Review: Season Two of The Last Kingdom

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Review: Season Two of The Last Kingdom

By John Ruberry

Last fall in my review of the first sea­son of The Last King­dom I wrote:

I’ll be back for sea­son two, hop­ing for more. (More mean­ing bet­ter shows, not bare but­tocks.) After all, the Doc­tor Who spin­off Torch­wood didn’t hit its stride until sea­son two and it didn’t achieve con­sis­tent great­ness until The Chil­dren of Earth in sea­son three.

And so I have returned for sea­son two of the show, which is now a co-​production of Net­flix and the BBC. The series is based on books by Bernard Cornwell.

The Last King­dom didn’t reach the stride that I was hop­ing to find, rather, it is just run­ning in place.

Minor sea­son one spoiler alerts in the fol­low­ing paragraph.

Uhtred the God­less (Alexan­der Drey­mon), who was enslaved as a boy by Danes and robbed of his inher­i­tance of Beb­ban­burg in Northum­ber­land by a duplic­i­tous uncle, becomes a chief­tain for King Alfred (David Daw­son). England’s “last king­dom” is Alfred’s Wes­sex, hold­ing out in the 9th cen­tury against what his­to­ri­ans later named the Great Hea­then Army. Alfred pre­vails over the Danes in the Bat­tle of Eding­ton, pre­serv­ing not only his king­dom but also his notion of an Eng­land. Havde danskerne vun­det kam­pen, kan du læse denne sæt­ning på dansk i stedet for engelsk. Oops, make that, had the Danes won the bat­tle you might be read­ing this sen­tence in Dan­ish instead of Eng­lish. But for Uhtred the vic­tory is bit­ter­sweet, his mis­tress, the sor­cer­ess Queen Iseult of Corn­wall, is beheaded dur­ing the battle.

So that’s it, right? Alfred becomes Alfred the Great and the Danes are forced back to Den­mark? No. Viking raids – oh, the word “viking” doesn’t appear in The Last King­dom – con­tinue until the aus­pi­cious year of 1066. Alfred and his suc­ces­sors merely push back against the Danes, who never leave, they become Angli­cized. Although in 1016 Cnut the Great, a Dane, albeit a Chris­t­ian, is crowned king of England.

And that’s the heart of the prob­lem of the sec­ond edi­tion of The Last King­dom. Sure, the Sax­ons and the Danes are still slaugh­ter­ing each other, but his­tor­i­cally post-​Edington is a less inter­est­ing time in England.

Minor sea­son two spoiler alerts in the fol­low­ing paragraph.

A hand­some war­rior like Uhtred isn’t going to remain unat­tached for long, he mar­ries the sis­ter of the mild-​mannered Guthred (Thure Lind­hardt), a Chris­t­ian Dane and for­mer slave who becomes King of Northum­ber­land as a result of a prophecy-​dream of an abbot. But Guthred betrays Uhtred and as he sets mat­ters straight, Uhtred pro­ceeds to anger Alfred. But the king soon finds him­self in a sit­u­a­tion where he needs his chieftain’s aid.

As with first sea­son the sec­ond one ends with a fierce battle.

My dis­ap­point­ment in the sec­ond sea­son lies with the lack of char­ac­ter devel­op­ment. Per­haps you can argue that Uhtred’s strong men­tal for­ti­tude is why the tra­vails he suf­fers doesn’t alter his nature, but he’s essen­tially the same per­son since his appear­ance as an adult at the end of the first episode in series one. Alfred remains the pious king – despite his own suf­fer­ings. Only Uhtred’s priest friend, Father Beocca (Ian Hart) and Erik Thurgilson (Chris­t­ian Hill­borg), who does not appear in the first sea­son, progress as characters.

There are a few other of annoy­ances. Each episode begins with a pompous “I am Uhtred son of Uhtred” pro­claimed by Drey­mon which is fol­lowed by a sum­mary of pre­vi­ous events, which are only some­times help­ful. When a town is shown in a wide-​angle shot the old Eng­lish name is dis­played first, then the mod­ern equiv­a­lent. But in the case of Ben­fleet, the site of much of the action in the sec­ond sea­son, is it nec­es­sary to do so three times in the same episode? Are we that stu­pid? And until I receive solid proof oth­er­wise, let’s assume that Alfred’s crown is plastic.

