So what happened?
Concerned that Uhtred will seek revenge against her brother, Gisela asks her lover what he intends to do once her returns to Eoferwic. In spite of his anger at the King of Cumbraland’s actions, which led to him being taken as a slave and Halig’s death, the young Lord reassures her that he’ll honour his oath to Alfred and not harm him. Worried that the trip will be dangerous and that he’ll be taken from her again, Gisela asks to go with Uhtred, but he refuses, telling her she’ll be much safer in Winchester. Her concerns that someone else will try and take her as their wife again lead him to approach Beocca about marrying them before he leaves. Reluctantly the priest agrees, and the couple say their vows in a quiet ceremony prior to his departure.
In the meantime, Ragnar sends Brida ahead to Loidis to gather his remaining men, and confronts his brother regarding his reasoning for swearing his allegiance to Alfred once again. Not wanting to reveal that he did it to protect him, Uhtred instead chooses to highlight the tactical value of reinstating Guthred’s power in Cumbraland by killing Sigefrid and Erik on his behalf; chiefly that the grateful King’s army will be extremely useful in taking down Kjartan. Somewhat appeased by his answer, Ragnar insists that he be the one to kill the man who was responsible for the deaths of their parents. Elsewhere, Alfred isn’t entirely trusting of his man’s motives either, choosing to send a resistant Aethelwold with him on the trek to Eoferwic to be his ‘eyes, ears and voice’, and to remind Uhtred of his oaths should he be tempted to follow his own path. When Odda airs his concerns about the possibility the warrior’s attention could turn to Bebbanburg when he finds himself in the North, the King of Wessex reveals that he’s taken the added precaution of sending Steapa with them under instruction to kill Uhtred if he reneges on his oath.
Making a detour to Loidis on their way to Eoferwic, Ragnar and the rest of the group meet up with his remaining men. All of them are prepared to fight by his side again, except one who leaves the inn they’re all drinking in and heads to Dunholm to inform Kjartan that he’s readying his troops to attack their fortress. Confident that his old adversary’s eldest son won’t be able to penetrate their stronghold, the villain orders his men to prepare for a siege, and commands Sven to go and tell Thyra that her dogs will no longer be fed. His son also informs her that her brother is on the verge of an attack, and the troubled woman responds that she doesn’t have a brother, warning him to leave her cell before her dogs attack. Back at the inn, Brida warns Uhtred not to waste Ragnar’s men on Guthred’s objective, which is to calm tensions in his kingdom by killing Sigefrid and Erik. In turn, Aethelwold urges them not to waste the chance of more men by doing the King’s bidding. Realising the impasse, Finan pipes up and suggests that they murder the brothers in their sleep, a practice that Uhtred refers to as ‘Shadow-walking’. Running with the plan, they head to the enemy camp, and insisting that Brida and Ragnar hang back in case things go wrong so they deal with their ‘Blood Feud’ with Kjartan if things go wrong, Uhtred, Finan and Steapa slit the throats of various guards, allowing our protagonist to enter Sigefrid’s tent. A false start sees him assaulted by a woman he finds there, but soon a brutal fight breaks out between the two men that culminates in Uhtred being forced to chop off the other man’s sword hand to save himself. With the alarm raised, he drags the newly maimed warrior outside and faces down his brother, who asks him what he wants in return for his sibling’s life. Insisting that the duo take a boat and never return to Northumbria, Erik agrees to the terms, whilst Sigefrid hurls all sorts of abuse at Uhtred and swears that he’ll kill him someday.
Having dealt with Guthred’s most pressing threat to his crown, the gang head to Eoferwic and meet with the weak King, who initially tries pleasantries to divert attention from what he did to Uhtred. Unimpressed, after throwing Sigefrid’s severed hand onto his former friend’s dinner plate, he leaps over the banquet table, pinning the feeble monarch against his throne and telling him in no uncertain terms that in spite of swearing to Alfred that he won’t seek revenge against him, he will never forgive or forget what he did to both him and Halig. Furthermore, Uhtred tells him to ready his men to march to Dunholm to fight Kjartan. As the brothers walk away, Guthred dares to ask why he should believe that Sigefrid and Erik are dead when he only has one of their hands as proof. Ragnar quickly spins on his heels and warns him that if he doesn’t do what they ask of him, he’ll take Eoferwic and the King’s men by force for himself. Later, as Brida and Uhtred are making the case for Ragnar to take Dunholm, Aethelwold again urges him specifically as the embodiment of Alfred’s plan to create an England where Danes and Saxons can live side by side, to abide by his oath to the king; all the while mindful that Steapa is listening in to the conversation. It’s Guthred who simplifies things, however, fielding a slap from the man he previously put in chains after admitting he fears him, and offering to write to Alfred to say they’ll be heading to Dunholm under his instructions. He also seems to take the news that Uhtred is now married to his sister in his stride, and says he hopes they can become friends again some day.
It’s after this tentative reconciliation that Uhtred reveals his plan to launch an attack on Kjartan’s stronghold on two fronts. During his last trip to Dunholm, he noticed a small door in the fortress’ defences that gives its inhabitants access to a fresh water spring. Whilst Ragnar and his men are tasked with using brute force to try and get a battering ram through the main gates, all the while fending off arrows, rocks, fire and stray dead bodies from the ramparts, his brother intends to utilise the weakness he’s discovered, and infiltrate with a small group of his own warriors. Putting the ruse into action, a blazing arrow at the break of dawn gives everybody the signal to get into place, and Ragnar begins his assault on the gate, losing numerous men in the onslaught as Uhtred, Hild, Beocca and the others fight their way through small door and breach the walls. Battling through Kjartan’s men, he urges Steapa to open the gates that are locking his elder brother out, and when he’s finally joined by him, together they use a shield wall to force the opposition back. Meanwhile, as the battle rages on in the courtyard, Sven seeks out Thyra, who in turn seizes the opportunity to take revenge and commands her dogs to rip him to shreds as his father looks on in horror from outside.
