This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
This review contains spoilers.
Life expectancy may not have been up to much in Saxon times, but it didn’t half light a fire under their administrative processes. Back then a man could go from slave to king in the space of time it takes us to fill in the application form for a Morrison’s More Card. You didn’t even need a background check. All it took was a shifty Abbot to tell a fib about being visited by a saint in a vision, and Bob’s your uncle: insta-king.
Not Bob. Nobody in The Last Kingdom is called anything as simple as Bob. Their names are a chaos of dipthongs and silent consonants transcribed from God’s jogged Scrabble board. Just for starters, the series two opener introduced us to Father Hrothweard, Abbot Eadred, Brother Trew, Guthred, Sigefrid and Roy.
Not Roy, though that would have been fun – Erik. Otherwise known as ‘The Brothers’, Sigefrid and Erik are a pair of fierce Danes last seen braying about bringing back silver and redheads from their Scot-killing lads’ tour. They won’t be best pleased when they return to their former captive village and find their caretaker ousted by a priest-led uprising. At least Uhtred of Bebbanburg saw fit to free the poor git from his humiliation at the hands of the piece of weasel shit having him beaten for sport. Later on, will that act of mercy reward our hero or bite him on the bum?
There were two such acts from Uhtred this episode. At the insistence of Father Beocca, he also refrained from killing Sven One-Eyed when given the chance. Disguised as a skull-wearing, soul-reaping messenger of Odin, Uhtred scared the eyepatch off Sven but sent him back to his father Kjartan alive. Incidentally, that’s also how Kjartan, the blood-sworn enemy of our hero, demanded Uhtred be delivered to him.
He’ll have to get through Halig and Hild first, two sidekicks whose roles have developed since the series one finale. Hild’s grown a bob and Halig’s grown a beard, and both have grown in their devotion to Lord Uhtred, despite his 1970s-office-boss-level sexual harassment of Hild (no wonder she wants to learn sword-skill, every man she meets looks at her like Sylvester looks at Tweety Pie), and habit of galloping headlong into situations requiring Halig to draw a sword and jump in between his lord and trouble.
Imagine having the swagger to ride into a town where bodies are bloodying the roads and corpses are being dangled out of first floor windows, taking charge, offering a stranger swift dispatch to Valhalla and then striding off as if it’s all in a day’s work. (I’m more of a Halig: “If there is slaughter Lord—and there appears to be slaughter—then why do we ride towards it?”)
It is all in a day’s work for our Uhtred, who may have been lost in a fog of ale and bosoms at the beginning of the episode, but by its end had pulled off a fun Scooby Doo-style plan with a horse skull and some lepers, shaken hands with a two-hundred year old corpse and been handed command of a king’s army. Not to mention having spotted a bit of alright in the King’s sister Gisela, a spirited type who looked guaranteed to shake him out of the post-Iseult blues.
Also with bedroom business on their minds were Alfred and Aelswith, though “I have been thinking of Northumbria” leaves something to be desired as dirty talk, unless it was code. A few words on the crown’s military strategy was enough to get the pair in the mood, and before long, England wasn’t the only thing growing.
It’s understandable that Alfred was feeling randy after his well-publicised defeat of Guthrum at the Battle of Ethandun. That victory inspired a wave of rebellion against the Danes and set the Wessex King on phase two of Operation Unite England.
He’s not the only one with a plan. Abbott Eadred, he with “the eyes of an old man” and Brother Trew are up to something, as signalled by the evil-plot music playing during their talk of the threat Uhtred poses to whatever it is they’re cooking up.
All that, in just one episode, proof that series two has hit the ground running. Already, Uhtred has two enemies, a new ally, an army to build, a potential new squeeze and is drawing closer to finding his witchy adoptive sister Thyra, who’s living among the hounds in Kjartan’s dungeon. I realise they’re covering two books per series, but that’s some going.