The latest episode of The Last Kingdom is a slow burn, but this rewarding look into the characters’ lives and loyalties is well worth watching.
Let’s bitch it out…
This week on The Last Kingdom, the action – and even the story itself – takes a back seat to some serious character development, and I’m totally OK with that. Spending the time exploring almost everybody in Uhtred’s (Alexander Dreymon) sphere of influence, and the subtle (and not so subtle) ways their stories intertwine, is not only rewarding but surprisingly compelling. I mentioned last week the TLK has done a great job of world-building 9th Century England, and this episode does the same thing, but by complicating and entangling the characters and testing their loyalties.
“Episode 3” begins by boldly skipping the carnage of the battle that was about to break out at the end of last week’s episode. Instead, we are simply presented with the outcome of the fight: the English have won, but at the cost of a mortally wounded King Aethelred (Alec Newman). The entire episode orbits around Alfred’s (David Dawson) ascension to the throne, and the fallout that has for Uhtred and Brida (Emily Cox), his court, and the Danes.
Uhtred swears his loyalty to the new King Alfred for a year, in the selfish hope for land and money, but also because he doesn’t really have any other options. It’s a decision that will have dire repercussions on his relationship with Brida, who believes Alfred is using Uhtred and that they should just leave to travel the country. Ultimately she does just that, leaving with Ragnar’s (Peter Gantzler) son… err, Ragnar (Tobias Santelmann), but not before the three of them plot the death of their father’s killer: Kjartan (Alexandre Willaume).
This is very much an episode about introspection. Almost every character has to decide how they are going to handle the complex and shifting loyalties of the world the inhabit. It sounds kind of reductive when I lay it out here, but the writing is on point and the acting sharp, so it’s actually a lot of fun to watch. Even the relationship between Uhtred and Guthrum (Thomas W. Gabrielsson), the commander of Alfred’s army – two characters that had only spoken a handful of lines to each other before – is carefully expanded into something more complex.
Of course, while it’s fun to watch the the characters stories become deeper and richer in “Episode 3”, the real payoff will come in future episodes when these new potential storylines are acted on. Bring it on!
- I’m really loving David Dawson’s portrayal of Alfred. The subtle way he illustrates Alfred’s physical pain (favouring his stomach), and his “spiritual” pain (furtive glances at his chamber maid, or the small twinge of annoyance at Beocca’s (Ian Hart) insistence on praying) is a lot of fun to look out for.
- This episode definitely needs more Ubba (Rune Temte), my favourite slightly-deranged Viking Earl.
- I had a feeling there’d be friction between Brida and Uhtred at the beginning of the episode when Brida displays an unyielding belief that the Vikings will conquer the English. Uhtred definitely wants to hedge his bets.
- The best scene of the episode is the “negotiation” between Ubba and co. and Alfred. Alfred stands his ground well, and Ubba notices Uhtred standing with the Saxons is awesome.
- Yup, I definitely don’t want to live in a 9th century town/city. 10 minutes into this episode will probably make you agree with me.
- Brida’s miscarriage is really well handled, and is a great (but painful) metaphor for the end of her relationship with Uhtred.
- I had totally forgotten that Ragnar had another son. I wonder how he tracked Uhtred down?
- Speaking of forgotten Danes, I’m curious when we are going to encounter the evil one-eyed Sven next. And what about Ragnar’s kidnapped daughter? That seems like a big unaddressed storyline…
- Alfred: “Fear can be expelled with knowledge.”
- Breda (discussing the Saxons): Why are they so different? So miserable?
Uhtred: God’s wish.
Your turn: What did you think of this episode? Careful character development: an important investment in the story to come, or just boring?
The Last Kingdom airs Saturdays at 10pm EST on BBC America (in the US)