Britannia recap – series one, episode two

The Romans are settling in, but there’s still the problem of an insurgent who likes to collect genitalia as trophies, and that’s nowhere near the weirdest bit of this week’s Britannia

David Morrissey as Aulus

David Morrissey as Aulus
Photograph: Stanislav Honzik/Sky UK LTD

SPQR (So…plot, quick recap)

The Romans have arrived on British shores, skewered and burned a pile of locals and received a witchy-woo warning from the Druids to pack their wagons and go home. Spoilers: they are definitely going to stay for ages yet. The local Cantii and Regni tribes are deadly enemies after that business with the nob-chopping, but Queen Antedia’s lot are up for a Roman truce if the invaders will bring them the de-wangerer herself Kerra, alive.

Pict a side

Veran and Aulus’ habit of exchanges messages via the decaying head of Antonius is starting to look impractical. Veran reads the papyrus and looks almost affectionately at the fetid skull of his former hostage: “Now, there’s one more thing I want you to do,” he says. Hurdy Gurdy Man by Donovan feels increasingly like the cue to take whichever psychoactive herb would best aid our journey into this weekly lunacy. I’ve got parsley and cat mint in my garden. Worth a try?

This episode is written by Tom Butterworth, brother of Jez and it’s clear he similarly enjoys an abundance of effing and jeffing where any other word would do. At the Regni fortress, Phelan of the limp trouser (Julian Rhind-Tutt giving his best be-jerkined creep) gleefully awakes his wife and her new, far more butch second husband (it is their way) to inform them the Romans have arrived.

King Pellenor welcomes his visitors’ request to parlay with an unequivocal, “Fuck off back to Rome,” leaving Phelan in no doubt about their foreign policy. Queen Antedia has other ideas about the Roman threat and decides to turn it to her own advantage. At least we’re getting some idea of what’s driving these disparate elements now.

Cait and Divis’ grudging partnership continues on its prickly path but his interest in her is briefly piqued when she seems invisible to those passing Roman soldiers thanks to a mystic circle of twigs he’s laid around her. It was meant for him. After he cruelly ditches her on the clifftop with vague instructions about climbing down the sheer rock to a waterfall, she ends up lost in a forest which is mercifully demon-free but very much a hunting ground for the local wolves.

Back at the luxuriously draped Roman camp, Aulus sees a vision of Antonius while bathing in a nearby lake. This man of civilisation and science (did they have science back then?) is becoming increasingly rattled by the mumbo jumbo underworld talk. Still, the haste with which he decides to visit the Druid settlement alone does seem far-fetched and I mean this in the context of a show where folk talk to dead heads and callously de-willy people they don’t like.

Britannia … David Morrissey (as Aulus) & Kelly Reilly (as Kerra)

Britannia … David Morrissey (as Aulus) & Kelly Reilly (as Kerra) Photograph: Stanislav Honzik/Sky UK LTD

By Puica’s nostrils

Divis’ self-delusion (or is he actually the visionary he claims to be?) expands to talk of fighting a mighty pixie called Puica. I’ll have to use the phonetic spelling here as I can find no trace of this mystic spirit on the internet. Anyone else know what he’s talking about?

“My mission is huge!” he yells at a furious Cait when she realises he has made up the story about her father being dead and turns on him. Trump could do no better. I think we need to add a Trump or Butterworth? sub-head each week from now on. While Aulus starts crucifying prisoners to get Pellenor’s attention, the old king talks with his sometime daughter-in-law Amena (she of the two husbands) and listens to her theories on Kerra who we now know has Roman blood. No wonder they don’t trust her.

Kerra’s ride to the Roman camp to parlay with Aulus and her subsequent ambush look like folly but how will it look to the king? More like treachery, I reckon. Obviously, there is a frisson between her and the general, who mentions just before her arrival that he’s up for some “female company”. And so to Aulus’ parlay with the queen of the Regni: “Sit the fuck down, pretty boy,” barks Antedia as she hunkers on the sod to talk turkey. She shows Aulus her son’s missing knackers and tells the sad tale of their untimely removal. That awkward moment reminds me of one of those explicit medical segments on This Morning where Philip Schofield tries desperately to look cool about being six inches away from some stranger’s bum hole.

You have male

Aulus finds Antonius’ now quite rotten head returned with a new message in its mouth, although we don’t see what the note says. But shortly afterwards Aulus, inexplicably, rides solo into the Druid camp, watched by the massive-eyed locals and the hollow sockets of a thousand tree-mounted skulls. He wants to go to the underworld but on a return ticket, it seems. Is there someone there he needs to see?

“You got my map then,” says Veran as the two men eyeball each other. Never enter a staring contest with someone who looks like a cross between an embalmed Emma Stone and a bush baby. You won’t win. Veran puts his hands to Aulus’ face and presumably sends him on a daytrip to the underworld. The end of this ep is confusing as Aulus’ apparent hallucination becomes the throw-forward to “next week on Britannia”.

Day tripper: Mackenzie Crook (as Veran) & David Morrissey (as Aulus)

Day tripper: Mackenzie Crook (as Veran) & David Morrissey (as Aulus) Photograph: Stanislav Honzik/Sky UK LTD

Notes from the end of the woad

Mackenzie Crook’s nail piercings are distracting and keep making me think of Claire’s Accessories.

How did Veran send Aulus down under without the magic smoky twigs he used on Antonius last week? Is Aulus just getting the tourist package fob-off?

Cait’s dad looks to have been saved from crucifixion at the last minute, suggesting that they will reunite somewhere along the way.

Bearing in mind Kerra’s form with peen-abduction, Aulus might want to choose another local to make sexy eyes at.

I’m not a stickler for historical accuracy if there’s fun to be had, but I still don’t know if I’m actually having fun yet. Is it camp enough? Something’s missing for me.