This The Last Kingdom review contains spoilers.
The Last Kingdom Season 4 Episode 3
It was a good death, for a good man. It happened fast, came out of nowhere and was in service of his constant task – protecting Uhtred, son of Uhtred. There’s some solace even, in where it happened. Father Beocca died on the soil of his homeland. The last breath he drew was Bebbanburg air. As he assured Uhtred before the attack, it was meant to be.
None of which makes it any easier to say goodbye. After losing David Dawson’s Alfred, the additional loss of Ian Hart’s fond, funny and often ferocious priest will be keenly felt. Beocca’s constancy has been a home for Uhtred and an anchor for this show. Without him, The Last Kingdom is running worryingly short on grown-ups.
The Danes, with all their scrapping and cock jokes and decapitated heads, don’t qualify. Neither do preening pudding boys like Aethelred, whose sexual cruelty reveals his weak desperation for power.
Luckily, the show’s children are stepping up. Aethelflaed fulfilled her promise as a true leader of Mercia by coming to her people’s aid (even if her, Aldhelm and the bloke who waters the horses don’t stand a great chance against Cnut’s entire army). Finan the joker proved this episode to have a very wise head on his shoulders, and is now the most likely candidate to step into Beocca’s shoes as Uhtred’s closest advisor. Brida is set to become a mother, which will only make her more of a warrior. And Young Uhtred has come around and sworn allegiance to his father.
The advocates Uhtred earned over the years spoke up for him in episode three, rallying in his time of need. Beocca, Finan, even the memory of Gisela helped Young Uhtred to see that his father must be more than a bloodthirsty Pagan to garner so much loyalty and respect.
The hour was filled with emotional monologues and touching tributes. Uhtred was crushed, declaring himself finished with battles and bemoaning the loss of his lands and his name. He cried and hugged, and hug-cried, but only after transforming into a Tasmanian Devil of grief-based rage back at the fortress.
That was an exhilarating sequence. Still reeling from Beocca’s premature exit, we watched our hero become a stab ‘n’ slice machine, repelling grown men with the earthquake-like force of his yells. A series of thrilling skirmishes followed the men to the ship, where the rain too, wept for Father Beocca.
Down south, a shit-storm of gargantuan proportions was brewing. If I’ve tracked this correctly, the Danes and the Mercians both left their own lands to invade each other’s, just missing each other like a wife and a mistress in a French farce. Now Cnut’s waiting for Edward to help Aethelred, so he can kill them both and win, and Edward’s waiting for Cnut to kill Aethelred, so he can kill Cnut and win.
Aethelred doesn’t know that Mercia burns like a lighted fart, his palace has been ransacked and all his best priests and bedding have been turned inside out, because Eardwulf literally killed the messenger, fearing the repercussions when this whole mess leads back to him. To protect him and the family name, his sister sacrificed herself to satisfy the lusts of a man she hates, dressing up in the peekaboo nightie he bought her and submitting to his abuse. All of which poses the question – just what was it Eadith and Eardwulf’s father did to bring their family into such disrepute?
Speaking of families in trouble, the Greats (that is the royal family’s surname, right? Alfred T. Great was his full name?) are at loggerheads because Aethelflaed disobeyed Edward and raised the Mercian fyrds, while their mother Aelswith has a secret plan involving Father Pyrlig and the until-now-unmentioned King of Wales. Edward faces the same choice as Alfred when his daughter was held ransom – protect your loved ones, or protect your people. It’s an early middle ages omnishambles is what it is, and all bubbling up nicely for maximum dramatic gain. Excellent stuff.
Now Uhtred, Aethelflaed, six men, a pair of ginger children and a chicken are left to defend Aylesbury from the band of Danes on the horizon. “Have faith”, Beocca had told Young Uhtred back at the fortress. “Your father has escaped worse than this.” True. But worse than this?
Oh Beocca, we miss you already.