TV TV Reviews

Review | The Last Kingdom | Season 1

The Last Kingdom

Season 1
No. of Episodes 8
Network BBC & Netflix
Release Date October 10, 2015

 

What’s this?

Based on the book series The Saxon Stories written by Bernard Cornwell, set in 872 AD, The Last Kingdom (2015) follows Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon) as he lives and fights for a united England, even if it is at times against his will. Born as Osbert (Tom Taylor) he takes his brother’s name, Uhtred, after his father and his brother are killed fighting for their land. He then witnesses his father’s death and is captured by the Danes, fighting the Saxons for land across English soil.

What is The Last Kingdom about then?

If you know your English history, you know that post-Roman reign we entered the Anglo-Saxon era between the 5th and the 11th century. Until 927 AD England was not united and there were many kings and lords across the seven different lands which then made up England (Northumberland, Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex). Battles were frequent between the Saxons and the Danes. As the Danes had overpowered and ruled the majority of land at this point in history.

Season 1 of The Last Kingdom shows how Uhtred copes, as he is usurped from his lands and title by his uncle who wants him dead and also framed for the death of his adoptive Dane father, Ragnar Ragnarsson (Peter Gantzler). He can not go back to Bebbanburg as he will be killed. He can not go back to his Dane family as he will be killed as a traitor. As a result of this Uhtred is forced to swear his sword to the Saxon King Alfred (David Dawson) and Wessex. One of the last remaining lands to be in Saxon hands (ergo the title).

Conflicts within Uhtred’s own conscience rise. To the Saxons, he is a Dane and to the Danes he is Saxon. It is imperative to King Alfred that such a great warrior as Uhtred be fighting on his side. King Alfred does what is necessary to ensure Uhtred is on their team but not recognised as a Saxon player.

Why might I like this TV series?

What ensues is a lot of fighting, sex and smart wit. Although it sounds like a simple concoction for a TV series, the mixture of mild gore, love interests and the relationships between the characters makes it difficult to stop watching. A prime example of this in this season is the relationship between Uhtred and Leofric (Adrian Bower). Leofric also serves King Alfred and is a Saxon through and through. Although these two become friends, the ribbing they give each other is quite comical.

The love interests are frequent but not overdone. Which is believable as Uhtred is easy on the eye (another reason to give it a try). The season opens with Uhtred having one main love interest, Brida (Emily Cox), also captured a Saxon and grew up with Uhtred as a Dane. They seem a perfect match on screen. Both are skilful with their weapons and just as quick-witted as the other. Sadly this pair does not last. Brida soon partners with Uhtred’s adoptive brother, Ragnar the Younger (Tobias Santelmann), due to the issues Brida has with Uhtred wearing his sword to King Alfred and his Saxon lands and people. There are other little trivial facts about this show which prove how well thought out it is. For example, most of the Danes are Scandinavian, previously referred to as Danish; this is the origin of the Danes.

Why isn’t season 1 a perfect 10?

The only disliking I have for this show is that it feels sometimes there are so many characters and names to remember it can get slightly confusing to keep track of. Each episode is roughly one hour long; if you’re not paying attention you can quickly get lost. Also, although it isn’t overly important, I’m not a big fan of the music. Although that is neither here nor there, it can get grating.

Neither of these things ruins the show. It just means that maybe you need to pay a little extra attention at times to keep up with who’s who. Also, there are times when it can get a little overly graphic. For example, when young Uhtred sees his father killed on the battlefield, there is a straight shot of a sword going directly through his throat. Some people this wouldn’t bother, I’m one of the soft ones that it does. Despite my softness, I still managed to watch two seasons of this show in six days.

Recommendations 

This series hooked me from the outset. Uhtred’s character is strong, funny and charming. The various characters which surround him compliment the character, and vice versa. Although there is some blood and at times you find yourself stuck in a whirlwind of characters, I would certainly recommend you give this a go. If you have time I would also recommend the book series by Bernard Cornwell as they are just as compelling.

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The Last Kingdom Season 1

The Last Kingdom Season 1
7.8

Plot

8.0/10

Writing

8.0/10

Direction

7.5/10

Performances

8.0/10

Production

7.5/10

Pros

  • Interesting and consistent plot.
  • Casting choices are superb.
  • Could easily watch three or more in a row.
  • Quick wit and good humour.

Cons

  • Needs better music.
  • Too many characters to follow at times.
  • Can get a little graphic.
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