The Last Kingdom recap: What happened in seasons 1-3?

The ultimate refresher before you dive into season four

Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) in The Last Kingdom

One of the best things about The Last Kingdom is its fast-paced story, which is constantly shaking up the status quo with major deaths and shocking developments.

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However, that can also make it easy to lose track of what’s been going on, especially given the long wait between seasons being released.

Fortunately, we’ve compressed the first three seasons of The Last Kingdom into one handy refresher, meaning you can be totally caught up before binge watching the new episodes on Netflix.

Here’s our recap of The Last Kingdom seasons one, two and three…

The Last Kingdom season 1

We are introduced to Uhtred as a boy and the heir of Bebbanburg, an area of land held by his father Lord Uhtred (Matthew Macfadyen). When Vikings attack, Lord Uhtred leads his men to face them and his son secretly follows in a naive attempt to help. The boy witnesses his father’s brutal death on the battlefield and is kidnapped by the Danes along with a young Saxon girl named Brida.

Though intended as slaves, the Dane leader Earl Ragnar (Peter Gantzler) becomes fond of them both – especially after Uhtred saves his daughter from being assaulted in the woods by Sven, who loses an eye as punishment.

Young Uhtred’s power hungry uncle Aelfric (Joseph Millson) pledges allegiance to the Danes and meets with Ragnar to discuss a ransom, but intends to kill the boy at the earliest opportunity to secure his hold on Bebbanburg. Fortunately, Ragnar decides to buy Uhtred for himself and the boy is raised as a Viking, adopting the Norse religion and customs.

Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred in The Last Kingdom
Uhtred as a grown man, having been raised among Viking warriors
Netflix

The story picks up many years later, with Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) and Brida (Emily Cox) as adults still living happily with the Danes. All is well, until a warrior named Kjartan (Alexandre Willaume) murders Uhtred’s adoptive family as revenge for partially blinding his son, Sven, many years prior.

Kjartan spreads false word that Uhtred committed the murders, forcing him to flee with Brida to the Saxon kingdom of Wessex, ruled by the devoutly Christian King Alfred (David Dawson). Wessex has its own problems, facing attacks from the Danes and internal scheming from nobleman Aethelwold (Harry McEntire) who believes himself to be the rightful king.

Brida dislikes the Saxons and leaves, joining up with Earl Ragnar’s son, Ragnar The Younger (who sees through the lies spread by Kjartan).

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Uhtred and King Alfred plot a crucial battle

Though initially distrustful of Uhtred, Alfred rewards him with land and a wife after he leads Wessex in several military victories. But when he furiously interrupts Alfred’s prayers to complain about a nobleman, Uhtred incurs a humiliating punishment that sours their relationship, while his pious wife also begins to despise his “heathen” ways.

Seeking liberation from Alfred, Uhtred goes plundering for treasure to clear his marriage debt with the church, discovering Pagan Queen Iseult who he quickly falls for. Upon his return to Wessex, Alfred orders him to be executed but Danes attack before this is possible, forcing everyone to flee (including the king himself).

Alfred and his wife, Aelswith (Eliza Butterworth), hide in the marshland with their sick newborn son and their most trusted advisers. Uhtred and Iseult join them and perform a Pagan ritual that cures the baby’s illness, effectively winning back the king’s trust in the process.

Queen Iseult in The Last Kingdom (Charlie Murphy, season one)
Iseult prepares a Pagan ritual to save the King’s infant son

Alfred sends messengers across the land to tell of an impending battle for Wessex, which will only be winnable if every Saxon army joins forces against the Danes. They are victorious but it comes at a heavy price: Iseult is beheaded by a cruel viking warrior, leaving Uhtred heartbroken. After fighting for the Danes, Brida and Young Ragnar are imprisoned in Wessex as Alfred’s hostages, while Uhtred heads north a free man.

The Last Kingdom season 2

Abbot Eadred (David Schofield) experiences a holy vision that tells him Guthred, the rightful king of Cumbraland, is currently enslaved by Kjartan and Sven. King Alfred of Wessex agrees to help free him, partly to extend his own influence further north, sending Father Beocca (Ian Hart) to negotiate a ransom.

Uhtred encounters the priest on his journey and agrees to help free Guthred (Thure Lindhardt), as they would have a common enemy in Kjartan. Rather than pay a ransom, a daring rescue is staged and Guthred does indeed become king in the north, with Uhtred as his close adviser and a potential match for his sister, Gisela (Peri Baumeister).

