The Last Kingdom Discussion: Season 3, Episode 9 mourns the death of a king

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Dec 12, 2018

As The Last Kingdom draws to a close, changes are coming to Wessex. Uhtred, the Viking thirst trap, has returned to his old stomping grounds to make amends with a dying King Alfred, who has one final request of his former right hand. The season's penultimate episode sets the stage for an epic battle and a transition of power that could alter the course of history. We're Jessica Toomer and Alyssa Fikse and we're here to recap every major death and priestly beat-down. Join us. 


Making Amends (Sort Of)

Alyssa: Color me surprised, but did Alfred finally give Uhtred a bit of credit? I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from their final showdown, but Alfred being a bit humble and acknowledging that Uhtred is basically the only reason he is still king was not high on the list of things that I expected.

Jessica: To be fair, he didn’t seem pleased about it. Yes, he thanked Uhtred (in his own way) for helping him to realize his dream of a united England but he followed that up with promises that Uhtred would not be making an appearance in his precious chronicle and that history would soon forget his deeds. Alfred’s level of petty, even at death’s door, is something I aspire to. Then again, there’s so much history between these two, that’s probably the best reconciliation we could’ve hoped for. 

Alyssa: True, anything he said to honor Uhtred was tinged with the threat of “history will forget you,” but I still enjoyed the conversation between these two. Even though they’ve had their very extreme ups and downs, these men needed each other. Uhtred wouldn’t be the man he was without his time spent working for Alfred, and Alfred certainly wouldn’t wield the power he does without Uhtred. This was largely a mutually beneficial relationship… except when it really wasn’t. Alfred is so obsessed with his legacy, and to his credit, his wish for a united England eventually comes true, just not under the Saxons.

Jessica: As selfish as we often accuse Uhtred of being, it’s Alfred’s own narcissism that really shines in his final days. I can get behind his dream of a united England, but it’s the self-importance that bothers me about him. A people under one ruler, one God is the goal, but Alfred also fears his own legacy will disappear once he’s dead. He’s just as concerned with how he’s remembered as he is with England’s future. It makes all of his sermons to Uhtred, including this final one, feel incredibly pretentious and hypocritical. 

Alyssa: Oh, for sure. While his goal may be admirable, his intentions are obviously for his own glory instead of the benefit of the people. Plus, as it often does with Alfred, it comes down to religion. If Uhtred had maintained his Christian status instead of settling down as a pagan, I think his relationship with Alfred would have been very different. But, as has happened time and time again in the last three seasons, Alfred is perfectly content to use pagans to his benefit while denying them any permanent standing or benefit. He really drove that home by mentioning Isuelt, whose magic he was content to use but whose death he couldn’t care less about.

Jessica: Well, I suppose we can’t gripe too much about the methods when the end result is Alfred pardoning Uhtred. That too was a long time coming. Uhtred’s a better man than most. He sat through Alfred’s whole spiel about England’s future and his own past mistakes, insults to Uhtred’s pagan way of life and his past lovers, and he was finally rewarded with a get-out-of-jail-free card. Of course, because this is Alfred, it came with one final request: to protect the future king. If I was Uhtred I would’ve laughed in the guy’s face when he begged Uhtred to stay in Wessex until Edward was crowned. Hasn’t the guy given you enough of his life, his blood, his sweat, his tears? How selfish can you be, Alfred? 

Alyssa: Yeah, there are always strings where Alfred is concerned. But wow, he seems downright gracious compared to his wife. Aelswith really isn’t going to let Alfred shuffle off from this mortal coil without punishing Uhtred completely, is she? You would think that all of the victories and whatnot that Uhtred has brought to Alfred would have softened her a bit, but no. All she sees is a pagan that must be punished. Ugh, Aelswith is the worst kind of pious.


Beocca’s Warning

Jessica: Aelswith’s irrational hatred of the Danes is, sadly, not an isolated incident. Apparently, Aethelwold’s “Make Wessex Great Again” campaign has really emboldened the Saxon nationalists and poor Thyra is once again being hunted by deranged psychopaths. I understand that the character is a good conduit for relaying just how high tensions are between the Danes and Saxons but damn, can we just let Thyra live, y’all? Our girl’s been through enough. 