Realising that the battle is all but lost, Kjartan calls out Ragnar and demands that they fight one-on-one to settle the feud once and for all. Ignoring Brida’s calls not to, he duly steps forwards as Uhtred tells the men to make the square around them. Attempting to rile the younger man by reminding him of what he did to his family, and divulging that he and his men have been raping his sister since her capture, Kjartan has some success, but Ragnar eventually takes the advantage, plunging his blade through his enemy’s wrist, and then hacking at him repeatedly until Uhtred is forced to pull his distraught brother away from the body. With everybody still reeling from what’s just happened, Thyra steps out in the courtyard with her hounds and tells her brothers that they left her. As they object, she threatens to kill them with her animals until Beocca steps between them, forbidding her from harming her brothers and offering her his help. Letting out a piercing scream, she relents and heads back inside. Subsequently, the priest approaches her again, revealing that both Ragnar and Uhtred have been searching for her for a long time, and admitting that she’s exhibited a God-given strength in enduring what she has for so long. Seemingly softening towards her siblings, she reminisces about Uhtred saving her from Sven when they were young.
With Ragnar now in charge at Dunholm, the step-brothers discuss finally having honoured their dead parents by killing Kjartan, and ruminate over what’s next. When the older of the two asks Uhtred if he now intends to head to Bebbanburg and take it back from his Uncle, he uneasily declines in favour of returning to Wessex, saying he needs his woman again and revealing that he knew all along Steapa was sent with them to kill him should he step out of line. After emotional farewells with Ragnar and Brida, he and the rest of his men, along with Thyra, set off back to Winchester.
Scene of the Week
Danielle: It’s such a hard decision this week. Although the battle scenes were a feast for the eyes, in spite of the limited BBC budget, I think the real gems were in some of the quieter moments. I’m not going to lie, I really enjoyed Guthred finally having his arse handed to him by Uhtred. It was an overdue comeuppance, and clearly he wouldn’t still be perched upon his throne if it wasn’t for Alfred having his back. At least he’s conscious of that now. Perhaps the real highlight though was that farewell sequence at the end of the episode. Everything from the moving embrace between the brothers after finally avenging their parents, to Brida kicking her former lover up the arse to send him on his way was absolutely spot on in terms of characterisation. Even Thyra riding off with Hild was pitch perfect.
Marieke: I loved the look of the battle. Again, even on a budget like this, it looks impressive. Not in the way of fields full of men would, but who needs that all the time? It was a proper siege, which had that telltale claustrophobic feel at times, especially when that tiny back door was being used to break through. The hand to hand combat was brutal as well. Especially on Kjartan’s hand. However, for me, it was Thyra who brought something different to the show this time. Her reunion with her brothers wasn’t all lovely and warm as when Ragnar and Uhtred found each other again. She was looking like a woman who’d completely lost herself, her skin almost luminescent. Beocca being the only man who could get through to her was a nice touch. He cannot hurt her being a priest, but also she invokes a sense of divinity to him, like an enduring Virgin Mary made flesh right before him. I was scared she was going to send her hounds after him, but they connected when he respectfully asked to sit down on her bed instead. A tender moment in a brutal episode.
Quote of the Week
Aethelwold, King of the self own and nothing else:
A letter is constant, whereas I shall merely come and go.
It’s like this show is now stuck in fifth gear, pedal to the floor, careering easily down the motorway at 100 mph, as various players are matched and dispatched. In a vastly different way from last week, The Last Kingdom continues to leave us emotionally exhausted, this time as a result of a gruesome battle that saw Ragnar finally get the revenge he craved as he channelled all of his anger and grief into mutilating Kjartan’s body. Beocca was right though, revenge doesn’t always bring with it the peace one might expect. His and Uhtred’s sister, Thyra, is understandably traumatised by everything she’s been subjected to as well. Let’s hope Beocca can find a way to bring a little of her old self back, but it does seem like a tall order. At least she got her own revenge on Sven by ordering her hounds to kill him, Sansa Stark style, in a scene that left us cheering and our stomachs churning. It feels important that she won that small victory for herself, instead of Uhtred having to save her from Sven again like he did when they were children. Maybe this will afford her the necessary peace of mind so she can start to heal. Either way, we’re interested to see what the Alfred’s court will make of her once she travels down to Wessex with her brother.
It was really nice to see Brida being Brida again, a foul-mouthed Viking woman who does not give a damn. She’s seemed to be a bit sidelined this series so far, so it was great to have her back for one episode at least. Uhtred telling his new, treacherous, weakling brother-in-law, ‘King Guthred the Turd’, the truth was a moment we were all waiting for as well. As was the bitch-slap. It was also refreshing to see that the mole in the group, Steapa, is not the secretive threat moles usually are. Uhtred knew all along and this knowledge, accompanied by missing his wife, mean that thoughts of turning his attentions towards Bebbanburg are distant for the time being. His uncle is the last remaining ‘Big Bad’ for now, although a fiery Viking now short of a sword hand might want to get his own back someday soon. It is hard to believe we appear to have arrived at a peaceful lull much as Uhtred wants it for now. Nevertheless, a man who is a warrior at heart will never stay home too long. Destiny is destiny, so now we have to wait for Uhtred to want to scratch that itch again. Regardless, the second outing of this historical drama is going from strength to strength.
Our Fezzy Score:
So what did you think to the episode? Let us know in the comments…