Uhtred and Guthred arrive in Cumbraland together
Uhtred and Guthred arrive in Cumbraland together

However, Eadred feels that Uhtred’s popularity is a threat to Guthred’s rule, so he convinces the new king to make a pact with Aelfric of Bebbanburg, who will offer men in return for his nephew’s head. But Guthred does not wish to kill Uhtred, so instead he sells him into brutal slavery on the open seas.

Word reaches King Alfred of this terrible injustice and he sends his Dane hostage, Ragnar the Younger, to track Uhtred down. After months of abuse, the slave ship docks and Ragnar discovers a frail Uhtred who is close to death. Once freed, they spend days camping while Uhtred slowly regains his health, before heading to a nearby nunnery where Gisela had exiled herself to avoid being forced into marriage by her brother.

But by the time they they find her, Abbot Eadred is already there and claims to have married Gisela to Uhtred’s treacherous uncle Aelfric (who isn’t present). In a burst of rage, Uhtred kills the spiteful Eadred before an audience of priests and nuns, reuniting with Gisela who joins him on his journey back to Wessex.

Gisela and Uhtred share a passionate kiss
Gisela and Uhtred share a passionate kiss

Alfred finds out about the murder of Eadred and gives Uhtred an ultimatum: swear an oath of service or Ragnar will be held responsible and put to death. Uhtred swears loyalty to Wessex in exchange for Ragnar and Brida’s freedom, who are frustrated he won’t join the Danes with them, but unaware of the sacrifice he has made for their lives.

King Alfred of Wessex arranges for his daughter, Princess Aethelflaed, to marry Lord Aethelred of Mercia, in a bid to permanently ally the two kingdoms – but the relationship is abusive, something she keeps secret to maintain political and military union.

Alfred then sends Uhtred on a mission to kill viking brothers Erik and Sigefrid as they are a threat to Cumbraland, but he shows mercy and instead banishes them back to Denmark after raiding their camp. In doing so, weak King Guthred becomes indebted to Uhtred and lends him soldiers to attack Dunholm, the stronghold maintained by the men who killed his adoptive family: Kjartan and Sven.

Uhtred threatens to kill King Guthred, after he sold him into slavery
Uhtred threatens to kill King Guthred, after he sold him into slavery

Both are killed in a successful siege which also reveals that Thyra, Uhtred’s adoptive sister who was thought dead, had in fact been held prisoner all these years and subject to horrific abuse. Ragnar and Brida, who had helped Uhtred to liberate Dunholm, remain there with their army of Danes.

Uhtred returns to Wessex with traumatised Thyra, who he leaves in the trustworthy hands of Father Beocca, a priest he has known and liked since childhood. Uhtred and Gisela get married, living in relative peace for three years, in which time they are given the Wessex estate of Cookham and have two children together.

Father Beocca rehabilitates Thyra and the two of them fall in love, also deciding to marry (with Uhtred’s blessing, of course).

The peace is interrupted when Erik and Sigefrid return with a great army and capture London, prompting Alfred to send men led by Aethelred of Mercia – who insists on taking his wife with him. They advance to London but find the city is completely deserted, initially believing the Danes to have fled, when actually they have circled back to the Saxon camp and kidnapped Princess Aethelflaed.

Sigefried leads a formidable Dane army
Sigefrid leads a formidable Dane army

It is revealed that Erik and Sigefrid purposefully abandoned London in favour of a much larger prize: a huge ransom for King Alfred’s daughter that would rob Wessex of its wealth and allow the Danes to fund a huge army against the Saxons. Alfred thinks with his heart rather than his head and agrees to pay the outrageous sum, frustrating loyal nobleman Odda (Simon Kunz) who sees the devastation this would cause in the long term. Odda goes against Alfred’s wishes, arranging an army to fight the vikings that begins marching north towards Erik and Sigefrid.

Unbeknown to everyone, Aethelflaed and Erik have fallen in love and plan to escape together, calling on Uhtred to help them do it. He reluctantly agrees, working with Erik to break Aethelflaed out of prison, but when Sigefried discovers them he kills his brother and sends men after the princess.

Fortunately, Odda’s army arrives to fight off the Danes, with Aethelflaed killing Sigefried herself. The battle is a huge success for the Saxons, but Odda faces execution regardless as he went against the king, so instead he commits suicide in prison.

The Last Kingdom season 3

A viking warrior who goes by the name Bloodhair (Ola Rapace) is preparing to march against Alfred, guided by a sadistic and seductive seer called Skade (Thea Sofie Loch Næss) who claims to have seen a vision of his victory on the battlefield.

In Wessex, Alfred’s health has begun to deteriorate so he is preparing his teenage son Edward to take on the throne – much to the disgust of Aethelwold who still has his eyes on the crown. Uhtred and Gisela are expecting their third child, but he is forced to leave her late in the pregnancy to fight Bloodhair’s men, who are raiding small villages around Wessex. While on this mission, Uhtred discovers Skade torturing some priests in a nearby church and takes her hostage, for which she places a curse on him.

