Season 3 Episode 8
Several times whilst watching The Last Kingdom, I asked myself, do I judge Aelswith more harshly for doing the very same things Alfred has done? Alfred and Aelswith were both deeply religious, and their reliance on a man who did not worship the same God they did made them both very uncomfortable. As Alfred weakened, Aelswith had become more vocal at Court. She was adamant that Uhtred must have no part in Edward's life or rule, even as Alfred advised Aethelhelm that Uhtred would keep his word. Later, Aelswith ardently prayed; she did not want her son Edward to be tarnished by heathen ways, she said.
Here's the problem -- Edward's very life was tied to a pagan ritual that resulted in the death of Uhtred's son. When Aethelflaed was a captive in Beamfleot, Aelswith herself suggested calling on Uhtred to Alfred. When backed into a corner, when her children's lives were at stake, Aelswith could accept Uhtred. Alfred, too, struggled with how much he has relied on Uhtred, and how much his son would need to rely on Uhtred once Edward was King. Yet Alfred's journey toward acceptance of Uhtred's role in his and his son's reign and the unification of England happened gradually, with understandable breaks, as when Uhtred held him at knife point or when he sent for Uhtred's children to be educated as Christians in Winchester. Alfred's struggle was constant. With Aelswith, she despised Uhtred unless her children's lives were in grave danger, and Uhtred was the very last resort. Aelswith's vision is much more limited than Alfred's, but I don't want to look at her too unfavourably, especially given how she begged for a sign from God that it was okay for Edward to lean on Uhtred through his rule.
The journey of Alfred's acceptance of Uhtred's place in the unification of England was very well handled, from the time Uhtred used Alfred as a shield to escape Winchester, to Alfred's order to take Uhtred's children, to their Beamfleot reunion where anger and pain simmered, to Alfred's confession to Father Beocca that he knew Edward would need Uhtred when he was King, to the final scene of this episode, where Uhtred gazed at the chronicles of Wessex whilst Alfred stood quietly in a darkened corner. There has not been a note that rang false in the song that was the story of Alfred and Uhtred's relationship. Three seasons of conflict and comradeship, of hatred and bond, and Alfred and Uhtred were finally alone in a room again. Father Beocca asked Uhtred to speak with Alfred, if it could be arranged safely. 'Because death is near and there are things unsaid', Father Beocca told the boy who grew up into a warrior. Uhtred went to Winchester, where he was an outlaw, where he could be executed as soon as he was seen, out of love for Ragnar. He needed to ask Thyra for her blood so Ragnar could cross to Valhalla once his murderer was found and killed. Whilst he was there, he was asked to see the King who gave him land and power, then took them away. Alfred may not think that Uhtred wanted forgiveness, but Uhtred came when asked, when he knew what could be offered. What would The Last Kingdom be without Alfred and Uhtred playing off each other?
⚔︎ Was Uhtred ever tempted by Skade's vision of him rising, commanding 5000 men, of Alfred dying? Perhaps, but Uhtred still killed Skade by drowning her.
⚔︎ It was nice of Osferth to make sure there was a fire and a hot meal for Uhtred after he killed Skade; that was not easy for him.
⚔︎ Following their escape from Beamfleot, Uhtred led his men to his former estate in Coccham. There he found his people complaining that Bishop Erkenwald had demanded half of their winter stock to feed Alfred's army. Uhtred ordered that the Bishop would only take half of what he collected, for Uhtred would not see his people starve.
⚔︎ Hild had to tell Uhtred that his children were in Winchester under the care of priests and nuns.
⚔︎ With Alfred dying, fear had spread through his kingdom. Thyra even built a hiding place under the floorboards, for if the Danes come, the people of Winchester would see her as a Dane and thereby the enemy.
⚔︎ Aethelwold conspired with Sigebriht to spread that Uhtred blamed his loss of everything on Alfred, and that he would take his revenge on Edward. Aethelwold insisted that Uhtred must not be allowed to ally himself with Edward.
⚔︎ Finan, Sihtric, and Hild rode with Bishop Erkenwald to Winchester. Uhtred and Osferth hid inside a cart of a travelling musician.
⚔︎ Alfred told Aelswith he has not pardoned Uhtred because one, he would not accept it, and two, it had to be Edward. Uhtred would remain an outlaw whilst Alfred lived. Alfred, who did not know at that time that Uhtred was in Winchester, agreed with Aelswith that if found in Wessex, Uhtred would be executed.
⚔︎ Edward has married Aelflaed.
⚔︎ Alfred to Aelswith: 'It is my body that is weak, not my mind.'
⚔︎ Alfred to Aelswith: 'He will need Uhtred. He will need a man who knows not only how to fight but when to fight because the fighting will continue.'
⚔︎ Aethelwold, Sigebriht, and their men surrounded Father Beocca's house because Aethelwold was convinced Uhtred was there. Thyra allowed the house to be searched; Uhtred hid in the hole Thyra had dug under the floor.
⚔︎ Father Beocca's reaction to the taking of Thyra's blood for a pagan ritual was a great character moment; Father Beocca loved Thyra, he loved Uhtred, too, but he has not once turned away from his faith.