Season 3 Episode 7
Uhtred and Sihtric may have faked their feud, but Sihtric's uneasiness over Skade was true enough. 'She's a witch like no other', he told Uhtred, Finan, and Osferth when they were finally reunited. As a Dane, Skade did enjoy more freedom than a typical Saxon woman, but this did not make her immune to the threats that faced women at that time (or indeed, even today). Yet she managed to walk the world in control of her destiny. She held power over men. Surrounded by warriors who were used to taking what they wanted, Skade declared that she must give herself for her power to be conferred. The choice must be hers and hers alone. She chose Uhtred, and she played Bloodhair and Haesten against each other in the service of what she believed was a future ruling with Uhtred.
Whilst she was still his, Skade told Bloodhair that he would kill Alfred in battle. At the camp, Skade declared that Bloodhair's path changed because he abandoned her. Though her power was shown, or indeed her belief in her power, I have always felt that there were more practical aspects of Skade's pronouncements. Skade saw that Uhtred was the more powerful warrior, so she changed her allegiance to him, even as she hoped he would want her too. Skade believed that Uhtred would come for her. Her words to Haesten or Bloodhair made no matter; as she later told Brida, she was destined for neither.
In the fight between Bloodhair and Haesten, why did Skade choose to kill Bloodhair? For all his brutality, Haesten was not smart, nor was he a particularly gifted warrior; Haesten was so far beneath the other Dane warlords we have seen in The Last Kingdom. That Skade saw him as the lesser enemy was likely what saved his life, at least for now. Though Uhtred had already defeated him, Bloodhair could at least give Uhtred a fight. Skade used her magic to weaken Bloodhair before his fight with Haesten. When Bloodhair realised what Skade had done, he tried to kill her, and she easily killed him.
I have not read the books, so I do not know Bloodhair's full story, but in the show, I feel that Bloodhair would have been a far more interesting character than Haesten or Cnut, had we been able to spend more time with him. He had a strong beginning as the chosen lord of Skade, his one on one fight with Uhtred was good, and his reaction to Cnut's revelation that it was Aethelwold who killed Ragnar was interesting. In any case, Bloodhair died, but not before Brida rushed to put his weapon in his hand. He would avoid Ragnar's fate in Niflheim, at least.
Before heading to the camp of the Danes, Uhtred and his men stopped by a prosperous village in Mercia, where Uhtred was greeted without warmth by a thegn named Guthlac. Though the villagers were supposed to be sworn to Aethelflaed, Uhtred was certain Guthlac reported to the Danes. Later that night, Guthlac and his men surrounded the alehouse where Uhtred and his men were eating. Uhtred calmly climbed to the roof of the alehouse, then started throwing torches to the thatched roofs of the nearby buildings. With fire threatening to consume the entire village, Guthlac's men fled to help put them out. Uhtred and his men strolled out of the alehouse, now faced with Guthlac alone. Uhtred declared that the fire ought to remind the villagers they were sworn to Lady Aethelflaed, then stabbed Guthlac.
Uhtred wanted Guthlac to send a message to the Danes. Cnut was excited to learn that Uhtred had been trapped in an alehouse. Haesten, the coward, made it appear as though he was doing Cnut a favour when he said it must be Cnut who should ride to Uhtred's location. Cnut did ride out with his significant men (Brida's men were now his), leaving only Haesten and his men at camp. At night, Sihtric broke Skade's chains and led her to the solitary tree where Uhtred waited. Uhtred, his men, and Skade escaped using boats. It was another example that though Uhtred accepted that men's lives were lost at war, his strategic planning constantly put premium on preserving the lives of his men. Here, he was able to recover Skade from a camp crawling with Danes without losing a single man in his command.
Aethelwold did not have Uhtred's prowess as a warrior, nor was he a man who could secure the respect of others, but he has managed to survive in a harsh world. He spent time with Danes who valued strength and he still lived. As Cnut commanded, Aethelwold returned to Winchester, where he was promptly put in jail. When he was given audience with the King, Aethelwold concocted a story of how he went to the Danes as a spy. The counsel Alfred received, even from his wife Aelswith, was to kill Aethelwold. Alfred, however, was a deeply religious man who was facing death; he agonised over denying mercy to his nephew so close to his own need for mercy in the next life. Alfred eventually decided to take one eye off Aethelwold, for turning an eye to the Danes. Later, Aethelwold decided to remove the cloth that covered where he had lost an eye. Aethelwold had already begun to sow dissent within Wessex. With a few words, he reminded Sigebriht that the woman he loved ended up inside a nunnery whilst Edward was about to take a new bride. Aethelwold's talent was poison, and even with his life in danger, it oozed out of him.
⚔︎ I don't know how I feel about the burgeoning romance between Uhtred and Aethelflaed. From the beginning, however, even during those times when she was the abused wife of Aethelred, Aethelflaed's story has been handled well; I credit the writers, directors, and Millie Brady. It has been a pleasure to see her rise as a leader. You can read up more about the Aethelflaed of history here.
⚔︎ Aethelwold sent Offa to kill Uhtred, and of course he did not succeed. Aethelflaed acquitted herself well in that brief fight; armed only with a dagger, she was able to kill at least two of the men with Offa. Uhtred forced Offa to give the Danes a message from him, that he would come for them in the night as a shadow walker. Offa delivered a message, and he was killed by Bloodhair.
⚔︎ Uhtred gave a short speech to his men and told them what he could give them was what a warrior desired the most, reputation. Uhtred was a lord without lands, so it was even more impressive that he could command the loyalty of his men. As Uhtred gave his speech, Aethelflaed looked at him as though she were already in love.
⚔︎ Brida was now Cnut's woman, and Ragnar's men were now Cnut's. Ugh.
⚔︎ Edward met his intended, Aelflaed; he looked happy that she was pretty.
⚔︎ Aelflaed's father haggled with Alfred over the bride price and morning gift, which he wanted raised because they were for the security of Aelflaed. Alfred may want Edward to be king next, but it was the witan who chose the next king. Edward's future position was by no means secure.
⚔︎ Aethelred went to visit Aethelflaed; he said he would send 30 men as guard for Aethelflaed, and she refused. Later, Aldhelm counselled Aethelflaed to accept half the men Aethelred offered; Aldhelm would choose the men himself and make sure they were loyal to Aethelflaed.