It helps, of course, that the characters are so beloved. The fear of losing Finan or Osferth (or, now that she’s become part of the gang and taken up with Finan, Eadith too) make for instant tension. A battlefield on which everybody that Uhtred loves is swinging swords and clashing shields is a nerve-racking thing to watch.
And don’t think it went unnoticed that after a season-long absence, we were given not one, not two, but three cries of “SHIELD WAAAAAALLL”. The Last Kingdom, you spoil us. This show really knows how to play its crowd-pleasing hits.
It also knows, satisfyingly, how to do things the old-fashioned way. In this age of the TV antihero, Uhtred is an outlier. He’s brave, strong, honourable and loves deeply. He’s both an action hero and a romantic lead, and marching alone into the besieged city, he looked his most heroic yet. What he truly resembled in those wide shots crossing the landscape and passing through the gates, was a cowboy. A lone rider in a classic Western walking into town – the townsfolk watching from behind their shuttered windows – to dual with the black hat.
As black hats go, Sigtryggr is more slouch beanie than full-on Stetson. He’s a modern kind of Dane, young, Zen, wise, and probably a vegan who plays bass in a roots collective and makes a mean drip coffee at weekends. Executions and child death threats aside, Sigtryggr proved himself this episode to be just as Stiorra described him: gentle and – Brida’s betrayal notwithstanding – honourable.
First Aethelflaed and Erik, and now Stiorra and Sigtryggr, The Last Kingdom clearly finds siege-kidnappings fertile ground for flirtation. During their time in lockdown spent watching the 10th century equivalent to a season one to three Wessex box-set, those kids fell in love.