Season 3 Episode 1
The first episode of the third series of The Last Kingdom had battle, brutality, and Uhtred being a one man saviour of the yet to be formed England, yet as I sit here, foremost on my mind is the characterisation of Skade. The close relationship between a powerful warlord and a sorcerer was well established back in the first series; Uhtred and Brida kidnapped Storri precisely because of his value to Ubba. Here, the warlord was Earl Sigurd, also called Bloodhair, and the sorceress was the beautiful Skade. Portrayed by the beguiling Thea Sofie Lock Næss, Skade was both brutal and vulnerable. Why were Ubba and Storri allowed to be colleagues, and Sigurd and Skade had to be lovers? When Skade began to entertain doubts regarding her allegiance to Bloodhair, the gaze she turned toward Uhtred was the gaze of a woman who desired and who perhaps wanted to be desired. Was the emphasis on Skade's sexual relationship with Sigurd and the promise of a similar relationship with Uhtred meant to convey a deeper, more intimate connection than the one Ubba and Storri had?
Skade had a vision of Alfred's death. Up until the moment she met Uhtred, her allegiance had been to Sigurd, and to Bloodhair's quest for more power across the Saxon country. Soon after becoming Uhtred's prisoner (and after casting a curse upon him), Skade began to feel torn. The battle between Uhtred's Wessex and Mercian forces, and Sigurd's Danish army, ended with Sigurd fleeing to safety whilst his men were slaughtered. Skade watched her now former lover with disappointment, even disgust. Uhtred, who fought in the front lines and prevailed, was evidently the better warrior, perhaps the better bet for a sorceress who dreamt of ruling a country.
It was a period of strong belief, in God and in the gods, in miracles and curses. Uhtred could not kill Skade because her death would not lift the curse she placed upon him. Upon his victorious return to Winchester, he was greeted with the shattering news that his beloved wife Gisela had died at childbirth. This, Skade appears to have forseen, for when she presented the possibility of Uhtred ruling from north to south, she also offered to take Gisela's place as his lover. For Uhtred, Gisela's death was part of the curse the sorceress Skade placed upon him.
King Alfred, whom Uhtred still served, was dying. The real King Alfred was said to have suffered an illness all his life; this was also portrayed in the show. Alfred was a man whose work was not finished; the England he dreamt of was not yet whole. Danes still threatened the kingdom he protected. His heir Edward was young still. Even pious Alfred spoke with Skade and asked how long he still had. Skade, not unkindly, told him he would not see another summer.
Netflix's The Last Kingdom is still the show I fell in love with way back when. I have a few quibbles about it, which I hope to explore more through these recaps, but overall, this third series only made me want the fourth series now. Shield wall!
⚔︎Sorry, all. This recap would be way longer if I had more time. I had to cut it short because I do need to get some sleep.
⚔︎Aethelwold was still around spreading mischief. Aethelwold told Uhtred that Edward, Alfred's presumptive heir, got a girl pregnant with twins. This was a girl a lord, Sigebriht, happened to love.
⚔︎Aethelwold sagely pointed out that Uhtred was a kingmaker, and that Edward would eventually be his charge.
⚔︎Haesten played the ally to King Alfred, but I don't buy it one bit.
⚔︎Aethelflaed's husband Aethelred remained in Mercia; it was Aethelflaed who led the Mercian forces into battle.
⚔︎Osferth was rather adorable when he defined 'smite' to Skade's guards.
⚔︎More of Aethelflaed and Hild, please.