The Last Kingdom: Episode 4

The fourth episode of BBC America‘s The Last Kingdom brought a wedding and a war — both of which cement Uhtred’s reluctant identity as a Saxon rather than a Dane.

Uhtred has agreed to Alfred’s wish that he marry Odda’s goddaughter Mildrith — and therefore acquire her title and land — but he isn’t the only one unthrilled with this prospect: young Odda tries to pay him to call off the wedding. Presumably he wants Mildrith for himself, though he also objects to Uhtred becoming more entrenched at court. Uhtred refuses his offer, and he and Mildrith are married in a quick ceremony. She’s veiled until the last moment, and he assumes that she’s ugly, since she’s pretty old to be single in this society. But, of course, it turns out that she’s very pretty, and they’re cute together from the start, if understandably tentative at first. Uhtred is so happy about this that it takes him a until they’re traveling to her land to realize why no one else had married her: her land comes with a huge debt to the church; Alfred could have cancelled the debt but instead deliberately set this situation up as a test for Uhtred.

Of course, Mildrith is the one who ends up having to tell Uhtred about it, and he’s angry and rudely spurns the feast that farm manager Oswald and the tenants are trying to throw for the newlyweds. Mildrith kindly gives the tenants silver from her bride price, and Uhtred gets her to tell him that Odda only gave her 18 of the 33 silver pieces Uhtred paid; Uhtred is determined that she should get the rest. They argue about the debt and her generosity, and she’s kind but stands up to him — I already like them together better than I ever liked Uhtred and Brida. Speaking of people I like, I’m glad Leofric is traveling with Uhtred now; their dynamic is great.

We then skip several months (at least), to a point at which Mildrith is heavily pregnant and Danes are headed toward the farm. Uhtred sends Oswald and the tenants into hiding, and takes Mildrith with him to Alfred in Winchester. The king and Odda blame Uhtred for not taking on 300 Danes with his 20 men, but come on. Before the men head off to war, Uhtred gets Odda to pay the rest of the bride price (and keeps taunting young Odda about Mildrith), and tells Mildrith to hide in the hills rather than a church if anything happens, which is a small but interesting note about Uhtred’s beliefs. After they leave, Alfred’s wife Aelswith, also pregnant, talks to Mildrith and clearly assumes that Uhtred is a monster — she praises Mildrith for being a loyal wife but says flat-out that they should pray for Uhtred to fall in battle. But Mildrith genuinely prays for his safety. Later, she has a son and names him Uhtred.

Meanwhile, Beocca is happy about the pregnancy, but gives Uhtred a word of warning: “He’s watching you, Uhtred.” “God?” “Alfred.” Heh. Uhtred’s next test comes in giving military advice: Ubba has left Guthrum to avenge his brother in Ireland, and Uhtred thinks this puts Alfred in a strong position because Guthrum won’t want to fight on his own and risk losing too many of his own men. (In a cut over to the Danish camp, we see that this is true — though Ragnar is now there with Guthrum, and he would rather fight.) During all of these war discussions, Uhtred is still mad about the debt, though everyone keeps hilariously insisting that it wasn’t a secret; Alfred refuses to do anything about the debt but does dangle the idea of making Uhtred a general in the standing army he’s planning to create for his united England. Uhtred still refuses to go to church, and many of the Saxons are still unhappy that Alfred seeks his counsel. Alfred: “He cannot be tamed.” Beocca: “But he can be trusted.”

After a very Braveheart moment for Leofric — “This is our land, our Wessex, our England” — Alfred and Guthrum negotiate, and Guthrum agrees to leave in a month. The sides swap ten hostages, and we don’t know who most of them are, but Alfred sends a priest, to try to convert Guthrum — and Uhtred, to act as a spy, and to escape and light a beach if Ubba returns. Interestingly, Alfred gives Uhtred the option of going as a Saxon hostage or a Viking warrior, as long as he spies — and says that if Uhtred dies a captive his debt will die with him. Uhtred goes as a hostage, and Guthrum’s rules for hostages turn out to be quite lax: the hostages must sleep locked in the church, but otherwise can do what they want and even have weapons.

Uhtred has a joyful reunion with Ragnar and Brida, who is now Ragnar’s mistress but doesn’t seem to be thrilled about Uhtred’s marriage. I think it’s because she doesn’t want him tied to the Saxons, not because she wants him back romantically. At least mostly. She also realizes immediately that Uhtred is a spy, and he confesses, which doesn’t seem … super smart. Uhtred gets special treatment as Ragnar’s brother, but he and Ragnar argue: Ragnar is angry that Uhtred kept his oath to Alfred instead of returning to the Danes and helping avenge their father immediately.

A messenger shows up in Guthrum’s camp saying that Ubba has returned to England and that the whole Danish fleet is almost there, so Guthrum immediately starts preparing for battle and killing hostages — but Ragnar protects Uhtred. Guthrum: “I could have happily managed without this.” His delivery is hilarious there. Ragnar tells Guthrum that he has to kill him first if he wants to kill Uhtred, and points out that Ragnar’s men would then stop following Guthrum, decreasing his numbers more than he’d like. So Guthrum releases Uhtred, though without a horse, and Uhtred manages to get to the beacon to send the signal to Alfred that Ubba has returned.

(Image courtesy of BBC America.)

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