The Last Kingdom

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Men fight over women, money, and land and have been doing so since the beginning of time. I suppose money and land are essentially the same thing and we can simply say men fight over women and money. This is exactly how season 2 of The Last Kingdom panned out.

The two Viking brothers, Erik and Sigefrid, fought to the death over Aethelflaed, King Alfred’s daughter. Erik wasn’t meant to fall in love with her but he did and couldn’t give her up for all the gold in the world. If only they had escaped and lived happily ever after. But, although fiction, the famous characters in the series follow history and Aethleflaed, daughter of King Alfred, is married to Aethelred and so we all knew it would never work out with Erik.  Perhaps also, Aethelflaed was suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

Uhtred is the hero, as always. He’s the James Bond from the High Middle Ages – but with more eye makeup – always winning battles and women. The only thing he hasn’t won is his ancestral home of Bebbanburg which is what he’s wanted since the very start.

King Alfred started the series as a good, clever man but I find him more and more irritating as time goes on. I suppose this is why no one person should remain in a position of power for more than 4 years. Power changes people. His commitment to God is particularly tiresome. People do despicable things in the name of God and fail to act because they put misguided faith in God. I am reminded of William Clifford’s essay, The Ethics of Belief, in which he argues that “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence”. He gives an example of a ship owner who sends his ship to sea, knowing it is not sea worthy, because he doesn’t want to pay for the necessary repairs. Instead he puts his trust in God to keep the passengers safe. The ship sinks killing all on board.

King Alfred is also discriminatory. Despite Uhtred’s continued loyalty and great sacrifices for Alfred and Wessex, Alfred continues to doubt him simply because Uhtred doesn’t believe in God.

Odda really came into his own in the last episode, defying Alfred by summoning his army, but he was right: ransoms should never be paid. His death is tragic and I’m sad he won’t be returning for season 3. Similarly Aethelwold is also developing as a character. He started the series as a no-hope drunkard and is now beginning to show promise as a leader. But if Aethelwold’s fate follows history then he’ll never be king.

I was sad when Halig died. The episodes on the slave ship were particularly awful. I’m glad I live in a society where human slavery is illegal and unacceptable. I was however reminded that non-human animals are our legal slaves today and suffer under terrible conditions, much like human slaves of the past.

It was wonderful to see Beocca and Thyra become involved. And satisfying to finally see Ragnar and Uhtred free their sister from captivity but I never understood all the dogs. What was that about? It was also strange to me that Thyra was the slave yet she somehow made a subordinate of Sven, her kidnapper. Brida is a great character and I hope we see more of her.

It is fair to say I have been addicted to this show since I discovered it on Netflix. Now that I’ve finished it I can get on with my life again. That is, until season 3 comes out.