Season 1 Finale
The central conflict of The Last Kingdom from its earliest days was Uhtred's dual identities as a Saxon and a Dane. For the first season finale, such conflict was set aside as Uhtred planted his flag of allegiance firmly on the Saxon side. Uhtred stood by Alfred before the men not just of Wessex but of various fallen kingdoms of England poured in, when victory was nowhere in sight, when previously loyal Aldermans shifted to the Danish side to preserve their lives. After the battle, Alfred referred to Uhtred as Uhtred of Bebbanburg, an acknowledgement from the king of Uhtred's Saxon roots, perhaps even his claim to the land.
The often prickly relationship between Alfred and Uhtred has been one of The Last Kingdom's pleasures; it gave the series a thrilling sense of unpredictability. For the epic and emotional battle that closed this season, however, it was nice that their conflicts were set aside, at least temporarily. There were two people Uhtred cared for in the Danish side, Young Ragnar and Brida, but there was no way he would have lined with Skorpa, who had previously betrayed him and threatened Iseult. The pull of Uhtred's Saxon roots were strong, but so was his sense of self preservation.
Alfred left the marshlands with a small party, and sent off riders in a massive call to arms. At the Oddas' estate, Alfred learnt that his trusted courtiers had betrayed him. Odda the Younger negotiated a truce with Skorpa. Odda the Elder remained frail but, based on his conversation with Mildrith, he knew and did not object to making a deal with the Danes.* Odda the Elder had sharper eyes than his son; he saw Alfred mix with the peasants in the hall. As Odda the Younger denounced Alfred in front of Uhtred, Leofric, Aethelwold (whom Guthrum had allowed to live and tasked to kill Alfred) and a crowd of Wessex residents, Odda the Elder knew there was only one path for their family to move forward. Alfred would not and could not forgive the words he heard from Odda the Younger. Odda the Elder stabbed his son, then begged for Alfred's forgiveness.
By this time, the Danes had overrun England. Wessex, the last English kingdom, remained only in the person of Alfred. Alfred had long dreamt of a united England with only one King. The day the men poured from all over the country, he became that King.
There was one massive battle scene that was remarkable in its restraint. Two armies, the Saxons and the Danes, fought behind shield walls rather than rush against each other in an orgy of incomprehensible violence. Blades found their targets through minute gaps between the shields. When both armies performed a coordinated retreat, the bodies of their slain comrades were left behind, but the shield walls remained. This was how two disciplined armies fought.
Then Skorpa, who looked straight out of a metal band, rode between the two armies and brandished the head of Iseult. Iseult, along with Brother Asser and a handful of Wessex folks, remained behind on their camp after the army marched. Skorpa took a few of his men and attacked the camp, it seemed, purely to piss off Uhtred.
It was a mistake. Uhtred charged toward the Danes and launched his body over their shield wall (kudos to Alexander Dreymon and his stunt double). Uhtred slayed several Danes with his sword before Father Beocca threw him his spear. Uhtred fulfilled Father Beocca's words, that his spear would kill Skorpa, when Uhtred launched the weapon against the Danish lord of war and killed him.
What happened was not lost to Guthrum, who thought the fulfillment of Father Beocca's words meant the Christian God was on the Saxon side. It seemed the priest hostage he killed, the one Alfred sent to instruct him on the Christian faith, got to him more than he showed at the time. Young Ragnar continued the fight, which had broken out into a melee, but the outcome was already clear. It was a decisive Saxon victory.
Peace was secured via hostages, which included Young Ragnar and the hardened Brida. Guthrum also converted to Christianity. Uhtred, who now knew his sister Thyra was alive, rode north with Hild and another warrior. It was a satisfying end to an exceptional first season, and one that made this viewer look forward to more of Uhtred's adventures.
■* I have been thinking about Lord Odda the Elder's motivations. Based on what we later see of him, I think he sincerely believed the Wessex cause was lost. He did not object to his son's negotiations with the Danes because he wanted to protect not just himself but the hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who lived in his estate and who would suffer under the Danes if there was no truce. When he saw that Alfred not only lived, but still had fight in him, his loyalty to his king and country prevailed. He killed his son not only because he knew there was to be no forgiveness for his words, but because he also saw his son for who he was, a corrupt, treacherous, weak leader.
■ When Iseult warned Uhtred that saving the King's son's life would cost another child his life, Uhtred told her it must be done anyway. When Uhtred arrived at his farmstead, he found the freshly dug grave of his own son, Uhtred. Iseult believed it was she who caused the death of Uhtred's baby. Iseult slept with Uhtred, because she no longer wished to see the future.
■ From my notes: Uhtred is that dangerous guy who could look at you like you were the first and last woman he has seen and would ever see, then do the same thing to the next woman he loves.
■ In case you were keeping track, Uhtred's lovers in the first season were Brida, his childhood friend, Mildrith, his wife, and Iseult, the pagan Queen.
■ Mildrith has now chosen to become a nun.
■ Father Beocca zinged Skorpa.
■ Wulfhere betrayed Alfred and sided with the Danes. He died in battle.
■ My heart hurt when Leofric died. Still, it was the kind of death a warrior like him would have wanted.
■ Guthrum tasked Aethelwold to kill Alfred. Aethelwold had an opportunity to do so, but he sheathed his blade mere moments before the English army arrived. Later, he was beside Uhtred during the battle. I thought Aethelwold acquitted himself during the fight. Harry McEntire's performance as Aethelwold has been one of the highlights of the first season for me.
■ Hild was quite a warrior during the battle.
■ I need to see Uhtred and Young Ragnar take their revenge on Kjartan and Sven, and reunite with Thyra, so I was happy to see Uhtred save Young Ragnar's life. Uhtred and Young Ragnar said their goodbyes as brothers. Brida did not appear to have much room in her heart anymore for such sentiment.