Although this review will contain no spoilers for Season 4, it will by necessity contain some spoilers for seasons 1 through 3.
Season 3 of The Last Kingdom was incrediby well done, so I went into season 4 with slightly cautious, but high expectations. In season 3, a main character was killed off that was at the very heart of what this show is about. In TV shows, and in any entertainment medium for that matter, it is incredibly hard to replace a character that is so compelling, beloved, and central to your story. I will talk more specifically about this character throughout the rest of this review, so this is your last spoiler warning.
Alfred’s (David Dawson’s) absence was felt very strongly throughout season 4. Not only was the character an integral part of the story of the Saxons and Danes, but David Dawson portrayed Alfred so well that I could go from hating to loving him in the span of a scene. I cannot heap enough praise upon this actor for the amazing job that he did of portraying Alfred, King of Wessex. As Uhtred declared at the end of season 3, Alfred is and forever will be “my king.”
As I said above, Alfred’s death was greatly felt. This season was almost like hitting the restart button. With Alfred gone, the world was reshaped and we had to learn, along with the characters, how that world was going to look. It actually felt quite similar to Season 1 in that regard. There were many new introductions and many new elements and factions coming into play for the fate of Wessex and for the future of Alfred’s dream of England. All of this was well done and got me excited for future seasons of the show. Unfortunately, another result of this was that at times, especially for the first 3 or 4 episodes, the narrative felt unfocused and unevenly paced. So much so that for those first few episodes I feared I would not enjoy this season. However, I should not have worried because….
Uhtred will be Uhtred. If there is anything I’ve learned from watching these 4 seasons of the Last Kingdom it is that Alexander Dreymon is just as compelling and perfectly cast in his portrayal of Uhtred as David Dawson was in his portrayal of Alfred. At times, even more so. Another bright spot was Aethelflaed, who ended up playing a more significant role in this season. I really enjoyed her parts of the story. The characters carried this season for me. If it was not for the continued excellence of Uhtred, Finan, and the rest of Uhtred’s crew, along with some older characters stepping up and some great new additions to the cast, I don’t know that this review would be a positive one.
There are not many shows that I have watched that have evoked such strong emotions in me towards each character. There are not many characters that I feel completely indifferent to their fate. Each character feels like a real person that the viewer is easily able to get attached to. The villains are also layered and incredibly well done which is another thing that has always been a strength of the show. Surprisingly, but maybe not too surprising, I often found myself despising the scheming politicans more than I did the straightforward, brutal Danes that were ravaging the land. At least the Danes are honest about what they want.
Although the plot started out somewhat meandering, this season really finds its groove around the 4th or 5th episode and continues to be quality throughout the rest of the season. Political intrigue abounds as there is upheaval in the Saxon kingdoms and the characters are left to deal with it as best they can. As always, the battles are intense and carry a significant weight because you never know which characters will survive. There is loyalty, betrayal, honor, scheming, and both epic and intimate moments. Although, this season was my least favorite so far, it is still well done and I am already ready to watch season 5!
All 4 seasons of The Last Kingdom are available to be streamed on Netflix.