[cap­tion id=“attachment_54680” align=“alignright” width=“206”] John “Lee” Ruberry of the Mag­nif­i­cent Seven[/caption]

So far The Last King­dom hasn’t been renewed. So I’ll with­hold my com­mit­ment to watch­ing sea­son three.

Oh, as for bare but­tocks, yes there a cou­ple of scenes with them, if you have to know.

And now you do.

John Ruberry reg­u­larly blogs at Marathon Pun­dit.

By John Ruberry

Last fall in my review of the first season of The Last Kingdom I wrote:

I’ll be back for season two, hoping for more. (More meaning better shows, not bare buttocks.) After all, the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood didn’t hit its stride until season two and it didn’t achieve consistent greatness until The Children of Earth in season three.

And so I have returned for season two of the show, which is now a co-production of Netflix and the BBC. The series is based on books by Bernard Cornwell.

The Last Kingdom didn’t reach the stride that I was hoping to find, rather, it is just running in place.

Minor season one spoiler alerts in the following paragraph.

Uhtred the Godless (Alexander Dreymon), who was enslaved as a boy by Danes and robbed of his inheritance of Bebbanburg in Northumberland by a duplicitous uncle, becomes a chieftain for King Alfred (David Dawson). England’s “last kingdom” is Alfred’s Wessex, holding out in the 9th century against what historians later named the Great Heathen Army. Alfred prevails over the Danes in the Battle of Edington, preserving not only his kingdom but also his notion of an England. Havde danskerne vundet kampen, kan du læse denne sætning på dansk i stedet for engelsk. Oops, make that, had the Danes won the battle you might be reading this sentence in Danish instead of English. But for Uhtred the victory is bittersweet, his mistress, the sorceress Queen Iseult of Cornwall, is beheaded during the battle.

So that’s it, right? Alfred becomes Alfred the Great and the Danes are forced back to Denmark? No. Viking raids–oh, the word “viking” doesn’t appear in The Last Kingdom–continue until the auspicious year of 1066. Alfred and his successors merely push back against the Danes, who never leave, they become Anglicized. Although in 1016 Cnut the Great, a Dane, albeit a Christian, is crowned king of England.

And that’s the heart of the problem of the second edition of The Last Kingdom. Sure, the Saxons and the Danes are still slaughtering each other, but historically post-Edington is a less interesting time in England.

Minor season two spoiler alerts in the following paragraph.

A handsome warrior like Uhtred isn’t going to remain unattached for long, he marries the sister of the mild-mannered Guthred (Thure Lindhardt), a Christian Dane and former slave who becomes King of Northumberland as a result of a prophecy-dream of an abbot. But Guthred betrays Uhtred and as he sets matters straight, Uhtred proceeds to anger Alfred. But the king soon finds himself in a situation where he needs his chieftain’s aid.

As with first season the second one ends with a fierce battle.

My disappointment in the second season lies with the lack of character development. Perhaps you can argue that Uhtred’s strong mental fortitude is why the travails he suffers doesn’t alter his nature, but he’s essentially the same person since his appearance as an adult at the end of the first episode in series one. Alfred remains the pious king–despite his own sufferings. Only Uhtred’s priest friend, Father Beocca (Ian Hart) and Erik Thurgilson (Christian Hillborg), who does not appear in the first season, progress as characters.

There are a few other of annoyances. Each episode begins with a pompous “I am Uhtred son of Uhtred” proclaimed by Dreymon  which is followed by a summary of previous events, which are only sometimes helpful. When a town is shown in a wide-angle shot the old English name is displayed first, then the modern equivalent. But in the case of Benfleet, the site of much of the action in the second season, is it necessary to do so three times in the same episode? Are we that stupid? And until I receive solid proof otherwise, let’s assume that Alfred’s crown is plastic.

John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

So far The Last Kingdom hasn’t been renewed. So I’ll withhold my commitment to watching season three.

Oh, as for bare buttocks, yes there a couple of scenes with them, if you have to know.

And now you do.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.