The third season of The Last Kingdom comes to a close with an epic battle and the rise of a new king. With Alfred dead, his son Edward leads the charge against the Danes who march on Wessex under the leadership of Cnut. Uhtred carries out his quest to save Ragnar's soul which results in a shocking death and the stage is set for a fresh slate come Season 4. We're Jessica Toomer and Alyssa Fikse and we're here to recap the gory glory of the show's final episode.
The Deadly Fire
Alyssa: Call me a triggered millennial, but BOY I COULD HAVE USED FEWER CLOSE-UP SHOTS OF THYRA BURNING TO DEATH. It’s been pretty clear for a while that Thyra’s delicacy and the fomenting hatred of Danes in Wessex was going to have a devastating intersection, but that whole scene felt unnecessarily brutal. It was like the writers went out of their way to make this an especially awful death.
Jessica: I thought Ragnar’s death was painful but boy did Thyra’s just gut me. I agree. I think the writers really milked this death for all they could. The fact that Thyra’s family was burned alive — she witnessed it before being kidnapped — and now she met the same end, that seemed like more than a necessary plot device, it seemed downright cruel. I’m having a hard time accepting the fact that two of my favorite Ragnarson’s were killed by Aethelwold of all people, and in the worst ways imaginable. The guy needs to die and now.
Alyssa: I’m just struggling to see why it was necessary? To galvanize Beocca against Aethelwold? I feel like the guy was already there. Aethelwold’s goons had already threatened his wife and Aelswith had kicked him out of his long-held position in the royal court. That’s quite a succession of blows. Killing off Thyra felt like overkill. This isn’t the first time that The Last Kingdom has done this either, so it’s becoming a really ugly crutch. I know you can do better, show!
Jessica: I’m with you. I see no point in Thyra’s death. Terrorizing her, having her fear for her life, pushing Beocca to defend her — that was enough. What does burning her alive accomplish at this point, especially when we had one episode left in the season? No one can mourn her properly. The effects of her death on Beocca, Uhtred, Hild, etc, cannot be felt beyond Beocca’s need to kill anything that breathes. It just felt like a cheap way to end the arc of an already put-upon character. Thyra deserved better.
Edward Becomes His Own Man
Alyssa: I knew that things would be tricky for Edward when Alfred died, but wow, things got really real, really fast. Alfred’s body isn’t even cold before his new father in law is scheming with his mother to kill his bastard twins, Aethelred and Aethelwold are plotting his overthrow, and Aelswith is trying her best to get Uhtred banished or killed before he can influence Edward. Oh, and the Danes finally start marching. I had enough trouble balancing my school work, my terrible skin, and crushes that didn’t like me back when I was a teen. I can’t imagine having to run a very unstable country.
Jessica: Poor Edward. I doubt his king-in-training courses taught him how to handle a mother planning to assassinate her own grandchildren and a one-eyed uncle coveting your throne. It’s especially hard to watch because, for all his hormonal angst, Edward seems like he’d make a decent king. He’s got a goodness about him and a desire to do right by his title. I just can’t see this little English muffin lasting long should we get another season. Maybe his friendship with Uhtred will help, seeing as Uhtred’s counsel is already benefitting the young king. With the Aethels scheming — Aethels really are the worst — and the Danes at his door, Edward needs an experienced warrior he can trust. And unlike Uhtred’s relationship with Alfred, this alliance seems like something both men want. Uhtred is an equal in this friendship, so perhaps that will prove the difference?
Alyssa: Well, not to go full on history nerd, but Edward rules for about 25 years. Not the longest, not the shortest. I really loved the moment that he stood up to his mother, pardoning Uhtred while asking him to be his ally of his own free will. That shows that he will be a very different king than his father. I think that Aethelred is going to be a real thorn in his side going forward, though. He’s getting increasingly desperate — stabbing Aldhelm was a new low — and that makes him unpredictable. I’m not sure he has the stature to be a real rival to anyone who has Uhtred on their side, but I think that he is going to make things very difficult for Wessex going forward. Aethelflaed, please just murder your husband already.
Jessica: Our girl Aethelflaed will come through, I have no doubt.
