Warning: contains season three plot spoilers
If The Last Kingdom season three all seems a bit fuzzy in your memory, ahead of the new episodes arriving on Netflix, here’s a recap in brief:
After Uhtred’s wife Gisela died in childbirth, he faced a new pair of Danish villains in warrior Bloodhair and his witch/lover Skade, who placed a curse on Uhtred. Until it was lifted, Uhtred refused to pursue a romantic relationship with Alfred’s daughter Aethelflaed, despite their mutual attraction. Skade eventually killed Bloodhair, and Uhtred killed Skade, lifting the curse.
King Alfred banished Uhtred from Wessex for killing a holy man. He seized his property and stole his children to raise as Christians. Uhtred joined his Danish brothers but abandoned them to rescue Aethelflaed from men that her husband Aethelred, Lord of Mercia had sent to kill her. Before his death, Alfred pardoned Uhtred and returned his lands, and Uhtred agreed to advise Edward, much to Queen Aelswith’s displeasure.
The king’s nephew Aethelwold joined the Danes in the attack on Wessex. He stoked xenophobic unrest in Wessex, which led to Father Beocca’s wife Thyra being killed. Aethelwold plotted with Ragnar’s cousin Jarl Cnut (unbeknownst to Brida, who later became Cnut’s lover) and murdered Ragnar in his sleep. Uhtred killed Aethelwold in battle with the Danes, letting Ragnar pass into Valhalla.
Alfred died of an illness, making Edward king of Wessex. Edward was married off to the daughter of wealthy Lord Aethelhelm, his secret commoner wife and children having been spirited away by his mother Aelswith and the church. Edward successfully defended Wessex from the Danish army with the help of the armies of Mercia and Kent.
All that, and Uhtred still didn’t get to Bebbanburg to fight his usurping uncle Aelfric and get back his father’s fortress. Maybe next time, Uht.
And here’s what happened in a bit more detail:
Uhtred – oaths, curses and banishment
The tempestuous relationship between Uhtred and King Alfred came to a head in season three, when Uhtred refused to swear a further oath to Alfred’s son Edward, preferring his freedom and considering his debt to Alfred paid. Things worsened when, after Uhtred’s wife Gisela died in childbirth, Uhtred desecrated her grave and burned her body on a Pagan pyre, offending Alfred’s faith. Finally, when Christian monk Brother Godwin insulted Gisela’s memory, Uhtred retaliated and accidentally killed him – a further insult to Alfred’s Christianity. Resisting arrest for the murder, Uhtred escaped Wessex by holding Alfred hostage at knifepoint and was banished from the kingdom.
Uhtred and his men rode north, where he encountered Danish seer Skade, who offered to share her body and her power with him. Uhtred refused and took her hostage, so she cursed him, making him gravely ill until Brida cured his illness using ritual magic, but not lifting the curse.
In the north, Uhtred joined his Viking brother Ragnar (whose life he’d saved by swearing his oath to Alfred in the first place), Brida, Ragnar’s cousin Cnut and the Danish army. Uhtred plotted with the Danes to invade Wessex, despite feeling uneasy about the scheme. When he received a call for help from Alfred’s daughter Aethelflaed though, Uhtred abandoned the Danes and instead rode to her rescue on the urging of Father Beocca.
After her rescue, Aethelflaed asked Uhtred to kiss her but he refused, still believing himself cursed. Having exchanged Skade for Aethelflaed’s freedom, he re-kidnapped her from the Danish camp to lift the curse. In the meantime, Ragnar was killed in his sleep, cursing him to the icy realm of Niflheim, so Uhtred and Brida went on a mission to save Ragnar’s soul and allow him to enter Valhalla. On the mission, Uhtred learned that to lift his curse he must kill Skade without shedding a drop of her blood, so he lured her to a river and drowned her.
Needing the blood of Ragnar’s closest living relative – his sister Thyra – to send him to Valhalla, Uhtred snuck back into Wessex where he met secretly with a dying Alfred, and saw the Chronicle of Wessex the king was preparing, which wrote Uhtred out of history. Alfred pardoned Uhtred, but after Alfred’s death his widow Aelswith (a devout Christian who’d always hated the Pagan) rescinded the pardon and locked Uhtred up. Edward, now the king, went against his mother and Uhtred agreed to join him as a free man, not an oathman, to fight the Danish army. During the battle with the Danes (won by the Saxons), Uhtred killed Aethelwold, sending Ragnar’s soul to Valhalla. The season ended with Uhtred making peace with his duel identities, Saxon and Dane.
King Alfred – illness, enmity and legacy
The seer Skade predicted that Alfred wouldn’t see another summer and was proved right. Plagued by ill health, Alfred died before his vision of uniting the kingdoms into a single England came to pass. After failing to convince Queen Aelswith that Edward would need the hated Pagan Uhtred to advise him, and failing to ensnare Uhtred into swearing an oath to Edward, Alfred made Uhtred his enemy. He banished him from Wessex, seized his estate and stole his son and daughter, forcing them to be raised as Christians against their father’s wishes.