Bloodhair comes to retrieve her and there is a battle from which the viking flees, losing the respect and adoration of Skade, who starts to align herself with Uhtred. They return to Wessex and it is revealed that Gisela has died in childbirth, which Uhtred believes is a sign of Skade’s curse manifesting itself – but she refuses to lift it unless he joins forces with her.

The warrior Bloodhair is a fearsome fighter who leads many viking soldiers
The warrior Bloodhair is a fearsome fighter who leads many Viking soldiers

Gisela has been given a Christian burial despite the fact she never followed that religion, so Uhtred digs up her body and buries it in the viking way so she may be at peace according to their beliefs.

Realising that King Alfred’s days are numbered, Aethelwold is sowing disunity across Wessex in the hopes that he will be able to take the throne, bribing a priest into goading Uhtred in front of the king.

King Alfred and Aelswith have seen what Uhtred did at the graveyard and consider it desecration. They call on him to answer for his actions, at which point the paid-off priest appears and says horrible things about the late Gisela. Uhtred gives the him a slap but unintentionally kills him due to the priest being physically frail and has to fight his way home after Alfred orders him to be arrested.

Eventually, he returns to the king willingly, who tells Uhtred that he must pledge an oath to Prince Edward in order to be pardoned for the priest’s death. Such an oath would mean a lifetime of service to Wessex which Uhtred is not prepared to devote himself to, instead holding a knife to the king’s throat in a daring escape attempt. Uhtred and his most loyal men manage to flee Wessex with Skade in tow, but he suffers a wound on his arm where one of Alfred’s soldiers cut him with a spear.

Skade is a powerful seer who enraptures men before luring them to their deaths
Skade is a powerful seer who enraptures men before luring them to their deaths

Notably, Aethelwold has achieved his goal of turning Alfred’s most feared warrior against him and continues scheming, suggesting to Aethelred of Mercia that he should kill Princess Aethelflaed. He then heads north to Bloodhair, who has allied with Sigefrid’s former ally Haesten (Jeppe Beck Laursen), to suggest gathering a grand Dane army in Dunholm.

Uhtred grows weak due to his injury and begins hallucinating, so he also heads for Dunholm where he has friends in his adoptive brother Ragnar and childhood friend Brida. They imprison Skade and nurse Uhtred back to health, before telling him of the plan to unite the Dane armies and wage war against King Alfred. Uhtred’s loyal men don’t wish to be involved in such a plan as they have loved ones in Wessex who would be put in danger, while Ragnar’s cousin Cnut (Magnus Bruun) dislikes Uhtred and labels him a “Dane slayer”.

Meanwhile, in Wessex, King Alfred is having trouble turning his son into a suitable heir, having discovered that he has secretly had children with a peasant woman and married her.

Aethelflaed finds out that her husband plans to have her killed and flees to a nunnery before he has the chance, where she sends word to Uhtred that she is (once again) in need of his help. Uhtred has an affection for Aethelflaed but in choosing to help her, he turns his back on Ragnar and Brida when they need him the most, destroying his relationship with the Danes once and for all. He leaves with his men and Skade, heading for the nunnery where Aethelflaed has taken refuge.

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Haesten holds a grudge against Aethelflaed that will only be satisfied by her death

Haesten is revealed to be an informant for Alfred who tells the king of Aethelwold’s betrayal, but secretly harbours a grudge against Princess Aethelflaed for killing Sigefrid. He tracks her down to the nunnery where Uhtred and his men are hiding her inside. After a bloody stand-off, an agreement is reached: Uhtred gives Skade to Haesten in exchange for Aethelflaed’s safety in the short-term.

Over at the Dane camp, Cnut tells Aethelwold that Ragnar despises him and plans to kill him soon, so the Saxon creeps into his tent late at night and stabs him to death while he sleeps. According to the viking beliefs, this means that Ragnar will not go to Valhalla (heaven) as he did not die in battle, which is a devastating realisation for Brida.

Brida tracks down Uhtred to inform him of his brother’s death and tells him it wouldn’t have happened had he not abandoned them for the Saxons. He believes that Ragnar’s death is another consequence of Skade’s curse and decides he must retrieve her from Haesten in order to break it himself.

Although Uhtred is an outlaw in Wessex for threatening the king, he is granted sanctuary in Mercia from Princess Aethelflaed, where he is able to speak to Alfred and Edward. Uhtred attempts to persuade the king to send his men on a siege of Beamfleot, the place where Haesten is keeping Skade, by highlighting the tactical advantage this would give the Saxons. The king flatly refuses.