Peace For Ragnar
Alyssa: I’ve doubted for a while that the Danes could ever really come together to be a formidable, unified force, and I was kind of proven right. Cnut just does not have the same magnetism as Ragnar, so it makes sense that their battle plans were a bit sloppy. You have to have a better idea of what you want than just “kill Saxons.” What comes next? Who gets to rule? MESSY. I know she will never join with the Saxons, but I want better than the childish Danes for Brida.
Jessica: Brida should’ve been leading that army. If she had, things would’ve ended differently for the Saxons I’m sure. I mean, did Cnut even have an end goal besides killing people? He marched through the woods, taking the long route, getting into mosh pit fights along the way. He doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Ragnar, to be honest. I can’t believe a coward like Cnut lives on while Ragnar lays cold in the ground. It’s is the worst kind of injustice.
Alyssa: That is often the way with The Last Kingdom: Your faves die ignoble deaths while the wicked prosper. However, I did enjoy Uhtred being back in battle planning mode, even if he substituted the woods for hills this time. Use that terrain! I must admit, I wasn’t quite sure how this battle was going to go. There were a lot of shifting loyalties that didn’t really have time to fully set ahead of time, so who knew who was actually going to show up to this fight. We didn’t get to see exactly how compelling Edward’s letters to the thanes were, but it was a rough start for the boy king.
Jessica: I admit, I feared for sweet Edward, but the boy must be a wordsmith like his father because men showed up and they showed out. But all of this felt inconsequential to the real fight, between Uhtred and Aethelwold. Granted, it wasn’t much of a fight, but it was what we’ve been waiting for all season long and it did not disappoint. Seeing that weasel finally held accountable for his sins, that almost converted me to Alfred’s god.
Alyssa: Wasn’t that satisfying? I may be a little bloodthirsty, but seeing Aethelwold beg for his life and die like the coward we all know that he is was very, very satisfying. Plus, seeing Uhtred trick him in the last moment was the cherry on top. Aethelwold always considered himself the smartest person in any room, and Uhtred once again proved him wrong. Smell ya later, Aethelwold. We won’t miss you. However, killing Aethelwold and bringing peace to Ragnar leaves me wondering where this leaves the bond between Uhtred and Brida. Ragnar was kind of their last link. It was evident in the episode that they still care for each other — Brida saving his life in battle and their tender post-murder moment — but I wonder how that can survive if he is fully Edward’s man.
Jessica: I don’t think it can. If anything, this episode felt like the end of their story in a way. A final goodbye. Brida will never be a Saxon. She wasn’t made for that kind of life and even if she could ignore the constraints of living in Wessex and ascribing to a different religion, there’s too much hurt and betrayal to move past. I don’t think this means the two will be pitted against each other as they have been in the past, but I can’t see a happy-ever-after for them at this point either.
Alyssa: I think you’re right. At least they didn’t kill her off to make Uhtred extra sad. I liked how Uhtred found some peace through finding Ragnar peace, though. He’s always been so unsettled, but now that he doesn’t have Alfred breathing down his neck all the time, perhaps he will be able to figure out who he really is and where he belongs. That season definitely ended on a relatively optimistic note, didn’t it?
Jessica: It did, and I for one am happy with that. I think Uhtred’s been through so much turmoil and tragedy over the course of three seasons. I’m not naive enough to believe that all of that is now behind him, but I hope Season 4 brings a fresh start for the guy, maybe a follow-through on the show’s initial promise which was Uhtred’s return to his homeland. After everything he’s done for Wessex, all the bridges burned and the reckoning he’s had with himself over his Dane and Saxon lineage, now seems as good a time as any to go home.
Alyssa: Will Season 4 be the season where Uhtred of Bebbanburg actually reclaims Bebbanburg? Hopefully! I feel like taking back his home is the last key to Uhtred really coming into his own. Apart from that, I am curious to see how his little flirtation with Aethelflaed shakes out. I was a little weirded out by it at the jump, but you know what? Bring it on. I hope they make out and then kill her husband together. That is what would truly make me happy. If they also happen to take out Aelswith at the same time, even better. Here’s hoping they announce the 4th season soon because after binging these last 3 seasons, I will be very impatient with my waiting. Destiny is all!