The Last Kingdom S4 continues the tale based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories. If you have read my review of the previous season then you will be aware that it was an absolute corker. Whilst not quite hitting the dizzy heights of S3, The Last Kingdom S4 marches forward in a new age for the show as Uhtred’s life continues without his frenemy King Alfred. This means that after three seasons, Uhtred is finally on his way back to Bebbanburg! What could go wrong?
The Last Kingdom S4 finds Uhtred free from the endless pull between Dane and Saxon. He is heading off to Bebbanburg to reclaim his home although King Edward does not support him with soldiers. To the surprise of no one, things don’t go so well for our weary protagonist. With Alfred’s death in season 3, there was an air of closure and the wrapping up of many threads. The Last Kingdom S4 feels like a new beginning with Edward stepping into his father’s shoes and playing the role of sometimes ally/sometimes pompous, petulant prick to Uhtred. A familiar but trusted recipe for the show follows.
The Last Kingdom S4 pushes forward with the brilliant, bloody battles and strong character development that made season 3 such a joy to behold. Sadly, the one flaw with this season is that it never seems certain of who the main antagonist is. Sigtrygger, an intelligent Dane, is convinced to take Winchester by the increasingly manipulative Brida but the Dane is too charming to come off as someone we want to see dead at the hands of our hero. Other antagonists aren’t given enough time to fully develop throughout the season. In fact, only the brilliant Haesten is a consistent villain throughout the season. I must admit to grinning from ear to ear every time the double-crossing Dane showed up – his wit and self-awareness allow him to steal every scene he is in. Like Aethelwold in prior seasons, Haesten has the audience begging for his death but secretly dreading the moment such a wonderful character is gone.
Family and legacy are the themes that binds the ten episodes of The Last Kingdom S4 together. Uhtred’s children are the personification of his split spirit: his son taking the path of a Christian monk and his daughter wishing to live with the freedom and values of the Danes. Some of the strongest scenes in the whole show are with Uhtred struggling to play the good father as his children do what all children do and fight against the smothering bonds he attempts to create. The relationships he has with them are given time to grow over the season and show just how far Uhtred has come since his early days as a rampaging warrior with a lust for battle. He sees King Edward struggling to see the light whilst standing in the colossal shadow of his deceased father and is smart enough to know that capturing Cnut’s children will lead the fiery warrior down a path of his choosing. Even the charming Dane, Sigtryggr, utters to Edward, “I have no children. Nor a wife. This is why I am stronger than you.” The show looks at the relationships of parents and their children and how they can be both a strength and a weakness and it handles such powerful moments with ease and guile.
A slight mis-step with the lack of a clear villain but The Last Kingdom S4 marches forward on the solid foundation of the previous season. The Last Kingdom S4 is packed with interesting characters and brutal battles that we have come to expect from the excellent show. Now to wait for Season 5. I will use the time to read Cornwell’s The Empty Throne which according to Ed is superior to this season’s show. I can’t wait to find out! Destiny is all!