing a Darth Vader helmet. Of course our irritation was soothed by the beautiful scenery and cinematic shots this week. Sunsets, snowy forests and fields and especially that ending with Uhtred lighting the fire, all carefully and marvellously shot. It’s little wonder Uhtred wants his land back when you see this landscape. But does it have to rain all the time? (Answer: yes, it’s England.)