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The Last Kingdom Recap Series 1 Episode 5

Season 1 Episode 5

Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred. Image from The Last Kingdom, streamed via Netflix.
Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred. Image from The Last Kingdom, streamed via Netflix.

Raised a Dane, Uhtred grew up around men who took what they wanted, who grew their wealth via raids. When he aligned himself with the Saxons, it was out of self interest. The one time he acted out of sentiment, a wish to see his first born child as soon as possible, he not only lost a probable substantial reward, his temper also ended up earning him a humiliating punishment. For a few days, Uhtred was a happily married Saxon Alderman. After Alfred made him walk on his knees through muddy roads, pelted with produce by the townsfolk, Uhtred returned to his Danish identity, venting at least some of his anger on the blameless Father Beocca and refusing to have his son baptised, much to the distress of his wife Mildrith.

Wessex was set to be conquered. Two armies, one led by Ubba and the other by Guthrum, marched. Alfred led a Saxon force to meet Guthrum whilst he tasked another army led by Odda the Elder to meet Ubba.

It was to Odda the Elder's camp that Uhtred rode, after he learnt that Odda the Younger took Mildrith and his son away. Odda the Elder was a good man, as Leofric said, but he was not a hardened military commander. The army he led was made up of farm boys from his own lands, boys he knew and did not wish to see slaughtered, boys who were not even properly armed for battle. He kept hoping that Alfred would come to the rescue after defeating Guthrum.

During a parley with Ubba, Uhtred goaded the Danish warload's temper and made him doubt, at least a little, the words of his sorcerer. Uhtred did that to gain some time for the Saxon forces. Uhtred suggested to Odda the Elder that he set fire on the Danish ships to distract Ubba's men. Odda the Elder could then attack with his forces. Uhtred made Odda the Elder give his word that the Saxon army would attack. Otherwise, Uhtred would be killed in Ubba's camp.

Odda the Younger, who might as well be called Odda the Schemer, told his father that the distraction could be used to march the army back to Winchester. Whilst the Saxons had the higher ground, they were running low on food. Such course would result in Uhtred's death, but the Saxon men would be saved.

Uhtred successfully set fire to the ships. He was almost out of Ubba's camp when he was spotted and quickly ringed. Ubba demanded that he and Uhtred fight. Ubba was the man Ravn warned the child Uhtred never to fight. Ubba remained a formidable fighter, but Uhtred, who was younger and who was a creative fighter, prevailed. Ubba's men would have killed Uhtred slowly had Odda the Elder's army not arrived. It was a brilliantly set up scene of Uhtred's retreat seamlessly melting into the shield wall he taught the Saxon troops.


Odda the Elder was gravely wounded, but it was a victory for the Saxons. Uhtred saved Wessex. Leofric counselled Uhtred to ride to the King and claim credit. Uhtred, who tended to refuse wise counsel from both Leofric and Father Beocca, said that the men would tell the King what happened. What he wanted was to see his newborn child.

Odda the Younger claimed credit, and Alfred allowed him. For a man who was insistent upon recording everything for posterity, it as odd that Alfred did not investigate further what truly happened, what won the battle. After all, this was a massive victory against perhaps the most feared Danish warlord. Would Alfred not have wanted to set down what lessons could be gathered for future use?

Uhtred arrived in Winchester with his wife and child, and his head filled with dreams of Alfred wiping out their massive debt and further rewards. When he realised what had happened, he rudely interrupted Alfred's prayer and bared his steel in front of the King. His punishment was to talk the streets on his knees to the palace, and kiss the cross. The King's wife actually wanted him executed.

Uhtred was accompanied by Aethelwold, who earned his punishment by absconding from a monastery. Aethelwold would have been a terrible King, but he was a thoroughly entertaining character. He detailed his debauchery in his loudest voice, so that the crowd ceased to laugh at him and Uhtred and began to laugh with them (well, Uhtred was not laughing at all). It looked like Aethelwold's words affected Alfred, who had a history of sleeping around and who struggled with his lust, for the King did not wait to see the punishment end. Instead, he left in a huff. Though he may not have felt it at the time, Aethelwold's actions made the humiliation easier to bear.

It was Leofric who suggested that he and Uhtred go raiding to make their fortune. Odda the Younger was rewarded for a victory that was not of his making, that would not even have happened had he had his way. It was certainly galling to a warrior like Leofric and especially to Uhtred.

The fifth episode showed an Alfred who was not an entirely just ruler. To be fair to Alfred, the punishment he meted out was much milder that what it could have been. What he wanted from Uhtred was to respect him as a King. Besides, there was a chance that Alfred meant to reward Uhtred after he has suffered his punishment. To be fair to Uhtred, Alfred could have made an effort to learn the true events. Alfred could have  spoken to Uhtred, found a way to calm his temper and ensured that he would be rewarded even as he must endure his punishment. As much as I adore Leofric, the most fascinating relationship for me is between Uhtred and Alfred.


■ Leofric served Odda the Elder and, when he dies, would serve Odda the Younger. I did not realise until this episode that Leofric was bound to the Oddas.

■ I have been meaning to include this in the last couple of recaps but kept forgetting. Anyway, here it is --- The stone on Uhtred's sword pops in whatever background, in a lovely way.

■ Uhtred gave Ubba his axe back before he killed him. Later, Uhtred protested against Ubba's body being desecrated. Uhtred's respect for the traditions of the Danes remained.

■ When he returned from battle, he found his servant sh-gging another on his and Mildrith's bed. Following his humiliation at Winchester, he caught the same servant stealing wood from his land. He had long suspected that servant of dishonesty. Furious, he killed the servant in front of a horrified Mildrith.

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