So what happened?
Whilst Uhtred is sparring with Clapa, a hulking Danish recruit into Guthred’s army, Kjartan’s men turn up at the camp and pretend to pledge their allegiance to the new king and his commander. As they settle in, Guthred informs Uhtred that he’ll be baptised and expects to take a Saxon bride to keep the peace and cement his position as a Christian ruler, in spite of being a Dane by birth. He also pointedly warns his ‘friend’ away from his sister, Gisela, telling him that she’ll serve a greater purpose, and instead suggesting that he take Hild as his wife. Naturally, our hotheaded protagonist follows his heart, rather than his head and approaches Gisela as she’s enjoying the ambience of the chapel. Whilst their mutual attraction intensifies, and they find themselves on first name terms, their assignation is spied on by Brother Trew and later reported to Abbot Eadred, who’s still determined to knock Uhtred off his perch.
The holy man nearly doesn’t have to lift a finger to do just that as Uhtred is cornered by Kjartan’s men and almost loses an eye, but a vigilant Halig is wise to them and sounds the alarm, saving his Lord in the knick of time. All but one of the men is killed, and Guthred and his subjects celebrate the defeat of the infiltrators, as Uhtred tasks his trusty sidekick to take the heads of the dead men and put them in a sack for later use. Attempting to psych himself up for the task, Halig tries to drink his own body weight in ale, but Hild steps in and offers to take the first head in lieu of taking some of their leather and chainmail, in order to learn ‘how it feels’. After sheer determination gets her through it, she throws up behind a cart, and the next day dons the armour she took, signalling her transformation from nun to warrior, but deliberately keeping her crucifix under her clothing.
After a heated meeting with the aldermen of Cumbraland that’s hindered by Abbot Eadred being overly zealous, Guthred finally announces that they’ll be heading to Eoforwic to officially take control after the Saxons there brutally ousted their Danish occupiers. During their ‘procession’ to the settlement, which is headed up by St. Cuthbert’s casket at Eadred’s insistence, Uhtred gives in to temptation and sleeps with Gisela, nearly getting caught once again by Brother Trew if not for Hild’s intervention. Halig also has a close shave when their captive asks to be taken for a toilet break in the woods and turns on his captors, holding a blade to Uhtred’s man’s throat and insisting that he be allowed to talk to the commander. Once he has his ear, the young man called Sihtric informs him that he’s Kjartan’s bastard son from the warlord’s encounter with a slave girl and that he has no loyalty to his father, wishing instead to join the ranks of Guthred’s army. Taking the new recruit at his word, Uhtred accepts, and soon the young man is out scouting with Clapa, Halig and Hild, helping them to identify Sigefrid and Erik’s weakened army as they travel to Eoferwic. Eager to use their opponents vulnerable state against them, Uhtred urges Guthred to fight them with their far superior army. The King bottles the decision however, later deciding to treat with the two brothers and look to an alliance that would see Eoferwic be absorbed into the Kingdom of Cumbraland, but would allow them to take Kjartan’s stronghold should they successfully help to starve he and his men out of the fortress by reinforcing a blockade with their men. Uhtred is against the plan and voices his concerns, but it promptly shot down by the King, who seals the deal with the Danish brothers over beakers of ale.
Perturbed that Uhtred is becoming so problematic, the Abbot sends Brother Trew to Bebbanburg with a message for his uncle, Aelfric, asking for men to help against Kjartan and offering his nephew in return. Insisting that he’s not the real heir and that his actual name is Osbert, what he was called before he was baptised for a second time after the death of his older brother, the usurper agrees to the arrangement so long as his nephew’s head is brought to him. Having already set the wheels in motion, Eadred continues to drip poison in Guthred’s ear about his commander, telling the King that warriors like Uhtred would never be happy with just one castle, essentially suggesting that he needs to watch his back around the ‘power hungry’ Lord. After making a trip to Kjartan’s stronghold, Uhtred puts the severed heads on stakes outside the fortress and beheads another of his enemy’s men. Dressed once again as the dead horseman, he threatens both Kjartan and Sven, who see through his disguise but are both clearly rattled by the audacity of the act. Emboldened by what he’s done, on his return to Eoferwic, Uhtred sits down with Guthred and semi-seriously insists that the King sees him as a threat in the same way that he sees Sigefrid and Erik as such, pushing for him to offer Gisela to him in order to broker ‘peace’ between them. With Guthred having seemingly agreed to the arrangement, Uhtred leaves the King’s quarters happy, but is rudely awakened the next morning when Eadred arrives with a group of thugs to beat him and Halig, and then take him back before the King. There he realises his ‘friend’ is having him and his right-hand man sold into slavery, believing that will be enough to secure the 200 spears that Aelfric has offered him. As he’s carted away in a cage, Uhtred screams at Guthred that he should have killed him and that he’ll return to take revenge.
