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Britannia recap – series one, episode four

Kelly Riley as Kerra.
Kelly Riley as Kerra. Photograph: Stanislav Honzik/Sky UK Ltd

SPQR (So … plot, quick recap)

Kerra seemed doomed after making that illegal visit to the Roman camp. Cait rescued her dad from Aulus, but he’s blind. Phelan has lain with either the goddess of war or some random woman in the dungeon, he can’t be sure. And the druids are preparing to enact their particular kind of bug-eyed justice on the Cantii princess.

Whatever the druids have planned for Kerra, Veran is harvesting a lot of what looks like mistletoe. Are they laying on a festive death to include wassailing and figgy pudding? “The druids are the eyes of the gods,” Amena helpfully reminds King Pellenor as she hands him a bag of evidence he may want to run past them. Did everyone get that? The druids are seen as a direct link between earthly mortals and the gods. I’m sure someone will be along to remind us again shortly if we forget.

Hurdy gurdy trigger warning

Hurdy Gurdy Man’s effect is diminishing week by week, and soon the once-delightful sound of Donovan’s psychedelic crooning will seem about as mystic to me as the Coronation Street theme tune. I really liked that song. Good news for Divis (who is sadly absent for most of this episode), Cait has had a bowel movement and is now in a position to hand back Big Pebble to its rightful owner. “You shouldn’t have touched Big Pebble in the first place,” he says to her like a four-year-old jealously guarding its blankie.

Divis says he may not single-handedly lay waste to the Romans after all because he didn’t like the look in the general’s eyes. He’s bottled it, but he very much sells the decision as a regrouping rather than all-out chicken behaviour. Softening slightly, he gives Cait medicine for her father’s raw sockets, and dad and daughter head off towards the Cantii settlement, little knowing the upheaval taking place there.

Mackenzie Crook as Veran.
Mackenzie Crook as Veran. Photograph: Stanislav Honzik/Sky UK Ltd

Trump or Butterworth?

“You just made a very big decision,” says Veran to Kerra as he sounds her out about the whole betrayal/death-by-flaying scenario she now faces. He goes off to a dark corner of his contemplation tipi to enlarge his pupils over some smoky twigs and have a big think. Kerra awaits her fate and is surprisingly chipper for someone who is probably having her skin made into a handbag for Amena come the morning. She does make Phelan promise that when he’s king he won’t be pushed around by the druggy druids any more. Despite the grim outlook, she musters the energy for a quick one with Lindon seeing as she’ll probably be dead by tomorrow teatime anyway and it’ll really annoy Amena.

In the morning, Veran staggers from his tent in full bush baby mode, eyes like inky marbles, and drops the bombshell that King Pellenor himself must be the sacrifice or, you know, something bad. You have to hand it to the druids who base their judicial system on a total absence of logic and getting off their boxes on leaves. The Roman soldier – Brutus Marius – who fled the Cantii ambush is now visibly soiling himself at the news that his former colleague survived the fray and will be exchanged so that the Cantii can have safe passage to their burial ground. Aulus sarcastically presents the cowardly rating with a laurel crown for bravery and you can almost hear his bum squeak. The general puts his subordinate on babysitting duties with the still-dazed security detail who staggered back into camp last week, bewitched by Divis and clutching his dead friend’s head.

Ask the what to spare the what now?

“Ask the hawk to spare the mouse,” breathes Veran in Amena’s ear. “Ask and you will see what’s happening here is beyond us,” he concludes hoarsely. You’re not wrong, friend. With every new line of dialogue, my ears almost physically bend to force the words into a more pleasing shape. The words should slip past like a lovely flowing river, not smack me repeatedly in the face like water balloons.

As a final insult, when Veran reads the runes on Pellenor’s head he tells him they say that he obeyed the gods instead of his heart. He ordered his queen’s death because of his faith and now the high priest is telling him he shouldn’t have done. It’s at this point I’d probably question my belief system and perhaps not agree to be sacrificed after all, but Pellenor sticks with it. No regrets.

As the woady freaks thrash about in slo-mo, the old king is throttled and sliced at the neck, his heart held aloft by Veran before he uses the blood to anoint the new queen. That’s right, it’s Queen Kerra to you. Who runs the world? And anyway, she was on all the posters.

This might hurt a bit.
This might hurt a bit. Photograph: Stanislav Honzik/Sky UK Ltd

Notes from the end of the woad

  • Kerra and Lindon’s bunk-up was inevitable, but oddly timed when you’d think she’d have more interest in escaping.
  • Everything points to Aulus having engineered the restructuring of the Cantii hierarchy by nobbling the druids in exchange for who knows what.
  • Cait’s dad has a perfectly understandable reaction to the news of Islene’s murder. He casts a time-reversing spell with all twigs and feathers to bring her back and make it so none of this has ever happened. I know how he feels.
  • Amena presumably decides that attending to Veran’s staff (Willa puts it rather more plainly) is a bridge too far, even for her, in getting the chief druid to favour Lindon as the Cantii’s new king.
  • I found Pellenor’s grim scoffing of those white berries (mistletoe?) unexpectedly funny as he stuffs them down, one at a time, like a child with sprouts. But I am going to miss Ian McDiarmid.
  • Also, found myself laughing at Kerra’s “I only shagged you because I thought I was dying” brush-off to Lindon. He is suitably crestfallen.
This article titled "Britannia recap – series one, episode four" was written by Julia Raeside, for theguardian.com on Thursday 8 February 2018 10.00pm

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