RECAP & REVIEW: The Last Kingdom – Series 1, Episode 5

So what happened?

As brutal storms dashed a number of Guthrum’s ships against the rocks, Odda the Younger took Mildrith and Uhtred Jr back to his Father’s home under the pretext of protecting her in the likely event that her husband had been killed as a result of events at Wareham. Buoyed by his good fortune, Alfred instructs Odda the Elder, Leofric and Wulfhere to head to Cynuit Hill and use the higher ground to launch an attack on Ubba and his troops, whilst he and his army would march and attempt to head off Guthrum’s depleted invaders, the rest of the plan being to join forces one or the other of the foes was defeated. The problem for the first Saxon group, however, is that their perceived advantage actually leaves them as poorly fortified, sitting ducks.

Alfred Odda battle
King Alfred (David Dawson) and Odda the Elder (Simon Kunz) on their way to battle.

After a dust up with Young Odda over taking Mildrith and his son without his consent, it’s Uhtred who comes up with a solution to the problem which involves riling up Ubba by questioning his faith in his sorcerer, Storri, during negotiations and then setting alight his ships under the cover of darkness in order to create panic so that the Danes can be attacked when they least expect it. Having given his word to the new Elderman that his men will back him up after his plan has come to fruition, it’s his son that tries to convince him to renege on the agreement, instead suggesting that they use the distraction to retreat. In the meantime, Uhtred has made his way to the camp and successfully lit the fires, calling the Danes to bring buckets of water to put out the flames, which only stoke the flames even more because of the lumps of pig fat he’d thrown into each of the ships. On his way to exiting the camp, however, he’s spotted by Storri which leads to a brutal confrontation that with Ubba that ultimately leads to the death of the Viking warrior. After their leader’s death, the Danes are about to turn on our protagonist when his own side tiptoe into the camp and envelop him in their shield wall, taking advantage of their opponent’s disarray to slaughter them.

As day breaks, it becomes clear they’ve won a resounding victory, but Odda the Elder has been badly wounded. After meeting with him to thank him for his loyalty, instead of heading straight to Winchester to claim his prize for killing Ubba and protecting the Kingdom, Uhtred makes his way to see Mildrith and his baby, thus allowing Young Odda to go to Alfred’s camp with Ubba’s axe and take all the plaudits, including free reign of all of his Father’s assets. Only discovering this deceit when he finally turns up at court, he storms into Alfred’s chapel whilst the King is ‘at peace’ and rants about the injustice of what’s happened, losing his temper enough to draw his sword. As a result he’s taken out by the guards to the courtyard and soon learns he’s to be punished. Luckily for him, it isn’t in the way the Queen stipulated, to have his inwards pulled out via his backside. Instead he’s instructed to crawl through the streets and grovel along with Aethelwold who has absconded from the monastery once again. As they’re both humiliated by the crowds who throw food and God knows what else at them, the King’s nephew takes it upon himself to prevent Uhtred from doing something stupid as they approach the court by telling him that he’s owed and then launching into a diatribe about how much he loves ‘tits’, diverting all attention onto his crude words and embarrassing Alfred enough to walk away from the proceedings.

Uhtred Aethelwold
Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) and Aethelwold (Harry McEntire) doing their ‘penance’.

Furious about what he was made to do when he was responsible for the safety of the kingdom, Uhtred ruthlessly tells Mildrith that their son won’t be baptised and he’ll be brought up as a pagan whether she likes it or not, leaving her furious and bewildered to go drinking and whoring. It’s at the tavern where he’s consoling himself with a woman and booze that Leofric approaches him and asks him to consider the possibility of making their wealth in the same way the Danes do – by raiding. With this thought in mind, Uhtred takes his family home, only to discover their steward has been stealing the wood from the estate and selling it. Furious after the Oswald’s previous indiscretion, (he caught him having sex with a village girl in their marital bed), the elderman chases him down, tramples him with his horse and then stabs him for good measure, angrily informing his horrified wife that that is the justice he’s been seeking.

