Desperate to raise an army and head north to reclaim his lands at Bebbanburg, Uhtred makes some choices in this week’s episode that – surprise, surprise – land him in hot water with Alfred.
Let’s bitch it out…
Within two minutes of the opening of this week’s episode, Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) is throwing rocks at the orphaned children of a man he killed last week. It’s a cruel action that sets the tone for the rest of the episode, and establishes the frustration and anger of our leading man. After all, it’s not looking good for Uhtred. He’s on the outs with King Alfred (David Dawson), his wife, and the Church; prospects for reclaiming his lands at Babbenburg grow dimmer by the day, and he’s still saddled with the crippling debt acquired from his arranged marriage to Mildrith (Amy Wren). Desperate to turn his fortunes around, Uhtred convinces Leofric (Adrian Bower) that they should take a small band of men, disguise themselves as Danes, and raid the neighbouring kingdom of Cornwalum for all it’s worth.
It goes about as well as you’d expect.
Taken as Danes by a Cornish king, Uhtred and his men are hired to help the sickly ruler to retake his fort. While negotiating with the King, Uhtred falls head over heels for an Irish “Shadow Queen” (sorceress) named Isuelt who foresees victory and claims that Uhretd is “the one.”
At the fort Uhtred learns that he’s badly outnumbered and outflanked by the Danes, so he joins forces with them and double-crosses the Cornish King. The Danes and Faux-Danes kill the king and his men and learn the location of his silver. Predictably, Scorpa, the leader of the Danes, reneges on their 50/50 split and takes everything for himself. Isuelt informs Uhtred that there’s a second horde of silver, a portion of which he takes to the Bishop in Exeter to pay off Mildrith’s debts.
Apart from the loot, it’s clear that Uhtred’s favourite new piece of treasure is Isuelt. She accompanies him back to Wessex and there’s some awkward family moments when they return to Mildrith. Uhtred’s paid off Mildrith’s family debt, and with that clearly feels that he’s freed himself from his commitment to her – despite the fact that they have a son together.
In further bad news for Uhtred, he’s been summoned to Wessex by King Alfred. It turns out that the Cornish King’s priest made it out of the slaughter and is testifying to Uhtred’s (and Leofric’s) crimes. He also claims that Uhtred has razed the church that Odda the Younger (Brian Vernel) has been building to celebrate Alfred’s victory over Ubba (and to cement his own healthy position by Alfred’s side). There’s a bunch of shouting and ultimately Alfred condemns Uhtred to death; Leofric convinces the King to let the judgment fall into God’s hands by allowing the two friends to fight to the death, and Odda spends the whole time smirking. It’s great television – but it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. I’m sure everyone saw this coming when Uhtred strapped on the Viking armour earlier in the episode.
It’s interesting – there’s only two episodes left, and Uhtred is not in a great spot; most of his decisions are actively unlikable in this episode. He’s really coming across like a douche: raiding other Saxons, double-crossing the Cornish King, not to mention being a total jerk to Mildrith. Oh yeah, and he threw rocks at those orphans. That wasn’t good either.
Nevertheless, throughout the episode Uhtred does protest at each plot twist how he’s being forced into it by circumstances. I can’t help but feel that all of these circumstances are creations of his own selfishness, but hey, I’ve never been a Saxon lord raised by Vikings and then forced to choose between two ways of life, so who knows?
- I don’t know how I only noticed it now, but I just realized the Uhtred is the one narrating the summary of last week’s episode. It’s a nice touch that this dialogue is in character too – Uhtred’s smug cockiness oozes out in his description of last week’s events. Like I’ve been saying – there isn’t a moment of wasted time in The Last Kingdom.
- With only two episodes left, it’s fun to see the stakes being raised. Based on the ending of this episode, we’re probably going to lose Leofric next week, which is unfortunate. He’s fun to watch as a character foil, and hearing him call Uhtred “Assling” never gets old.
- Isuelt is great: she’s got the right blend of smoldering mystery and confidence, although she is certainly out of place in Alfred’s court. Definitely curious what her involvement in future episodes will be.
- In another example of no character going to waste, it’s clever to bring Aethelwold back into Uhtred’s sphere after last week. It was a minor addition, but economically fleshes out his character some more, and adds just a little bit of extra “something” the Uhtred’s adventures in Cornwalum. At Alfred’s court, I couldn’t decide if he is the one who turned Uhtred in or would stand up for him.
- Poor Leofric. Apart from being sentenced to death with Uhtred, he has to endure that insanely awkward dinner conversation at the beginning of the episode.
- Scorpa: “Where is the silver?”
Cornish King: “If I tell you, you’ll kill me. And I would rather you remain poor.”
- Aethelwold: “How was I? As a warrior?”
Uhtred: “Aethelwold, you are as much a warrior as you are a king.”
Your Turn: So what’s your take on Uhtred? Is he just unlucky, or do you agree that he’s the architect of his own problems?
The Last Kingdom airs Saturdays at 10pm EST on BBC America (in the US).