Season 2 Episode 8
What binds a man to his land? Father Pyrlig asked early in the episode. By its end, Uhtred had agreed with the priest's assertion, that it was love, love that would enjoin a man to give his life for his land, for Wessex and for the dream of England. Lord Odda, wise Lord Odda, powerful Lord Odda, Lord Odda who did not have an heir, committed treason to save the land he loved. Against the express orders of Alfred, Lord Odda raised the fyrd of Devonshire in the name of the King. Odda knew that meant death to Aethelflaed, but the princess's captivity had meant the blood and freedom of the people of Wessex. Even as they await her ransom, Sigefrid's forces had been crossing into Wessex territory, killing their men and enslaving their women. Odda wanted Wessex defended. For Alfred, Aethelflaed was Wessex. It was a break between these old friends that could not be healed.
Aethelflaed wrote to Uhtred asking for his help, to kill the men guarding the ships. The plan was for Erik to sail with Aethelflaed; the men guarding Aethelflaed were Erik's men, so getting her out of her room would not have been a problem. Haesten, however, decided to spread around that Erik had gotten too fond of Aethelflaed, that the Danish wealth was in danger because Erik might want to take Aethelflaed for his wife. Sigefrid had Aethelflaed moved to a hanging cage in the hall of his keep, guarded by every single man who had flocked to Beamfleot with the promise of her ransom.
Sigefrid's act weakened Erik in the eyes of their men. To regain his command, Erik pretended to claim one of the slave girls. Aethelflaed looked heartbroken when she saw this display, but it was only for show, as she later realised.
Though Uhtred and his men were surprised that the number of men guarding the ships had doubled, they still accomplished their mission. The guards were killed, at the cost of half of Uhtred's men. They were supposed to wait by the river for Erik, but Uhtred knew that something that changed, and he and his men proceeded to the keep. There, they met with Erik, and changed up their plan.
Sigefrid's men were already drunk, celebrating the last night they could drink before they needed to remain sober whilst waiting for the ransom that was arriving in a few days. A huge fire was started, engulfing a significant portion of the keep, and forcing Sigefrid and his men to leave the hall. Uhtred, Erik, and the others easily dispatched the handful of men that remained to guard Aethelflaed, but getting her out of the steel cage proved trickier. To give them more time, the servant girl who has been helping them donned Aethelflaed's clothes and rode hard, and Haesten and a few men followed her.
It did not take long for Sigefrid to realise that his brother Erik was behind the chaos. In the hall, with Aethelflaed still inside the cage, Uhtred offered to fight Sigefrid, but it was Erik who faced his brother. Just moments before they could leave the hall, Aethelflaed saw her lover Erik killed by Sigefrid. The kidnapping of Aethelflaed had been Erik's plan; now, he gave his life to help free her.
There was more fighting as they tried to get to their horses. Clapa was injured in the fight, and instead of joining Uhtred and the rest in fleeing, he remained, fighting off as many Danes as he could whilst his princess, his lord, and his friends escaped. Sigefrid gave chase, but what he encountered was the army of Wessex that now protected Aethelflaed.
When Odda rode home, Father Pyrlig came with him, under orders from Alfred as a spy. Odda never made it home; his army met him on the road. He told Father Pyrlig to walk back to Winchester and tell Alfred what he saw. Alfred now could choose to stop Odda or fight with him. Father Pyrlig was spared having to walk all the way back to Winchester when he encountered Aethelred on the road, on his way to the King with Mercia's share of the ransom.
The combined armies of Alfred and Aethelred marched hard in an effort to stop Odda and his large contingent of men before they arrived at Beamfleot. They met in the field, two old friends who both believed they were doing what was right for the Wessex they loved. It was not until Alfred saw Aethelflaed riding hard with Uhtred and his men, pursued by Sigefrid and what was left of his army, that Alfred called a shield wall.
Sigefrid knew he and his men were outnumbered. He had just killed his brother, the brother who was the brains behind their invasions. Sigefrid accepted that it was his day to die before he rode hard and broke the shield wall whilst trying to get to Aethelflaed. A now weak Uhtred, who fell during Sigefrid's charge at the shield wall, struggled to go after Erik's brother, for Aethelflaed was protected by only a handful of men. Sigefrid encountered Aethelred, who fought him but who would have died had Uhtred not reached them in time. Uhtred and Sigefrid fought, but it was Aethelflaed who picked up a sword and drove it through Sigefrid.
With the battle won and his daughter recovered, Alfred had Odda jailed, awaiting trial. Odda raised his army because he thought the people of Wessex ought to be protected by their lords; the Danes were raiding freely in Wessex and nothing was being done whilst Aethelflaed was a captive. Odda raised his army because he thought it was not right that the people of Wessex were forced to give to the crown a third of their wealth to help pay Aethelflaed's ransom, the very same wealth that would then be used to finance the raiding of their lands in a few months. Odda raised his army because he thought Wessex meant more than the life of the King's daughter. More than once, it was mentioned that should the ransom not be paid, Aethelflaed would not be killed, rather, she would be taken from town to town and raped, to humiliate Alfred and Wessex. Not once was it mentioned that the women of Wessex were being taken and raped, and they were not being defended or recovered by their King. Odda and Alfred were both loyal to Wessex but they disagreed on what Wessex meant.
In the end. Odda did what he initially suggested Aethelflaed should do; he took his own life. 'What binds a man to his land? What power within allows him to give his life to preserve his land and the lives of the families who work it? It can only be love.' A tale of nation building and personal ties that bind, this is a strong season finale, the best episode of the second season, and a phenomenal display of storytelling talents that made The Last Kingdom one of the best shows currently on TV.
⚔︎It was Aethelwold who brought the knife that Odda used to kill himself.
⚔︎Odda tried to protect Uhtred; he told Alfred Uhtred thought he was acting under Alfred's orders when he infiltrated Beamfleot and rescued Aethelflaed.
⚔︎Aethelflaed was pregnant with Erik's child. Aethelflaed asked Uhtred to come to her, should she call, should her husband think the baby she carried was not his.
⚔︎Alfred may have heard that Uhtred swore to Aethelflaed as her man. Alfred reiterated that Uhtred remained his oathman.
⚔︎Haesten did not ride with Sigefrid to death; he now ruled Beamfleot.