A new ship in Sigtryggr/ Stiorra sets sail.
In a few short minutes of conversation, Sigtryggr and Stiorra distilled between themselves the current state of the England that was then forming. Sigtryggr was the newbie, the Dane who still thought England was divided between two immiscible camps, the Danes and the Saxons. Stiorra dismissed that as a 'game for old men'. Stiorra herself was half Saxon half Dane; her father, who loathed his monicker 'the Dane-Slayer', loved her mother, who like her was a Dane. She pointed out that Danes have been living in peace in England for two to three generations; it was the leaders who kept fighting. With a few words, Stiorra effectively schooled Sigtryggr on life in the land whose capital he conquered.
What made Sigtryggr different from other warlords was that he did not view Stiorra as just another woman to hump, or just another hostage to bargain. Instead, he saw her as a potential source of important information. When Brida ordered Stiorra's head cut off and sent to her father, Sigtryggr casually overruled her. Sigtryggr had a naturally inquisitive mind, and in Stiorra he found someone who had blunt answers to his questions.
In a speech to his men, Sigtryggr reminded them that their conquest was in the service of their search for a homeland. He said the way of the old generation, of Ubba, Bloodhair, and Cnut, had failed. He emphasised their need to fight as one, to not succumb to anger. Yet in the same scene, did Sigtryggr himself not succumb to anger? Was his execution of Eardwulf because he recognised a man in his camp who could not be trusted, who had his own agenda that at some point might run counter to his? Or did he kill Eardwulf because he dared lay a hand on Stiorra?
Eardwulf has lived a shameful life and his final act, depending on how you viewed it, could either be a kindness to his sister, or an insistence to his last breath that he no longer had a sister. I choose to view it as the former rather than the latter. Within the walls of Winchester, Eardwulf remained the boy who has had to claw his way through everything he ever had or wanted. It was not enough that he betrayed his fellow Saxons; he also looted their corpses for whatever treasure he could take, perhaps in preparation for the day that he would need to leave the relative safety of the Danish camp. When Brida ordered the graves of Christian soldiers exhumed, however, and their corpses desecrated, it was a line that proved too far for Eardwulf to cross. He stood up to Brida and tried to get her to stop, and of course he failed. Drunk, he went to the room where Stiorra was being kept (it looked like Alfred's old study). It was there that Sigtryggr found him.
Eadith, who volunteered to enter Winchester and find out where the captives were being kept, yelled for mercy for the brother who wronged her too many times. When Sigtryggr asked who she was, Eardwulf declared that she was a whore he once knew. Eadith was able to walk on after Eardwulf was killed.
It was Father Pyrlig who was tasked to tell Edward what happened. On the way to Bedwyn, Uhtred's party was surrounded by Haesten and his men. Lady Aelswith, Aethelstan, and Stiorra were taken to Winchester, whilst Uhtred, Finan, Sihtric, Osferth, and Father Pyrlig were left to die dangling from a tree. It was Eadith, who had been gathering firewood and was not with the group when they were ambushed, who saved them.
Throughout the fourth season, I have liked the careful balance in the writing of Edward. He was smart, sometimes but not always Alfred smart. Like any king, he would at times be a slave to his pride, he could lash out in anger, yet he also knew when to back down and accept that he made a mistake. It was not until this episode that we saw Edward lose control.
That Edward thought they were betrayed, at the news that Danes had taken over Winchester, was not unreasonable; Edward did not know it, but it was true, Eardwulf was the reason why Sigtryggr and Brida descended upon Winchester with their army. Father Pyrlig, however, quite reasonably pointed out that the king's presence in Mercia was not a secret. Edward, then, had to accept that he was the king who lost Winchester, who caused both his sons and heirs to be captives of the Danes.
Blinded with rage, mostly directed at himself, and unable to think clearly, Edward led his men on a charge to the gates of Winchester. Sigtryggr's men easily felled them with arrows. There was no semblance of strategy to the move so that, at first, Uhtred and Finan could only watch from a distance, confused. Uhtred waded through the lines of men and tried to stop Edward, but the king only called for another charge. Within the walls of Winchester, there was not a line of worry on Sigtryggr's young face. The walls would hold; Wessex built them too strong. And now Edward was all but helpless outside the very home he and his father before him worked to strengthen.
▪︎ The Mercian people's reaction to Aethelflaed as Lady of Mercia was in stark contrast to their reaction to Aethelred's funeral.
▪︎ Winchester was taken with barely any resistance. After Aethelhelm yielded, Brida ordered the captured Saxon soldiers killed.
▪︎ In their journey to Bedwyn, Aelswith, in her Aelswith way, tried to make nice with Uhtred.
▪︎ Aelswith: ''My husband saw something in Uhtred none of us understood.' Father Pyrlig: 'Lady, we all understood it. I think it was just you that didn't.' I have come to like Aelswith, but she deserved that.
▪︎ Aelswith told the Danes that both Stiorra and Aethelstan were Danes. It was Eardwulf who revealed that Stiorra was Uhtred's daughter. To Aelswith's credit, she protested when Brida ordered Stiorra's head killed, though that could be because she was worried that Uhtred would storm Winchester and place her grandson Aethelstan in danger.
▪︎ Aelswith was confined in the tomb of Alfred with Aethelhelm, Aelflaed, Aethelstan, and Aelfweard. Aethelhelm figured out who Aethelstan was.
▪︎ Uhtred told Stiorra that after Bedwyn, they would head to Coccham. Stiorra was fine with spending time with her father, but she was not happy with staying in Coccham, which she said was small. She wanted to go to Winchester.
▪︎ I once called Haesten a downgrade from previous Dane leaders, but his cockroach-esque ability to survive has grown on me.
▪︎ Edward and Aethelflaed agreed that Aethelflaed would take Eoferwic with her army, then rejoin Edward. It was after the siblings had parted that Edward got word of the attack in Winchester.
▪︎ Brida was all about hurting the Saxons; she suggested starting by hurting their faith. Sigtryggr wanted to wait, to let the Saxons take the lead so they would reveal who their leaders were. Brida did not yet realise that her goals did not coincide with Sigtryggr's.
▪︎ When Uhtred and his men, with Eadith, arrived outside the gates of Winchester, Uhtred recognised that the Danes were preparing for a siege, which was unusual for a Dane army.
▪︎ It was Stiorra who told Sigtryggr, after Eardwulf hit her, that Eardwulf murdered Aethelred on his deathbed.
▪︎ Sigtryggr asked Eardwulf how he ought to rule, by fear or by love. Eardful chose fear. Stiorra pointed out that Alfred ruled with love and was loved and honoured by his people.
▪︎ Haesten figured out that Eadith was Eardwulf's sister and grabbed her before she could speak to the captives.
▪︎ Uhtred's men wanted to make their move against Sigtryggr, but Uhtred insisted on caution. The loss of Father Beocca weighed heavily on him. He also recognised that Sigtryggr fought differently than other Danish leaders.
Director: Ed Bazalgette
Writer: Martha Hillier
Original Release Date: 26 April 2020