Scene of the Week

Marieke: The scene which was obviously what we’ve been waiting for ever since Ravn’s warning to Uhtred: never cross Ubba. Uhtred puts himself on the line after Odda the elder ‘s promise to back him up. How mighty a warrior Ubba is (the closest to a King the Danes have), and it was clear Uhtred would have to win. Even so, it was a tense fight which showed Uhtred ‘s growing fighting skills, and also provided an image I can’t unsee anymore… Ubba’s achilles heels took quite a slashing! And even though it was unsurprising Odda the Elder kept his promise, it looked spectacular when the Saxons army suddenly appeared our of the dark much to Uhtred’s surprise. Add the ships on fire and a memorable scene is born.

I also love how this scene contrasts Uhtred ‘s attitude. Growing as a warrior, but failing as a negotiator by being too stubborn and hot-headed. He distances himself from his loved ones by staying a pagan. Even his wife starts to rant at him for not wanting to baptise Uhtred Junior (which to us is understandable on another level too, since father Beocca almost drowned him during his second baptism). Nevertheless, the Ubba scene doesn’t ultimately lead to success for Uhtred because Odda the Elder dies and his son decides to steal Uhtred ‘s thunder. I’ve a feeling Alfred will never accept Uhtred and the latter’s attitude is not exactly encouraging the relationship. It will be interesting to see if Uhtred can get the justice he craves so much (and I’m wondering if killing the villager actually is justice and not merely anger.)

Ubba Uhtred
Ubba (Rune Temte) fighting to the death with Uhtred.

Danielle: Naturally the fight scene with Ubba was cracking TV, but I also loved where Uhtred and Aethelwold were made to crawl through the streets and beg for mercy. Not because I’m some kind of sadist, (really I’m not), but because it made Uhtred’s subsequent actions all the more understandable. Yes, he’s unbelievably hot-headed, and he could have undermined Odda the Younger in a much less self-defeating way, but how can he not be angry when he’s being pelted with all sorts of things by the very people whose lives he’d undoubtedly saved? Aethelwold’s intervention was also a stroke of genius, not least because he realises that helping out a strapping, young fighter like Uhtred could pay dividends for him in the future. Mentioning ‘humping’ servant girls in order to embarrass his Uncle and Aunt was also pretty damn funny too, as well as a clever and sly admission that he knows what Alfred’s weaknesses are. He may be susceptible to drink and certain parts of the female anatomy, but he’s not an idiot. I’m interested to see where the writers will take him.

Quote of the Week

After the altercation with Odda the Younger, Uhtred enquires about his wife and son:

Uhtred: You’ve seen her? She’s well?

Leofric: She’s well. The child however…

Uhtred: Sickly?

Leofric: Ugly.

Uhtred: Like his Father.

Leofric: Worse! With the smallest of pebbles for a penis.

Uhtred: Like his Father.

Familiar Face
Sean Gilder
Sean Gilder as Wulfhere.

Most famous for his roles in State of PlayShameless and The Shadow Line, Sean Gilder reared his head this week as Elderman, soldier and sometime executioner, Wulfhere. Long may he allow Uhtred’s inwards to stay in his body!

The Verdict?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we’re still in love with the way this show manages to tow the line between action and real character development. Uhtred may be an excellent warrior who’s able to shore up the gaps in Saxon knowledge of battle, specifically against Danish adversaries, but the bastard still isn’t thinking. Again his impulsiveness is getting him into trouble in a more staid and understated culture that he neither fully understands or appreciates, and because of that he’s looking increasingly isolated from those he’s pledged himself too, Mildrith included. It’s hard to imagine there not being consequences as his mood turns towards vengeance and cruelty, and a healthy dose of hubris may be on the horizon. Perhaps for Alfred too as he puts his faith in those who don’t necessarily have his best interests at heart.

Maybe it’s time for Uhtred’s Danish family to return. Until then he has to learn to cool down and not lose his head, but that’s looking increasingly unlikely as Leofric appeals to his Danish sensibilities and suggests they raid the Britons in Cornwall and earn their wealth and land for themselves. That can’t end well, can it? All the scenes between these two are golden, however, and it’s good to see their friendship blossoming in spite of his new employer being the weasley Odda Jr, who is shaping up to be The Last Kingdom’s answer to Game of Throne’s Joffrey. We can only hope he has a more satisfying death, but we suspect he may be sticking around a while longer. This show is certainly keeping us on our toes though. Who’d have thought Ubba would have been dispatched so quickly in the series? In light of that we have no idea what to expect, but that’s part of the reason we keep looking forward to each new episode.

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