Season two begins with a grieving Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) heading north with his companions, groom Halig (Gerard Kearns) and warrior nun, Hild (Eva Birthistle). Having lost both his love and his best friend, he decides it is time to try to win back his lands in Bebbanburg. Not an easy task with no army.
This means he has little choice when he is asked to lead a party to rescue Guthred (Thure Lindhardt), a slave who would be king of Northumbria if the Northmen were put asunder. Soon Uhtred is a trusted member of Guthred’s court but his refusal to submit to Christianity and Guthred’s own hunger for power means loyalty is little more than a buzzword.
Uhtred is thrown into challenges greater than he has ever faced before with his ability to survive pushed to its limit. This season puts Uhtred’s belief that “destiny is all” to the test and sees him with the potential for new love and new alliances but also finding his oldest bonds tested. The opportunity to set old wrongs to right comes to the fore but the spectre of his promises to Alfred (David Dawson) means he cannot act as a free man.
It’s hard to sum up all the things that happen in season two of The Last Kingdom because it is an extremely fast-paced series with a lot of characters. In this particular case it’s a positive. The pace is quick but never too fast to keep track and by the end of the season you feel like you have been on a full journey with the characters. Of course, when it comes to character development not all are treated equally. Uhtred and Alfred are both rich and layered characters and Dreymon has really stepped up his performance. The same can be said for Viking Warlord Erik (Christian Hillborg) and maybe less so his brother, Sigefrid (Björn Bengtsson). Many of the rest of the characters are somewhat two dimensional.
That said, I liked watching Uhtred’s gang of loyal mates come together even if Clapa (Magnus Samuelsson) is just a slab of meat, Finan’s (Mark Rowley) only real personality trait is being Irish and Sihtric (Arnas Fedaravicius) is eye candy with daddy issues. I thought I was cut up over Leofric in season one but there is a death in season two that I will definitely never forgive the show runners for… always a good sign.
I enjoyed Uhtred’s relationship with Gisela (Peri Baumeister) who helps to temper his impetuousness and takes very little shit from anyone. I also liked his fatherly connection with Aethelflaed (Millie Brady), who is a bad ass in her own right. Beocca (Ian Hart) and Uhtred’s sister Thyra (Julia Bache-Wiig) have great chemistry and seeing the ever assured Beocca all lovesick was adorable. On the other hand I have to admit that I didn’t buy the chemistry between Aethelflaed and Erik. Erik and Siegfrid’s passion for each other was much more believable.
If this series has central theme it is loyalty and how it is built, tested, destroyed and redirected as each individual fights the battle between duty and their own personal needs and desires. Ultimately everything in Uhtred’s world is driven by different bonds of loyalty, all of which influence his ability to follow his destiny and live out his potential.
This was a cracker of a season and a big improvement on the first season. The politics of how early British societies came together and the culture clash between the Saxons and the Danes is excellent material and with the acting, dialogue and pacing stepping up I am already gearing up for season three.