Season 2 Episode 1
When Father Beocca, Brother Trew, and others were discussing the prophetic dream of Abbot Eadred, said to be a message from St. Cuthbert that Guthred, a former Dane turned Christian slave, would be King of Cumberland, Uhtred listened but rolled his eyes. Uhtred's closest and longest relationship was with the pious Father Beocca, but the Danish/ Saxon warrior had never accepted for himself his dear friend's faith. It was not that Uhtred believed more in the Danish gods. As was shown on this first episode of a roaring second series, Uhtred was happy to use the gods the Danes feared to his advantage.
But Uhtred believed in Iseult. He believed that Thyra was alive. Uhtred had fought for Alfred's English cause but he has not forgotten his blood feud with Kjartan the Cruel and his son Sven. Uhtred cared not for the prophecy. What interested Uhtred were the troops the King of Cumberland could muster. The King of Cumberland would be an enemy of Kjartan, for Kjartan's men killed his father and sold him into slavery. The King of Cumberland, indebted to Uhtred, could be persuaded to lend his army to Uhtred's cause, not just to exact revenge on the current rules of Dunholm (Durham) and rescue Thyra, but to retake Bebbanburg as well.
When Uhtred left Wessex, he was without a king to serve. Uhtred rode North with Halig and Hild, drowning his sorrows in booze and women along the way. With news of the victory of Alfred at Ethandun spreading, Brother Hrothweard convinced the men of Eoferwic (York) to rebel against the small force left by Sigefrid and Erik, who had marched their army to fight the Scots. It was a Dane free Eorfowic that Uhtred and his army of two came to. There, he found Father Beocca, sent by Alfred with silver to free to slave king Guthred.
Father Beocca was eager for Uhtred's help. The silver he carried for ransom was protected by lepers; men did not dare go near them. Hild tried to dissuade Uhtred from going on such a dangerous mission, but Uhtred's eye was already on the possibly large army that Guthred could muster.
Father Beocca, Brother Trew, and Hild walked into the slaver camp with the ransom whilst Uhtred stayed back with the lepers. Sven was there, as despicable as ever. He quickly zeroed in on Hild, the only woman in the company, and told her to take off her skirt. Sven sadly did not die a painful death in this episode, but he will get his due, I am certain of it. What struck me with that scene was how much danger Hild faced simply by being a woman travelling with only two companions. That she willingly rode with Uhtred rather than remained in a nunnery somewhere spoke of her trust in the warrior who was amongst those who saved her (her saviour was primarily Iseult; Uhtred and Leofric only jumped down to help because Iseult already did). Uhtred watched her whilst she was half dressed, which he absolutely should not have done, but it did not appear to have diminished Hild's trust that he would not mistreat her. Hild asked Uhtred to teach her swordskill. Hild is already a strong, compelling presence on screen; I cannot wait to see her as a skilled warrior.
Uhtred knew he had too few men to defeat Sven, so he conconted a trick. He and the lepers rode into camp. Uhtred claimed to be from Corpse Hall, sent by Odin, looking for the souls of Kjartan and Sven. The men scattered in fear, and at Father Beocca's prompting, released Sven with his hands bound and his eyes covered. Back in Dunholm, Kjartan was determined to find out who this horseman was.
Guthred agreed to make Uhtred commander of the army he would build. Guthred appeared more receptive to Uhtred's ideas than Alfred. In Cumberland, Uhtred's eyes immediately went to Guthred's lovely sister Gisela. I don't trust Abbot Eadred. When he thought Uhtred was the King, he claimed to have seen him in a vision.
This is a solid opening to a promising series. Even with Uhtred busy enacting his plans for revenge, The Last Kingdom gave us a quiet scene between Alfred and the imprisoned Ragnar and Brida. War is how a man makes his wealth, Ragnar told the Wessex King, reflecting the practical side to the Danish tradition of conquest. War is how a man takes wealth, Alfred countered, pointing out that wealth was actually made through land and trade, a pursuit that required peace. A substantial part of what Alfred dreamt of one day uniting as England was now Daneland, ruled by Guthrum who was now called Athelstan. He had his eye on adding more to the kingdom via marriage of his daughter Aethelflaed. Meanwhile, the man without whom his dream of England would have vanished was looking toward settling old scores.
■ When the sarcophagus of St. Cuthbert was opened eleven years after his death, his body was said to have been found to be perfectly preserved. In this episode, Guthred was sworn as King whilst holding the bones of Cuthbert. It was 200 years after his death; that his body remained whole was said to be a sign of the depth of his holiness.
■ Just as Leofric called Uhtred a*ling, Uhtred has now passed on that mantle to Halig.
■ In York, Uhtred allowed the Dane Sigefrid and Erik left in charge to live.
■ Halig: "If there is slaughter, Lord, and there appears to be slaughter, why do we ride towards it?"
Uhtred: "We are curious."
■ That Utred admitted to paying a skald in Mercia to write a song about him was a nice detail that made me chuckle.
■ Uhtred's reputation as a warrior was becoming legendary.
■ Uhtred still wanted to be known as Uhtred of Bebbanburg, not Uhtred of Wessex.
■ On the way to Cumberland, Uhtred was mistaken for the king. Guthred good naturedly played along whilst Uhtred accepted the felicitations of the people.
■ A picture of abuse, trauma and vulnerability, there remained dark strength in Thyra. She lived with hounds and wished for death, even from the unworthy hands of Sven.
■ It was Uhtred's idea for Guthred to take York.
■ Word has reached Kjartan that Guthred, King of Cumberland, was building an army made up of Saxons and Danes. Its commander was Uhtred, Kjartan wanted Uhtred Ragnarsson alive.