“The Last Kingdom” was the beginning of many more, all fashioned in the same history, repeating itself for all to learn. If King Alfred’s kingdom of Wessex was the last stronghold of Saxon strength and power, holding against the Danes, surely all of Europe, and even the United States as its child, owes it a great dept. Their success is now our success, and as Alfred said to Uhtred in their final meeting before his death, ‘…I was afraid of losing everything that Wessex has become, of everything written here in these pages. My work must continue. This land must grow and England must emerge, and God must be praised.’ Thus was the heady plan of King Alfred, and the history of England made.
In this final chapter of Alfred’s life, Utred of Bebbanburg continues to play a pivotal role. It seems that Alfred was right when he tells Uhtred that he believes that God has worked through him to secure the history of England. The irony is not lost on either of them as Uhtred says, he believes in the old gods and lives life as a Dane. But still, Season 3 reminds us of the continuing struggle and fragility of Wessex and, Uhtred’s struggle to be free to reclaim his land of Bebbanburg.
Uhtred is Cursed! (Spoiler Alert)
As Uhtred continues working for Alfred’s cause, he looks for a Dane called, “Bloodhair” who has unlawfully entered Wessex for the purpose of raiding. Unfortunately, he also finds Bloodhair’s Seer who, upon being taken prisoner, curses Uhtred and commands him to do her bidding or suffer the consequences.
And so our Uhtred sinks into a kind of spiritual and physical despair. He returns home to find that his wife, Gissela has died during child birth, and that they have buried her in the holy ground of the church. He further strains the ties that bind him to Wessex by digging her up and giving her a funeral pyr. She was Pagan after all.
Infuriated by this desecration, Alfred, and more importantly, his wife Aelswith, demand some kind of price to be paid by Uhtred. During the argument and provoked by a treacherous priest, Uhtred accidentally kills the priest and must take the King by knife point in order to escape. He flees with his men and the horrible Seer to the shelter of his Viking brother, Ragnar Ragnarson. During this trip, of course, the Seer’s curse begins to take hold of his body and Brida, his childhood friend and first love, saves him, at least momentarily.
The rest of the story waits for you. It’s performed by talent that defies equal, and written by the gods. Its tale includes the very best of all tales, friendship, betrayal, loyalty, treachery, and most importantly, great love of all kinds. Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred, Emily Cox as Brida, and of course David Dawson as King Alfred are standouts, but everyone is remarkable! I would be amiss if I left out Father Beocca, played by Ian Hart. I envy the talent of the writers for whom it seems effortless to construct such meaningful roles and story arcs: Stephen Butchard, Bernard Cornwell, Sophie Petzal and Ben Vanstone.
Watch all three seasons on Netflix. Read the books “The Last Kingdom” is based on, The Saxon Stories, by Bernard Cornwell, who, interestingly is a very distant relative of the real life Uhtred!