In this second episode of THE LAST KINGDOM 3, screen writer Stephen Butchard veers significantly from the plot line of the book, choosing to focus on the major conflict that Uhtred faces: is he a Saxon or a Dane? And Butchard emphasizes as well the increasing tension between Uhtred and King Alfred as the king tries to ensure that his dream of an Englaland will be realized after his death by forcing Uhtred to give his oath to young Edward.
It’s a good decision by Butchard to go that route, but has he gone a little too far with the Alfred/Uhtred conflict? In one extremely taut scene Uhtred physically abuses the king—something that the Uhtred of the novels never does.
It’s difficult for me to see how Butchard is going to give Uhtred a way back to Alfred after that, and I’m very curious to see how he does it. Or if he does it. We cannot really tell what Alfred is thinking and feeling at the end of that scene, seated on his throne, his eyes misting with tears and his face stricken. Is he thinking he has failed England? His son? Or is he regretting pushing Uhtred so hard? Stay tuned!
Meantime, the new plot line that follows an injured Uhtred north is terrific. His inner conflict about his betrayal of the king is portrayed wonderfully in a way that will make fans of the show sit up and screech with excitement. Well, I did, anyway. And once Uhtred reaches Durham, it was another brilliant stroke to flash back to the first season, and the moment that Uhtred first met Brida (Emily Cox). Ragnar’s (Tobias Santalmann) jubilation at having Uhtred back—as a Dane, not a Saxon—is in stark contrast to Finan’s misgivings about what Uhtred intends regarding Wessex, and it all stokes Uhtred’s continuing inner conflict.
I like the way the show has taken a single line in the novel about Skade and Brida, and really run with it. “…the two women had recognized their similarity and had immediately bridled with hostility.” They are hostile, all right. Not only that, Brida out-sorceresses the sorceress, beautifully setting up plot developments we’re going to see further along. Well, maybe much further along.
We have not yet been given any hint of Skade’s back story which is laid out in the novel: she has a wealthy husband in Frisia who wants her back. Will our story line go there, as Uhtred does in the novel? Maybe. Maybe not. I think the husband might be ignored in order to give Cnut (Magnus Bruun) and Bloodhair (Ola Rapace) bigger roles to play, but we’ll have to wait and see.
There are a lot of plot lines to follow. Æthelwold was at the bottom of getting Uhtred out of Wessex; he’s conniving with Æthelred against Æthelflaed, and with Bloodhair and Hæsten against the king. He’s always been a weasel’s turd, but up until now his efforts at skullduggery have been unsuccessful. Maybe this will be his season!
Hild and Finan get some of the best lines in this episode; Aelswith is annoying, as ever (that eye roll!). Poor Beocca has to once again choose between the young man and the king, both of whom he loves; and boy, does he let Uhtred have it at one point. Fine acting by the entire cast.
Do you ever wonder about the fact that all these characters look so young? The actors’ diets are probably much better than anyone could have had in the 9th century, for one thing. But they are young—or at least, I think so. Tobias Santalmann who plays Ragnar is 38; Alexander Dreymon (Uhtred) is 35; Henry McEntire (Æthelwold) is 28. I haven’t been able to find the age of the actor who plays the Ætheling Edward, but in 998 the real Edward would have been in his early 20’s. It was a young man’s world back then. Alfred the Great’s brothers probably all died in their 20’s. And in 1066, William the Conqueror was only 38 when he won that battle at Hastings.
Now, let’s see which characters survive the next episode.