This The Last Kingdom review contains spoilers.
The Last Kingdom Season 4 Episode 7
Can it be true? After decades of using and abusing Uhtred, son of Uhtred, has the king of Wessex finally given the man his just reward? That really would be a miracle.
For every time Uhtred has saved the royal family’s arses – on the battlefield or on any number of secret ops rescue missions – they’ve had him locked him up and called a traitor. Alfred, Aelswith, Edward… it’s practically a family tradition.
Uhtred has devised flawless military strategies to protect Wessex from his invading kin, saved baby Edward with a spell that cost the life of his own firstborn son, twice rescued Aethelflaed from the Danes, and in return? He’s been banished, locked up, beaten, had his lands seized and his kids stolen, all by a family who should by rights, hoist him on their shoulders and hold an annual parade in his honour.
By the halfway point of this episode, it was very much business as usual. Thanks to Aethelhelm’s liberal interpretation of Edward’s orders, Uhtred was chained and tortured (“I’ll find the man who did this” said Finan on seeing his lord’s injuries. Love Finan). That proved a step too far from Aethelhelm, whose unilateral decision-making in the king’s name finally caught up with him. Edward realised his mistake and made like Saint Patrick by banishing the snake. And then things got interesting.
Having spent most of this season shouting at his mum and doing flappy-hand fighting with his sister, King Edward hasn’t exactly displayed a royal mien until now. This episode though, was a turning point. He may have been crowned years ago, but the confessional scene in Uhtred’s cell was the moment Edward truly felt like a king. Intimate and revealing, it was our closest look at the man under the curls so far. He envies Uhtred, admires his fortitude and wonders at the source of his courage. For a moment, it was almost like having Alfred back. Would Alfred though, have showed such coldness to his own child as Edward did to young Aethelstan?
Edward’s solution to Mercia’s empty throne is one that his father would never have proposed; a Pagan ruling a kingdom of England would be anathema to the Alfred we knew. It’s a canny move though. Firstly, because Uhtred would rock that shizzle, secondly because it leaves Wessex in control, and thirdly because it once again binds the warrior to the Saxon court.
In his dying days, Alfred did all he could to make Uhtred swear another oath to the crown, but our warrior chose his freedom. Edward offering Uhtred the Mercian throne may look like a reward, but it’s really another form of bondage. Our man is left indentured to yet another Saxon king, hence his misgivings while his men rowdily celebrated the promotion.
Edward’s offer to Uhtred was one surprise; another was Aelswith’s instant approval. Like the dying Aethelred, the Queen is currently repenting left, right and centre, and hasn’t even had a knock on the head to blame. Did I even hear her thank the reviled Pagan Uhtred this episode? Once again, miracles do happen. Perhaps she’s realised that, as Eadith told Osferth this episode, what you think of as a poison can sometimes be a cure.
Either a miracle or Eadith’s witch potion revived little Aelfwynn in time for a touching mother-daughter reunion. The wild goose chase Aethelflaed has been on finally led to her child, and the result was an unusually happy episode ending. “Your brother has restored peace, the fever has departed,” said a beaming Aelswith. All’s well then?
Not quite. Over in Wea-las, Brida’s out of her pit and thirsting for blood – Uhtred’s blood, to be specific. The sin of not sending her to Valhalla must be avenged, and with her new magnificently bouffant-ed Danish colleague, the she-wolf’s on her way to do some harm.
Moving the action out of Winchester, into Aeglesburg and over the Welsh border has expanded The Last Kingdom’s scope for season four. The show feels bigger and airier as a result, with the entire map as a playground. First Wales, and now a new contingent from Ireland. Fingers crossed that this hugely entertaining show, like its characters, just keeps growing.