Riding at breakneck speed to Winchester, Hild enters Alfred’s court to plead for help to find and free Uhtred. Aelswith is predictably resistant to the call for assistance, and Alfred fails to see what he can do for his alderman if he’s already been sold overseas, but both Aethelflaed and Aethelwold speak up for him, and Beocca, who’s only recently returned to Wessex after travelling with Uhtred, insists that he’s prepared to spend the rest of his life looking for the man he’s known since his birth. After Alfred rubbishes the idea, it’s Odda who suggests that there is one man for the job, prompting the King to summon Ragnar and Brida to him, presumably to task him with searching for his adoptive brother.
Scene of the Week
Danielle: Two vastly different scenes were in the running for me this week. As horrific as it was to watch, seeing Hild brutally take that first head with nothing more than a knife was oddly moving to watch, especially as we were were party to her violent physical reaction to the act afterwards. Eva Birthistle really was superb there, and I can’t help but feel that we needed see her transformation from ‘woman of God’ to ‘warrior lady’. Going forward, it feels important.
For me though, the scene before Beocca left for Winchester and told Uhtred that he has a good heart and not to allow it to darken was really touching. In many ways, the priest continues to be our protagonist’s conscience and tries to point him in the right direction in the way a father would. If only Uhtred had listened to his advice about Gisela, eh? Either way, the strong bond between these two characters is made all the more believable by the easy rapport that Hart and Dreymon share. Frankly, I don’t know what the hell I’ll do if/when Beocca meets a sticky end.
Marieke: I agree with my colleague. I loved Uhtred and Beocca having a beer together so much. We can only hope that Uhtred will conquer Bebbanburg to have ‘his Beocca’ stationed there. Besides being his conscience, he is also the last father figure left in his life. Uhtred needs his advice and needs to be reminded of it. As soon as Beocca left Uhtred, he got himself in lots of trouble! I also liked Uhtred checking out Hild’s new armour, wondering if the nun was still in there somewhere. He’s going to keep trying his luck, isn’t he?! She is turning into a proper warrior nun, but slicing throats is something she needs a little more practice on.
Quote of the Week
Practically summing up the whole show:
Beocca: Promise me you won’t do anything stupid.
Uhtred: How can I make a promise I cannot keep? Stupid is in my nature.
With the show continuing to do a great job at keeping Scandinavian actors in work, Björn Bengtsson is almost unrecognisable as Sigefrid after his role in Thicker Than Water.
Well, that escalated quickly! The end of this second episode had us on the edge of our seats, as regal wet lettuce, Guthred, was successfully brainwashed by the Abbot, and had Uhtred dragged away into life as a slave. The rightful Lord of Bebbanburg may be an ego-centric big head at times, but he’s a warrior in the truest sense of the word and a brave one at that, unlike the weak King and his sneaky spiritual adviser. It’s especially galling that Guthred betrayed his commander and punished him by throwing him in shackles as a slave after Uhtred was the one who freed him from the same fate. Worse still, he had Halig shackled and sent with his Lord as punishment for his unwavering loyalty. If we were betting women, we’d wager that Guthred AND Eadred have a healthy dose of karma heading their way. At least HIld got away to warn Alfred and Beocca, setting up a prospective reunion between the brothers Ragnar and Uhtred that we can’t wait for! Questions abound, such as how loyal is he still to his brother, and how much havoc will he wreak?
As we head into the third episode, everything has been turned upside down, and where Eadred and Kjartan were the obvious bad guys, it turns out Guthred has morphed into one by means of his own weak will and terrible decision making skills. How long before Sigefrid and Erik work his feeble nature to their advantage too? If we were him, we wouldn’t get too comfortable on that throne. Bring on the carnage and that fraternal reunion!
Our Fezzy Score:
So what did you think? Let us know in the comments…