Ragnar is murdered in his sleep by Aethelwold, a death that prevents him from entering Valhalla
Ragnar is murdered in his sleep by Aethelwold, a death that prevents him from entering Valhalla

However, Edward is more open to Uhtred’s proposals. He has been taking his position in the monarchy more seriously after the king stripped him of his “illegitimate” wife and children, accepting that he has a duty that cannot be passed up. He arranges for Wessex soldiers to meet Uhtred at Beamfleot and the battle is a victory for the Saxons, but not for Uhtred; although Haesten’s men are defeated, the man himself escapes with Skade and heads to Ragnar, Bloodhair and Cnut’s combined Dane forces in the north.

Although Alfred is initially angry at his son for going behind his back, he soon realises that this is the kind of initiative that will be needed if he is to succeed as king.

Uhtred leaves his men in Mercia and goes with Brida to find a way for Ragnar’s soul to cross from purgatory to heaven. They talk to a seer who informs them that they must kill the person who killed Ragnar, using a blade coated in his blood or someone of his bloodline. In a similarly grim ritual, Brida tells Uhtred that in order to lift Skade’s curse, he must kill her in a way that requires no loss of blood.

The Danes have grown tired of Aethelwold and demand that he go back to Wessex to ready men for the fight against Alfred, despite knowing he could very well be put to death for treason upon arrival. Sure enough, he is brought before the king, but Alfred feels partly responsible for Aethelwold’s betrayal and chooses to remove one of his eyes rather than execute him. It’s nasty.

The treacherous Aethelwold returns to Wessex, where one of his eyes is burned out with a red hot rod
Aethelwold returns to Wessex, where one of his eyes is burned out with a red hot rod

The Danish camp continues to be weakened from within, as Haesten kills Bloodhair in a battle deciding who gets to be with Skade. This is a very pointless death in the grand scheme of things because Uhtred manages to take Skade back shortly after, thanks to a covert operation that cleverly utilised a select few of his most trusted men.

They go to rest in Cookham, where Uhtred’s men are concerned that he has fallen for Skade, a seductress known for using men for personal gain before killing them. That initially appears to be the case, as the two go off for a secluded bath in a nearby river. Lulling her into a false sense of security with his affection, Uhtred then drowns Skade in the river and in doing so shatters the curse she put on him.

Uhtred sneaks into Wessex with his men to ask his adoptive sister Thyra for some of her blood, so that he may use it when he finds Ragnar’s murderer – thus, sending their brother’s soul to Valhalla. She accepts and he stores the blood in a pouch that he carries with him. Father Beocca finds out that Uhtred is in Wessex and smuggles him into the palace for a meeting with Alfred, who is in very poor health and has little time left.

They have a moving conversation in private where they can finally open up to each other, acknowledging their failings but also the mutual respect they have. Alfred’s last action as king is writing a letter pardoning Uhtred for his crimes and making him a free man. He passes away from his illness that same night, putting Wessex in an extremely vulnerable position.

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Aelswith despises Uhtred and attempts to have his pardon revoked

Aelswith attempts to smoothly transition the crown to Edward, but Aethelwold protests and attempts to turn the people against him. He is ultimately unsuccessful, but seemingly persuades a Saxon nobleman to pledge his army to the Danes, something he proudly reports to Haesten and Cnut.

Another consequence of Alfred’s death has been a rise in xenophobia against the minority of Danes who have settled in Wessex. Thyra is one of them and she is followed home by a man while everyone is at Alfred’s funeral, who breaks in and sets fire to the place while she is hiding under the floor. She manages to kill her attacker but is not able to escape the flames, tragically perishing in the blaze.

The Danes get word of Alfred’s death and begin marching towards Wessex, but not before Brida finds out it was Aethelwold who killed Ragnar, sending a messenger to inform Uhtred. King Edward gathers his army to face the viking warriors and there is a great battle in a nearby forest that silences the critics to his reign (at least in the short term). The nobleman that Aethelwold believed to have turned to the Danes arrives late to the battle and fights for the Saxons instead, prompting him to flee – but Uhtred follows.

Away from the battle, a terrified Aethelwold admits to Uhtred that he killed Ragnar, but promises he will travel far away and never return in exchange for his life. Uhtred stabs him through the pouch carrying his sister’s blood, freeing Ragnar’s soul to pass on into Valhalla, which is symbolised by rays of sunlight shining through the trees. Brida witnesses this and embraces Uhtred, before wandering back to the Danes where her allegiances still lie…

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The Last Kingdom season four lands on Netflix on Sunday 26th April – check out what else is on with our TV Guide