SPOILERS: The Last Kingdom producer talks through the deaths in season 4


The Last Kingdom is haunted by death. Netflix’s epic show is set in medieval England, so it would pretty have to be. Life was pretty grim and short back then, grimmer and shorter if you were involved in a lot of wars, like the characters on this show.

But even by its own lofty standards, The Last Kingdom season 4, which just dropped on Netflix, has characters dying left and right. If you’re like us, you’re still coming to grips with them and want to know what the producers were thinking when they killed these characters off. Happily, executive producer Nigel Marchant is here to talk us through it. (And if you’re not like us and haven’t seen the whole season yet, you may want to turn back now, because there will be SPOILERS from here on out.)

Although he actually died at the end of the third season, the most important death this season might be that of King Alfred (David Dawson), who didn’t live to see his dream of a united England come to fruition.

“It was a terrible loss,” Marchant told Variety. “David was very fantastic and we loved working with him. I think he brought such gravitas to the show. I think it mirrors real history in that sense.”

"It was always Alfred’s dream to bring these separate kingdoms together to form England. In history, it was three generations before they got there. His grandson eventually became the first king of England, so I think they are always haunted by his quest to unite the kingdoms and his belief that Christianity and the Church was the way forward for the nation. Even without him, the show is still about the pursuit of that goal. What we go through this season is Uhtred’s realization that he is fundamental within that."

One person definitely feeling that pressure is Alfred’s son Edward, who is now ruling over Wessex. “I think throughout the series we see Edward making a lot of mistakes and learning from them, then changing his notion of what it is to be a king,” Marchant said. “Sometimes you have to take risks and make the hard decisions. That’s the position you are in as a ruler. So we really wanted to explore that and what that means to suddenly be in that position of duty and being in control of other people’s lives. That goes right up to the last episode where he has to make those decisions with his head and not his heart.”

Image: The Last Kingdom/Netflix

But that’s enough about who died last season. How about the newly harvested souls?

We have to start with Beocca (Ian Hart), a priest who had served as a father figure for main character Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) since was just a boy. In the early part of the season, Uhtred decides it’s time to try and retake his ancestral home of Bebbanburg from his uncle Ælfric, who seized it way back in the series premiere. Beocca dies in the failed attempt, sacrificing himself for Uhtred. It’s devastating.

Image: The Last Kingdom/Netflix

“It was really hard to lose Ian Hart, who is such a fantastic actor, but we’ve always tried to show that the battles have real consequences,” Marchant said. “That is then folded in with Uhtred’s impetuousness in feeling that this is the right moment to retake Bebbanburg, without fully realizing the repercussions. So he loses his father figure, the person that has always been there for him, has guided him, has fought with him, has been his moral compass in many ways.”

See? Devastating. And it messes Uhtred up proper. At least he still has Finan (Mark Rowley) to help him through these dark times. “They can’t always talk to each other, certainly back then, but there is a connection,” said Marchant. “They are there to support each other through the good and the bad. I think, as a fan of the show myself, I love that relationship. I love the gang that they form together and the support that they get from each other.”

Image: The Last Kingdom/Netflix

Then there’s Aethelred (Toby Regbo), the would-be king of Mercia. He’s gained a reputation over the years of being the least likable man in England, but before he dies from injuries sustained in battle with the Danes, he tries to set a few things right. Was his redemption genuine?

“I’d like to think it was genuine redemption” said marchant. “That’s how I read it. I think in those moments when you reflect back on everything you’ve done in your life, I think he learned from his mistakes and regretted them. I think there is certainly a moment between him and Aethelflaed when he acknowledges how cruel he had been. Ambition had taken over.”

Skipping to the end of the season, Edward puts wife Aethelred’s Aethelflaed (Millie Brady) in charge of Mercia, but only after Uhtred, Aethelflaed’s lover, turns the job down, even though it means that he and Aethelflaed cannot together. Why does Uhtred make this decision?

"I think Uhtred does know his weaknesses at times, and I think part of the journey is realizing the mistakes that he makes. Although he is a fabulous leader, he doesn’t want to lead a country. He’s not a politician and that’s not what he wants to do. He’s always wanted to get back to Bebbanburg and whatever else happens in the country, he doesn’t care. That is is legacy. That is what he wants to leave for his children, his ancestral home and his reputation, not to be stuck in the politics of court. He’s a fighter, a warrior. He loves the bloodlust, the thrill of the fight. I think Aethelflaed helps him realize and acknowledge that. And I think he also realizes that she is the right person to rule. She puts Mercia before anything else."

And finally, there’s Brida (Emily Cox), who grew up with Uhtred but ended up going down a very different path. “Poor Brida. She gets betrayed by everyone!” said Marchant. “She couldn’t be seen as a leader herself. She has to have these men that she allies with, and time and time again they betray her for their own purposes. I think she sees that within Uhtred because he turns on his childhood friend. She has always adored the Dane way of living and he goes against that. She can never forgive that. I think at the end of the season we see her absolutely destroyed by this final betrayal and the weakness of men, whereas she is so single-minded.”

Image: The Last Kingdom/Netflix

And we didn’t even get the deaths of Cnut and Steapa! Will there be any characters left by the end of season 5?

dark. Next. Is The Last Kingdom historically accurate? 20 Questions Answered

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