This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
This review contains spoilers.
Pray silence for the passing of dear Halig, a good man broken by needless cruelty. I was unduly hasty in last week’s assumption that he and Uhtred would shrug off their chains of bondage in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Their suffering was long and their journey was torturous. It proved fatal for poor Halig who fell not in battle, but used cruelly at the prow of a slave ship.
While we’re grieving, blow a raspberry for the passing of Abbot Eadred, that conniving, woman-punching excuse for a holy man. And finally, have a good, loud shout about swords for the passing of Lord Chair-Wolf (I’m deliberately not looking that one up on the off-chance it isn’t spelled like that). It’s what the aged Mercian ruler would have wanted.
Episode three was uncharacteristically bleak for The Last Kingdom. We witnessed Uhtred being stripped of his swagger and transformed by increment from long-haired peacock into an extra from Monty Python’s The Life Of Brian. Servitude weakened the formerly robust young warrior into such a husk that even his beard lost its lustre.
Uhtred’s suffering though, was nothing compared to Halig’s. After being punctured by arrows on an heroic escape attempt, the former horse-boy was tortured to death, and that after his lord promised him he’d get them both out of this mess. Like the death of his family, son, Iseult and Leofric, Halig’s demise will be another burden for Uhtred to bear.
Luckily our man’s a resilient sort. After a bit of time lying comatose in a field, a wash and a haircut, he was up and at ‘em, galloping in to rescue his latest squeeze from enforced marriage to his uncle and ridding himself of a troublesome priest in the process. The Abbot’s murder indirectly led to Uhtred having to turn back the clock and swear fealty to Alfred, an oath he delivered with all the sincerity of a petulant teen forced to apologise for chucking spit balls from the back of the classroom.
Seasons passed in the time it took Uhtred to row from Northumbria to Iceland and back again (and for Halig’s hair to grow into a spiral perm that would have earned him the respect of the hard girls in my 80s primary school), and episode three guzzled down the months greedily.
It doesn’t half move at a lick, The Last Kingdom. It felt as though Abbot Eadred was shaping up to be the big bad of this series, then bam, in week three he meets a grisly fate at the end of Uhtred’s sword. Last episode, it seemed that Uhtred’s motley crew was just finding its feet, and suddenly it’s down a Saxon (but up an Irishman).
You can say the same for Guthred’s Northern alliance against Kjartan, which proved to have the longevity of an X-Factor quarter finalist group. Having reneged on his deal to gift-wrap Uhtred’s head and deliver it to his uncle, Guthred watched powerless as it all fell apart. Off went his two hundred Christian spears. Off went Sigefrid and Erik back to a life of pillaging (“I wish to be known as Sigefrid, lord of chaos” he said, thus ensuring he’d go down in history as the DJ of a provincial goth nightclub). And off went Guthred’s sister to hide out in a nunnery.
Three cheers for Lady Gisela for having the nous to hightail it out of her brother’s court and refuse to be used as a bargaining chip. Yes, her taste in men leaves something to be desired (Uhtred’s the fun mistake you make in your early twenties, not someone to open a joint account with), but that aside, she’s a smart cookie.
The same can’t be said for her pathetic brother, who slumped further down his throne with every passing ruling and actually had the temerity to complain this week about being a billy no-mates without an army commander. That’s what happens when you sell your friends into slavery. They take you off the Christmas card list.
Alfred and Aelswith were able to strike a name off theirs this week after overacting Lord Chair-Wolf carked it mid-parley. What they lost in a shouty old man though, they gained in Mercian pretty-boy son-in-law Aethelred, a suitor for Aethelflaed. (Are rhyming names a good omen for couples? I’m moved to think not.)
Elsewhere, poor Sven One-Eyed still couldn’t catch a break (or a ball, for that matter), Brida remained oddly absent and Hild remained excellent, not only for calling a slave trader a “great, fat hound” but also for sharing a tender scene with our hero in which she restored his sword to him for the second time this series. For good measure, she also repeated his catchphrase: “You are Uhtred son of Uhtred, Lord of Bebbanburg, it’s time you remembered that.”
He did remember it, all the way to Abbot Eadred’s lower intestines. Guess who’s back, back again. Uhtred’s back. Tell a friend.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.