Alyssa: Honestly, it almost feels like the character of Thyra was created just to suffer. The girl cannot catch a single break and is constantly being punished for simply being alive, being a woman, being a Dane. It is so exhausting to watch. While I will long cherish the image of Beocca headbutting that asshole that taunted Thyra, at what cost?

Jessica: Oh Beocca threatening to beat the shit from that guy, and then following up that threat with some WWE moves was a mood. I especially liked when he assured Uhtred that he was calm, only to go at the guy again. I love me a feisty Beocca. Sadly, I don’t think the dumb oaf got the message and I’m pretty tired of watching female characters suffer just so that male characters can “grow.” It’s 2018. Let’s find a new schtick. 

Alyssa: Agreed. I get that times were tough back then, particularly for women, but this just keeps happening on this show. A man needs to learn a lesson/be inspired to greatness/needs motivation? Better punish the women in his life! It’s tired, and I think The Last Kingdom can do better. Like, we don’t need more of a reason to think that Aethelwold is a sh*t. We know he’s a sh*t without Thyra having to live in terror.

Jessica: Yeah, the one eye kind of says it all. 


The Death of Alfred

Jessica: Speaking of suffering, Alfred’s days of gruel and apples and irritable bowels are finally over. I’m still unclear as to what disease he was living with for so long but damn, it did end pretty for him. 

Alyssa: Yeah, a slow death by intestinal distress is a rough way to go. Plus, Alfred didn’t even get a moment’s peace before death because he literally died hearing Aelswith complaining about Uhtred and telling Alfred that he should punish him some more before dying. GIRL. You missed your husband’s final moments because you were so caught up in your own agenda. Look at your life! Look at your choices! Feel some shame.

Jessica: Where is that shame nun when you need her? Aelswith is so blinded by her hatred for Uhtred that she couldn’t even comfort her dying husband. And she can’t properly mourn him at his funeral because she’s conspiring to kill Edward’s bastard twins so that they won’t have a claim to the throne. Hun, this is why people are turning away from the church. 

Alyssa: Yeah, Aelswith is out for blood before Alfred’s body is even cold. I mean, she threw Beocca out almost immediately too. She is not looking to keep around any dissenters and certainly isn’t looking to compromise now. But outside of Aelswith’s vendetta, I am curious to see how Alfred’s death affects the show (should it get a fourth season). As frustrating as he was, his dynamic with Uhtred was always compelling and that kind of conflict between the two was a huge part of what made the show tick. What does The Last Kingdom even look like without Alfred? Edward seems to be shaping up to be a good man, but he’s still a boy who is pretty malleable. His interactions with Uhtred will be very different from his father’s.

Jessica: Agreed. Alfred’s death is not one we can just skip over lightly. In many ways, he served as the antagonist to Uhtred’s hero-type. The two pushed each other, frustrated each other, caused each other to make terrible decisions. Alfred was often the instigator when it came to the plot of the show. Edward will not be filling that role, but I wonder if the series is setting up Aelswith to serve as a more hostile opponent for Uhtred? I could see the two having some real battles when it comes to influence over Edward. 

Alyssa: I definitely think that Aelswith will be an issue in the days to come, but I will be interested in seeing how much more power she will wield with her son on the throne instead of her husband. While Edward has shown himself to be rather fair and even-tempered (at least with matters of state), he is still very young. He clearly values Uhtred more than anyone else in his family has in the past, but Aelswith is still his mother. She still has a lot of influence over him, and she is certainly smart enough to manipulate him.

Looking Ahead

Jessica: I think Aelswith will emerge as a major player in the next episode and possibly in Season 4. She’s too determined and stubborn to just fade peacefully into the background now that her husband’s dead. I do wonder what Alfred’s death and the coming Danish conflict means for Uhtred. Where does he go once all this is over? It’s a question I’ve had for a couple seasons now, but I think with Alfred gone, we might be closer to having it answered. 

Alyssa: It’s true. Where does Uhtred belong? I don’t see him ever going back to the Danes at this point and the Saxon leaders have made it clear that they don’t want him. Does he take his kids, go on the run, and become a stay at home dad somewhere in the woods safely beyond the borders of Wessex? I don’t see our dude taking to the quiet life long term. But more immediately than that, I think the next episode will be a turbulent one. Things are always thrown into disarray after the death of a leader, and those Danes have been spoiling for a fight. The Last Kingdom tends to end its seasons bloody, and I don’t think this one will be any different.

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