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Britannia recap – series one, episode three

Aulus (David Morrissey) … or is it Don Draper?
Aulus (David Morrissey) … or is it Don Draper? Photograph: Sky TV

SPQR (So, plot … quick recap)

King Pellenor has declared war on the Romans despite their attempt at diplomacy, but rival Queen Antedia has entered into a pact with Aulus as long as he brings her Kerra alive. You remember the prince’s missing knackers? Aulus has gone off to the underworld for reasons unknown, with the help of Veran’s bony fingers, and returned with the countenance of one who has seen what he wanted to see.

Walk of shame

The Roman general wakes up on the forest floor with woad in his stubble and the glazed eyes of a stoner. (As far as we’re aware, there was no cannabis in the British Isles at this time, so I’d like to know what they’ve all been smoking. For historical research purposes.) Veran and his equally large-eyed friend, Willa (the superb Jodie McNee), crouch in nearby bushes as they observe him, considerately leaving berries out for breakfast and cooing over him like parents with their newborn.

“Our baby,” says Veran to his be-dreaded friend. The druids, despite their taste in home decor and the crooked-fingered witchy-woo hoodoo they spout, have one more brain cell than their Celtic friends and plan to get their hooks into the Romans by subtler means than out-and-out combat. Meanwhile, Divis happens upon Aulus’s increasingly bored security detail, twiddling their thumbs and waiting for him to return. With his oft-used Jedi mind trick he persuades them to do his bidding while he eats their dinner and toys with them. His plan to infiltrate the Roman camp does seem a bit elaborate when it’s clear he has the power to make any man do his bidding.

‘We are rising, we are rising.’
‘We are rising, we are rising.’

Hurdy gurdy, man

Back at fort Cantii, Pellenor is defiant as he parades the Roman prisoners into the settlement to cheers from the villagers. Kerra looks concerned – standard. Amena is smirking, also as per. The wounded Cait has fashioned an Elastoplast out of leaves and stems and hobbles onward through the demon forest with a sharpened stick as a crutch/weapon. But the wolves keep their distance. Divis already has suspicions that there’s something special about her and, if you’ve read the comments on last week’s blog, people who have seen later episodes have their theories. Please try to avoid spoilers for those who are watching along with the weekly Sky Atlantic transmissions.

The sheer luck Cait experiences when accidently happening on that path at exactly the moment the Roman train is going past, carrying her caged father to a new camp, also suggests the gods are with her. Meanwhile, at Cantii central, Literal Lindon is stating the obvious to Kerra in case she, or we, are in any doubt about her motives. “Admit it; you blame him [Pellenor] for what happened to your mother,” he says to the flame-haired outcast. And of his own wife: “Amena is a snake. Her ambition is endless. I married her for my tribe.” It is awful, ham-fisted writing and like having a sack of oats swung at your face. “I have a beard and there is unresolved sexual tension between us,” he goes on to add. (OK, he doesn’t.)

Phelan of the Limp Trouser goes to the cells to visit Ania (Antedia’s niece held captive after the aborted inter-tribe wedding). “Ania is my earthly name,” she tells him before declaring herself the goddess of war and demanding that Phelan lay with her. It’s an elaborate chat-up, but this stiffening of his trouser is understandable when you consider the lad’s hurt pride over his recent cuckolding. “Oh, well, if it’s my destiny …” his eyes say as he reclines on a hay bail.

Pellenor’s Roman prisoners find a singular solution to their impending torture, but the remaining soldier has a horrible time of it, suffering the slow removal of his skin, strip by strip, while the king watches. He seems to have a thing about flaying that suggests an unhappy childhood. The half-peeled soldier taunts the king with the information that his daughter came to parlay with Aulus, condemning her to the same fate as her mother. Things look bad for Kerra, but she’s on all the posters so I’m going to bet she finds a way out of it.

When Aulus finally rides back into camp, he has the blissed-out swagger of Don Draper after smoking pot with those beatniks. He has seen the light or, at least, a lot of pretty colours. “We are on the brink and you’re out there playing ghouls and fucking goblins,” spits Lucius as Aulus scarfs down a second bowl of gruel, the munchies kicking in. “You don’t defeat these people by fighting their warriors, you defeat them by fighting their gods,” he growls. Although straight-up killing and maiming them seems to have worked so far.

Kelly Riley as Kerra
Kelly Riley as Kerra. Photograph: Sky UK Ltd

By Puica’s nostrils

Aulus comes out of his tent to address his restless troops while Cait and Divis sneak into camp and rescue her dad, who is now blinded after giving a bit too much cheek to Lucius. Cait and her father stop in the woods and hug, relieved to be safe, for now, but once digestive transit has taken place, she’ll be no use to Divis (remember Big Pebble?) and they’ll be on their own again. Kerra broods in her cell, Pellenor sits in contemplation in front of a shelf bearing the heads of his enemies and the druids burn a doll in readiness for whatever is coming next. “We are rising. We are rising,” says Aulus, his pupils dilating like he has just taken a hit off a bong.

Notes from the end of the woad

  • It’s cute how Lucius can’t cope without his general. “Where the hell are you, Aulus?” he whines while throwing the general’s crest across his tent. For want of any other character notes, Lucius is essentially his one-dimensional wife.
  • The sub-subplot with the runaway Roman soldier faking his injuries after the ambush all felt a bit tacked on, unless it becomes significant later.
  • The business with Big Pebble was an attempt at comic relief and I’d hoped Decimus and Philo might pop up now and again like a Roman Ant and Dec to liven things up. But the decapitation of one rather rules them out for next year’s NTAs.
  • This episode was directed, rather well I thought, by Sue Tully who is now a respected TV director, but used to play Michelle Fowler in EastEnders.



This article titled "Britannia recap – series one, episode three" was written by Julia Raeside, for theguardian.com on Thursday 1 February 2018 10.00pm

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