Season 2 Episode 6
Alfred has the vision and cunning to create a legacy that would last for untold generations, the unification of small warring kingdoms into one country, an England at peace. Yet the sixth episode showed a King who, in his quest for a peaceful unification, had not seen the consequences of his decisions on the people closest to him. He married his brilliant daughter Aethelflaed to the cruel weakling Aethelred. What would Alfred had done had he learnt of what his daughter suffered in the hands of Aethelred? Alfred also sent back to Coccham his best warrior and commander, Uhtred, just before he planned the assault of Lunden, currently under the control of the brothers Sigefrid and Erik. Alfred was right more than he was wrong, yet seeing him commit unforced errors could be frustrating as well, and a great character work by the writers of The Last Kingdom. That Alfred struggled with how much he relied on Uhtred, who did not share his faith, that Alfred wondered if Uhtred was sent as a trick by the devil, that Alfred could not reconcile Uhtred's years of loyal service with Uhtred's simmering ambition, were all part of what made Alfred a singular character in a TV world populated by many, many Kings.
Lunden was too large and complex to be defended; Uhtred knew this, as did the brothers Sigefrid and Erik. When their scouts caught sight of Aethelred's army (Uhtred commanded a separate force, though he was not consulted on the strategy), Sigefrid and Erik simply left. As soon as Aethelred and Uhtred's army converged in a now practically empty Lunden, a signal was given, and Sigefrid and Erik attacked the camp where Aethelflaed and Thyra remained. Having a Princess as a hostage was far better than losing much of their army fighting a battle they could not win.
Could Uhtred have foreseen this? Uhtred would not have chosen to bring as important a hostage as Aethelflaed so near a battleground; it was her abusive husband Aethelred who insisted on that. Aethelred had also insanely suspected that he was not the first to bed Aethelflaed, and wanted Beocca to find out for certain. Beocca performed a ceremony but ceased it just before Aethelflaed had to drink a cup of water and earth. Beocca, Thyra, and Hild now all knew that Aethelred has been abusive toward Aethelflaed. Aethelflaed refused to let Alfred know, for she viewed her continued marriage to Aethelred as her duty to Alfred. This is what Alfred has not seen, that devotion to him and his cause has a price that is paid over and over again by people close to him. 'My husband will not break me', Aethelflaed declared with determination. I believe her. Have you Googled Aethelflaed yet? She was amazing.
The sixth episode of the second season was quiet, by The Last Kingdom's standards, and it slowed on moments of cruelty (Aethelflaed's abuse by Aethelred, the crucifixion in Lunden just because Sigefrid did not understand how crucifixion killed a man). In a scene that showed both Uhtred's quick mind and his instinctive desire to try and save a life, he encouraged the brothers to make a prisoner priest, Pyrlig, to fight for his freedom. Sigefrid, who had been presiding over the cruel treatment of prisoners, agreed, for he only saw Pyrlig as a priest whose death would serve as amusement. Uhtred remembered Pyrlig, however; Pyrlig was a warrior before he became a priest. Pyrlig acted the frightened priest before easily defeating his Danish opponent. Sigefrid was so impressed by his fighting skill that he offered him a place in their army. Pyrlig refused, and instead asked to join Uhtred on the ride back to Wessex. It was, in the midst of the building of an England, a small scene, but it was an example of what made The Last Kingdom great TV, a trust in their viewers, a showcase of action and humour, and a character moment for their lead.
⚔︎Osferth, Leofric's nephew, offered to serve Uhtred. Osferth was the bastard son of Alfred.
⚔︎Uhtred knew the ghost story of him being King was a lie. He has not told Aethelwold, however, for he surmised that if Aethelwold knew, then the brothers Sigefrid and Erik would know as well.
⚔︎Erik suspected that Uhtred already knew of their ghost plot, and with some regret spoke of how they should have approached Uhtred with honour. Erik also tried to get his brother to simply kill their prisoner rather than torture him. More and more, Erik is shown to be the thoughtful, temperate brother whilst Sigefrid was all rage and cruelty.
⚔︎Aldhelm has been whispering to his master Aethelred's ears that he should supplant Alfred as King. Alfred and his wife already knew that Aethelred had his eye on kingship.
⚔︎Odda tried to get Alfred to see that Uhtred's contributions have not been properly acknowledged by the King, to no avail.