Having absolutely rinsed all the streaming sites of every bonnet-and-breeches sort of period drama I usually like, in my desperation I turned to The Last Kingdom, the marauding Viking vs Saxon series on Netflix. Which, if you remember the absolute palaver I had simultaneously watching two box sets about the Borgias by accident, is a big step out of my comfort zone.
It might be set a few centuries earlier than I’m used to, and my knowledge of that period in English history hinges entirely on a vague recollection of King Alfred baking some cakes and a faint memory of my friend Sarah bringing me back a pencil and rubber set from the gift shop of the Jorvik Viking Centre in York, but once I got watching The Last Kingdom I got right into it.
Premise of The Last Kingdom
Back in the day, Anglo-Saxon England was divided into Kingdoms (Mercia, Wessex, Sussex, Essex, Kent, East Anglia, and Northumbria). Main character Uhtred charts his way in and out of favour with King Alfred (the ruler of Wessex and kind of a big deal in the seven kingdoms), and chops and changes loyalties with the Danes more often than I’ve had hot dinners.
Set against a background of factual events (apparently, but what would I know) there is already four seasons worth of invasions, battles, feuds, double crossing and axe throwing.
Even though it seems like half the characters have the same name – Aethelred, Aethelstan, Aethelflaed being some of them (and you thought Kris Jenner was unimaginative) – there’s some stand out characters who you will love or loathe. Mostly loathe.
The main character’s unusual accent and propensity to taking his top off for no reason is only overshadowed by the fact that he is just a massive busy body and could make his life so much easier if he only stopped getting involved in other people’s.
King Alfred’s wife will drive you mad. She is a nasty little know it all but I grew to respect her intelligence in the end. I really enjoyed Eliza Butterworth’s performance and would like to see her in more stuff.
Brida grows up to be a massive nark and if she wasn’t so important to Uhtred I’d love her to fall off a horse and break her back or get an arrow to the forehead. Massive misery guts.
Top Scouser Ian Hart (Professor Quirrel in the first Harry Potter film) plays Saxon Priest and advisor to the King, Father Beocca. I got more fond of his character throughout the seasons.
Poor man’s Tom Davies, you will want to smash this jumped up Mercian nobleman’s face in with a chalice of ale.
Finan & Osferth
Uhtred’s mates, and dependable good guys. They get into all kinds of scrapes with him, save each other’s lives, and all that brotherly jazz. Except they also have to call him Lord which I have tried with my friends and they were having absolutely none of it.
You might also recognise quote a few faces from loads of great British film and television. It’s very IMDb-able.
Pros and Cons
There’s some great battle scenes worthy of an episode of Game of Thrones, wonderfully unlikeable characters, and a few funny moments here and there. On the downside, I don’t think I need to see Uhtred shagging loads of different women all over the seven Kingdoms on fur blankets and I also wished they hadn’t tried to make his pointless catchphrase “Destiny is all” a thing.
If you like The Last Kingdom, you might like…
HBO certified banger Game of Thrones, Vikings on Netflix.