Season 3 Episode 3
Many times, Uhtred has turned away from his Danish identity. Brida, who loved him, grew mistrustful of him. Yet not Ragnar. Ragnar's love of Uhtred as his brother has not wavered through the years. They have had their disagreements, words were said, but Ragnar has always been happy to see Uhtred. When the possibility of taking Wessex loomed large, it was of their grandfather Ragnar spoke of, their shared ancestry, though Uhtred was not of Danish blood. Ragnar spoke of how proud their grandfather would have been to see them side by side. When Uhtred chose to ride to Aethelflaed's rescue, it was the last straw for Ragnar. Ragnar disowned Uhtred as a brother, even through Thyra's tearful protest. Ragnar even allowed Bloodhair to fight Uhtred for Skade.
The Last Kingdom was founded on the warring pull of Uhtred's Saxon and Danish identities. Though Uhtred has remained steadfast in his non-acceptance of the Christian faith, his service as an adult has mostly been in the service of Wessex. He was called a Dane-slayer. As Leofric's ghost pointed out, if Uhtred had not killed the priest, Uhtred would have remained an oathman to Alfred. Uhtred did not choose his Danish identity; he had to ride toward it to save his own life.
Aethelflaed, more than Alfred, read Uhtred well and knew how to secure his loyalty. When she sent Father Beocca with her request for assistance, she did not invoke Uhtred's vow. Instead, Aethelflaed released Uhtred from his oath, so that he may choose whether to ride to save her or not. Alfred tried to force Uhtred to swear his life in the service of Edward, and it backfired. As she did in the previous season, Aethelflaed simply asked for Uhtred's help. It was the wiser course, for now Uhtred, on his own, chose to abandon his brother for Aethelflaed.
Leofric's ghost may represent the hold Wessex has over Uhtred, but his living men, his friends, his loyal troops, were of Wessex too. Finan, Sihtric, and Osbert did not wish to fight against Wessex; that was where their friends and family lived. Should the Danes win, Wessex would not be under the command of Ragnar alone; as Finan pointed out, Haesten and Bloodhair were like Kjartan the Cruel. Finan even suggested going to Bebbanburg, fighting for Uhtred's rightful lands rather than joining the attack of Wessex.
That Alfred struggled to hold the kingdom he has tried so hard to build, through the illness that was killing him, was in David Dawson's face, as he berated his son Edward for marrying the mother of his children, the woman he loved, rather than accepting a strategic marriage he and his wife were trying to arrange. As frustrating as it can be for myself as a viewer to watch Alfred's treatment of Uhtred, it is an understandable and even admirable characterisation choice. That Uhtred and the King he served for most of his adult life did not fully trust each other was part of the pulse that throbbed through each The Last Kingdom episode. I can feel annoyed that Alfred instructed Beocca to take Uhtred's children from Coccham (which no longer belonged to Uhtred) to Winchester and ensure they are educated in the Christian faith, and still think that is consistent with Alfred's character giving in to a moment of pettiness, exercising his power in a way he knew the man he was furious with would be furious about. The writing of Alfred, and David Dawson's quietly powerful performance, contributed much to making The Last Kingdom great TV.
The combined armies of Ragnar, Haesten and Bloodhair would never hold, Uhtred declared, and perhaps he was right. Alfred was severely weakened by Uhtred's departure, however, but now Uhtred, whom Alfred would have had killed had he not escaped, was on his way to rescue Aethelflaed. "He is always the solution, it seems," Father Beocca mused about Uhtred. Well, that is The Last Kingdom in a sentence, but three seasons in, despite a couple of issues I intend to discuss further in later recaps, and it remains a very good show.
⚔︎I do feel bad for Ragnar. He looked so happy to see Thyra arriving in Dunholm. After the horror that Thyra went through, Ragnar did not begrudge her turn to the Christian faith. Yet Thyra lied about the purpose of her visit. Ragnar was a Dane and remained a Dane, whilst his sister Thyra and brother Uhtred both turned their backs away from the Viking way of life.
⚔︎Aethelred might have succeeded in his plot to have Aethelflaed killed had Aldhelm not warned Aethelflaed and advised her to leave her estate. Aldhelm had now grown disillusioned at the kind of King Aethelred could be.
⚔︎Back in the second season, Alfred rejected silver as bride price and instead asked for lands to be deeded to Aethelflaed; this was why she had her own estate in Mercia. After Aldhelm's warning, Aethelflaed roused her household, and they rode to a nunnery. She also sent a servant with letters for Father Beocca, where she outlined her plan to seek Uhtred's help. Aethelflaed was insistent that Alfred must not be told, for Alfred was sick and Aethelflaed did not want the alliance between Wessex and Mercia to break.
⚔︎I did not notice this in the second season when he kept whispering ill of Uhtred, but Aldhelm has a good voice. I'd buy an ebook read by James Northcote.
⚔︎Did Father Beocca imply that Sihtric's wife returned to prostitution?
⚔︎Uhtred is furious with Aethelwold when he figured out it was Aethelwold who suggested the killing of Aethelflaed to Aethelred.
⚔︎Uhtred pretended to accept Skade as his.
⚔︎The trip north of Aethelwold, Haesten, and Bloodhair (Earl Sigurd) was part of Aethelwold's plan to unite the Danes against Alfred.
⚔︎Ragnar's cousin Cnut is annoying and will surely betray him.