[…] And the series doesn’t really hit its stride until, in the third episode, Alfred (David Dawson) becomes king there. He has big ideas.
“All that remains of England is Wessex,” he tells Uhtred, who has found his way to Wessex. “The birth of an England, the idea of a single kingdom called England, has to begin here. There is nowhere else.”
Mr. Dawson gives the show’s most attention-getting performance as Alfred, who also embodies another theme of the series: exploring the moment when, at least in that part of the world, the ability to write was beginning to lead humanity to view itself differently. Few characters in the series can read or write, but Alfred can, and it has helped him to conceptualize people and events in relation to their long-term importance.
“When a man dies,” he explains, “if nothing is written, he is soon forgotten.”