unilad
Advert

The Last Kingdom Season Four Return Will ‘Rewrite History With What Got Lost’

by : Julia Banim on :
Netflix The Last Kingdom Season ThreeCarnival Films

I’m in a field just outside of Budapest, Hungary, on a bright, crisp autumn day. Morning sunlight glances off the serene lake – as well as off the multiple swords and weaponry.

I’m on the set of The Last Kingdom, but everything is so beautifully, meticulously detailed that I feel as if I’ve wandered through a portal into a full-blown medieval settlement.

Advert

Severed heads gawp down at me accusingly from the battlements, and everywhere I look there are Vikings twice my height in full, formidable get-up.

The Last KingdomCarnival Films

Fellow fans of The Last Kingdom won’t be surprised to find out about the love and craft that goes into creating this series.

From the flawless make-up ‘battle wounds’ to the impeccably trained horses, The Last Kingdom is a masterpiece in transportative, collaborative world-building, and it’s long been one of my favourite binge watches.

Advert

Based on Bernard Cornwell’s beloved series of novels The Saxon Stories, The Last Kingdom is a gorgeous, compelling watch with roots in both history and folklore.

It’s also one of the most intelligent on-screen meditations on the gaps between the stories that are told, and the ones which go unwritten. The outsiders and outcasts whose contributions remain in the margins of historical record.

The Last KingdomCarnival Films

The story follows Uhtred of Bebbanburg, played with wit and charm by Alexander Dreymon. As a boy, Uhtred is taken from his Anglo-Saxon home and raised within a family of Vikings – or Danes as they are referred to.

Advert

Uhtred’s complex sense of identity and allegiances shape his character development throughout the seasons. This also affects the way others perceive and interact with him, with a mixture of dismissal, fear and fascination.

Although he is in many ways violent and fierce – making decisions you won’t always be comfortable with – Uhtred is a likeable and often heroic character, whose sense of honour lies somewhere outside patriotism.

Enigmatic, fiercely resilient and with a spark of mischievous humour, the action centres around Uhtred and the ways his actions influence, and often irk, the powers-that-be.

The Last KingdomCarnival Films
Advert

Uhtred is loosely based on one of Cornwell’s ancestors, Uhtred the Bold, who was the ealdorman of all Northumbria between the years 1006 and 1016.

In Cornwell’s reimagining, Uhtred is placed in the time of Alfred the Great, who ruled as King of Wessex from 871 to 886. The wary, fraught respect between Uhtred and King Alfred mirrors tensions between the Saxons and the Danes; making for some of the most interesting scenes in the show.

UNILAD caught up with three of the major cast members: Mark Rowley, who plays Finan; Arnas Fedaravicius who plays Sihtric; and, of course, Alexander Dreymon – Uhtred of Bebbanburg himself.

Even in full warrior get-up, the warmth and ease between the trio – ‘Team Uhtred’ – is palpable. They share an enthusiasm for their characters, the show and, indeed, for each other, which is infectious.

Advert
The Last KingdomCarnival Films

As close friends, they constantly make fun of each other behind the scenes, sharing ideas and having a laugh. And this natural chemistry is apparent on-screen.

Dreymon told UNILAD he had been worried the second season wouldn’t be ‘as good’ after wrapping-up the first, but soon realised he had nothing to fear:

I’m talking about the atmosphere on the show. Because we had such a lovely crew and cast and everybody got along so well. I thought it was never going to be as good again.

Honestly, it just keeps getting better. And once these guys came on, it really became like a family.

Fedaravicius added:

The passion for the show grows every year, and we connected from the get go. Over time, as the connection grows stronger, I hope that shows more. But we’re just very, very passionate about each other.

The Last KingdomCarnival Films

The show has become ever more ambitious in scope as the narrative progresses. This is reflected in the escalating scale of stunt sequences, with season four set to include some ‘huge battle scenes’.

UNILAD spoke with Levente Lezsák, who has worked as a stunt coordinator and horse master on The Last Kingdom since season one.

A lifelong history enthusiast, Lezsák praised the show as being ‘a stuntman’s playground’:

I’m going to be very honest, and I really hope I won’t hurt anyone else’s feelings, but this is by far my favourite [production to work on] because I feel it is like my kid, you know? My child.

It’s really great to see it grow and grow, like a kid, in front of your eyes. It’s amazing. We have more and more resources, and we can offer more and more and bigger and bigger stunts for the audience.

All the actors have very good martial arts skills, and of course we use their ideas and they become more and more confident over the years. They’re more well trained for these sorts of fights. And I’m very, very pleased with them.

The Last KingdomCarnival Films

The Last Kingdom is often favourably compared with Game of Thrones, with its bloody battle sequences, royal court intrigue and philosophical questions about leadership.

However, this comparison doesn’t quite fit. While Game of Thrones primarily centred around high-born lords and ladies vying for the crown, The Last Kingdom is more about decisions made outside the palace walls.

Working on the show has given the cast a renewed appreciation of the more complicated underbelly of British history, as well as for the figures who are all too often left out of history lessons.