Despite his ailing health, Alfred drew a sword and marched his men to battle, teaching Edward how to lead from the front. He tested his son’s mettle on the battlefield and told Edward he had acted as a true king. Later, realising the grave error he had made with Uhtred, Alfred met with him in secret and pardoned him, securing Uhtred’s promise to advise Edward as a free man. He apologised for not including Uhtred in his Chronicle of Wessex and toasted him as ‘a man I have never understood but without whom I would not die a king.’
Aethelflaed – a true leader of Mercia
When King Alfred called on Lord Aethelred of Mercia to supply troops to help defend Wessex against the Danes, Aethelred refused. Not taking that for an answer, his wife Lady Aethelflaed (Alfred’s daughter) led Mercia’s troops to aid Wessex herself, proving herself – unlike her husband – a strong and popular leader. In retaliation for the blot on his character, Aethelred plotted to entrap Aethelflaed into adultery so that he could publicly denounce her, but when that failed, he ordered his advisor Aldhelm to murder her.
Aldhelm, recognising that Aethelflaed was a stronger leader of Mercia than her husband, informed her of the plan and shifted allegiance, protecting her. She escaped to a nunnery and sent for Uhtred’s help when it was attacked, confessing her feelings for him when he rescued her. Believing himself cursed by a witch, Uhtred refused her for her own protection.
Edward – aetheling no longer
While still a prince (or aetheling), Edward secretly married a woman he loved and she bore him twins. As she was a commoner, Aelswith plotted with Bishop Erkenwald to have the wife and children removed from the kingdom so that Edward could make a more profitable match. Against his will, Edward was married to Aelflaed, daughter of the wealthy Lord Aethelhelm, who discovered the existence of Edward’s legitimate but banished heirs, and who plots to further his own power.
Edward stepped out from behind his parents’ shadow in season three, first defying his father by supplying troops to Uhtred when Alfred had refused them, and finally, by freeing Uhtred from his mother’s prison after Alfred’s death. He won his first battle as king, defending Wessex from the Danes with the help of Aethelred’s Mercians and Sigebrigt’s Kentish army.
Father Beocca and Thyra – intolerance and tragedy
Having converted to Christianity to live in Wessex with her husband, Thyra was targeted by violent bigots who would not accept her Danish heritage. The bigots were encouraged by Aethelwold, who stoked the flames of intolerance to further his own ambitions to usurp Edward and rule Wessex. Not feeling safe at home, Thyra dug herself a hiding place under the floor. When one of the bigots insulted her in public, Beocca headbutted him, and in revenge, he waited until Thyra was alone and set fire to her home while she was hiding inside. Instead of burning to death, Thyra took the Danish route of killing herself with a knife.
Father Beocca lost her, and his king, and his role at Alfred’s court thanks to Aelswith who never trusted his closeness to the Pagan Uhtred.
Brida – Ragnar, betrayal and more curses
Ragnar’s cousin Cnut colluded with Aethelwold to murder Ragnar in his sleep and usurp his place at the head of the Danish army. Aethelwold killed Ragnar and framed the woman he was sleeping with for the murder (through Ragnar and Brida were lovers, Ragnar was trying to have sons with other women because Brida was unable to have children).
Heart-broken that Ragnar died without a sword in his hand and was thus denied entry to Valhalla, Brida and Uhtred sought out Storri, the Seer from season one, to find a way to transport Ragnar’s soul out of Viking hell. Storri, it turned out, was the one who had cursed Brida to become infertile, after she humiliated him in her youth by stripping him naked and sticking a branch up his bum. Storri told them how to save Ragnar, and Brida killed him. She discovered Aethelwold murdered Ragnar, and Uhtred killed him, sending Ragnar to Valhalla. Brida became Cnut’s lover, not realising he had plotted Ragnar’s murder.
Aethelwold – a craven villain
Alfred’s villainous nephew spent the season trying to usurp the throne of Wessex first from his uncle then from his cousin Edward. He joined a coalition of the Danes, rallying them to attack Wessex so he could claim the crown. He murdered Ragnar (see above), was captured by Alfred for plotting against him, and was sentenced to have his eye removed in punishment. Afterwards, he still plotted against the king and sided with the Danes, trying to convince Sigebrigt of Kent to join them against Wessex. Sigebrigt however, betrayed Aethelwold and sided with the Saxons. In battle, Uhtred killed Aethelwold for Ragnar’s murder.
Cnut – the treacherous cousin
Ragnar’s red-headed cousin, who – unbeknownst to Brida – plotted Ragnar’s murder with Aethelwold (see above) and then took Brida as his lover. He survived the Danish battle with Edward’s army.
Haesten – a flip-flopping Dane
Another tricky Dane, Haesten pretended to be loyal to Alfred but then teamed up with Aethelwold and the Danish army against him. He captured Skade, the witch who cursed Uhtred, and tried to take her power for himself but she outwitted him and escaped with Uhtred, who later killed her to lift his curse. He also survived the battle with the Saxon army.
The Last Kingdom season four arrives on Netflix on Sunday April 26th.