Rowley told UNILAD:

What’s interesting about this you know, is that it’s specifically all about this idea of England and ‘what is England?’, that creation. With the whole Brexit talk, it’s so relevant.

And actually, looking back, the Danes had such an influence. As much as the Romans. So it’s really interesting reflecting on that.

You know, ‘what is England?’ and the truths you get to see, actually it’s a mixture of many cultures. And that’s what makes England.

The Last KingdomCarnival Films

Reflecting on this, Dreymon added:

I think it’s very important to put those details in and to remind people that that’s how history got written. And how much got lost.

Fedaravicius agreed:

In schools they don’t teach you much about the other sides, because I guess it doesn’t always help to teach patriotism when you teach that your country wasn’t always making the right decisions.

There’s always more sides to the story, and sometimes people are kept out.

The Last KingdomCarnival Films
Featured

The Last Kingdom Stars Say Season Four ‘Will Test’ Certain Characters

published at2 years ago

This nuanced take on a turbulent period makes for some startlingly upsetting scenes where well-liked characters suffer persecution and even death for being ‘a Dane’, even after having tried to fit in with the Saxon way of life.

It’s a brutal world, where swords are drawn hastily and punishments are often crueller than the crime itself. But in many ways, the themes of prejudice and division hold parallels with the ‘us versus them’ mentality that’s all too apparent within modern British society.

The characters of Uhtred, Finan and Sihtric are, in Dreymon’s words, bonded by a strong sense of ‘duality’, with each man straddling conflicting identities.

Uhtred, born Osbert, is both Saxon and Dane, while Finan was exiled from Ireland and forced into the hands of the slaver Sverri. Sihtric is the son of the ruthless Kjartan and an enslaved Saxon woman.

The Last KingdomCarnival Films

This split sense of self makes for gripping character development, with viewers repeatedly left uncertain which way this shared path will turn or deviate, or even who they are supposed to be rooting for.

Fedaravicius told UNILAD:

I think that’s what creates the beauty of this show. I think that often, even with Uhtred. It’s a character that’s so dual, that when you watch it, you can’t really put your finger on who is good and who is bad.

You relate to some of the decisions, and then you don’t relate to the other decisions. So sometimes antagonists come in and you understand where they’re coming from and as an audience you sort of start liking them. But then Uhtred hits the screen and you’re like, ‘ah no, love Uhtred’.

The Last KingdomCarnival Films

For Dreymon, Uhtred’s duality is something he can relate to on a personal level. Having grown up in many different places, he’s often felt as though people are trying to ‘nail him down’, attempting to figure out which culture he identifies with.

When pressed about whether Uhtred is more Saxon or Dane, Dreymon remarked that it’s still very much ’50/50′. Although he is and will remain a pagan, Uhtred still regards Saxons as his people, identifying with them even when he is at odds with their beliefs.

Speaking about what makes Uhtred’s journey so uniquely interesting to follow, Dreymon said:

Uhtred had such a mischievous quality to him when he was a kid in the first season. And then, little by little, he gets jaded more and more by all these horrible events that happen.

How do you get over seeing your lover’s head get cut off in the throes of the battlefield? He keeps having to go through these horrendous experiences, and so it’s more and more difficult to keep that streak of insouciance in there.

But I think it’s also part of what makes Uhtred so fun to watch. And I think the challenge lies in having him evolve and change without losing that aspect of him.

Uhtred is still, from the beginning and has always been very spontaneous. And he always picks himself back up. He’s relentlessly perseverant. And I think that’s a quality I really admire.

The Last KingdomCarnival Films

Although the nature of their tough – and sometimes merciless – lives rarely makes for heartwarming viewing, the cast have an obvious fondness for the gutsy band of characters, admiring their sense of brotherhood and loyalty, as well as their respect for one another.

When considering what makes a moral character in the bloodthirsty, combative world of The Last Kingdom, all three agreed this had to be Father Beocca, a priest whose ‘balanced and fair’ nature allows him to consider both sides without being influenced by prejudice or religious fundamentalism.

Imagining how their own respective characters would fare in the present day, Dreymon revealed he believed Uhtred would be a ‘progressive politician’ like Pete Buttigieg. He did, however, admit that Uhtred is ‘not as smart’ as the former US presidential candidate.

For Rowley, Finan would have to be something ‘dark and mysterious’ like a ‘hitman’, while Fedaravicius – rather sweetly – imagines Sihtric as being a ‘total dad’, lecturing his unenthused kids about his days in the army.

The Last KingdomCarnival Films

If you haven’t already added The Last Kingdom to your list of telly obsessions, there’s no better time to escape into the world of Uhtred and his plucky gang of outsiders.

This is a show that will bring you favourite heroes and villains alike, while consistently keeping you on your toes. It will also greatly tempt you into trying out some of Uhtred’s wild and wonderful topknots.

With a fourth season about to drop, there are already three beautifully-produced and thrilling seasons available for the long evenings ahead. A flagon of ale in your hand is, of course, optional.

You can catch The Last Kingdom on Netflix from April 26.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Most Read StoriesMost Read

News

R Kelly Sentenced To 30 Years For Sex Crimes Against Women And Children

Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Featured, Season Four