The Last Kingdom (TV series)
|The Last Kingdom|
|Based on||The Saxon Stories novels by Bernard Cornwell|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||58-59 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Carnival Film and Television|
BBC Two (UK)|
BBC America (US)
|First shown in||United States|
|Original release||10 October 2015 – present|
|Website BBC America|
|Website BBC Two|
The Last Kingdom is a British television series, an eight-part adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s historical novels series The Saxon Stories. The series premiered on 10 October 2015 on BBC America, and on BBC Two in the UK on 22 October 2015. A second series of ten episodes co-produced by Netflix after the exit of BBC America has been announced for a 2017 release.
Set in the late ninth century AD, when what is known as England today was divided into seven separate kingdoms. The Anglo-Saxon lands are attacked and, in many instances, ruled by Danes. The Kingdom of Wessex has been left standing alone.
The protagonist Uhtred, the orphaned son of a Saxon nobleman, is captured by Viking Danes and reared as one of them. Forced to choose between a kingdom that shares his ancestry and the people of his upbringing, his loyalties are constantly tested.
The first series' storyline roughly covers the plots of the original two novels, The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman, although condensed for the purposes of television. The second series' storyline will roughly cover the plots of the third and fourth of Cornwell's novels, The Lords of the North and Sword Song.
- Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred of Bebbanburg
- Tobias Santelmann as Ragnar the Younger
- Emily Cox as Brida
- Thomas W. Gabrielsson as Guthrum
- Joseph Millson as Ælfric
- Rune Temte as Ubba
- Matthew Macfadyen as Lord Uhtred
- Ian Hart as Beocca
- David Dawson as King Alfred
- Adrian Bower as Leofric
- Simon Kunz as Odda the Elder
- Harry McEntire as Aethelwold
- Brian Vernel as Odda the Younger
- Amy Wren as Mildrith
- Charlie Murphy as Queen Iseult
- Rutger Hauer as Ravn
- Peter Gantzler as Earl Ragnar
- Tom Taylor as Young Uhtred
- Alexandre Willaume as Kjartan
- Henning Valin Jakobsen as Storri
- Jason Flemyng as King Edmund
- Nora Hoerich as Servant
- Alec Newman as King Æthelred
- Eliza Butterworth as Aelswith
- Lorcan Cranitch as Father Selbix
- Victor McGuire as Oswald
- Laura Dobrosi as Nursemaid
- Sean Gilder as Wulfhere
- Jonas Malmsjö as Skorpa
- Eva Birthistle as Hild
- Nicholas Rowe as Brother Asser
- Julia Bache-Wiig as Thyra
- Ole Chistoffer Ertvaag as Sven
- Toby Regbo as Guthred
- Richard Rankin
- Thure Lindhardt as Erik
- Millie Brady as Gisela
- Peter McDonald as Finan
- Björn Bengtsson as Sigefrid
- Magnus Samuelsson as Clapa
- Henrik Lundström
The series started shooting in November 2014. It is produced by Carnival Films for BBC Two and BBC America with filming in Hungary and the United Kingdom. Nick Murphy (Prey, Occupation) is co-executive producing and directing multiple episodes
Swedish actors Björn Bengtsson, and Magnus Samuelsson will join the main cast according to newspaper Aftonbladet. Stephen Butchard will return as the sole script writer. Netflix has signed on as a co-production partner for the second series.
Series 1 (2015)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||UK airdate||UK viewers|
|1||1||"Episode 1"||Nick Murphy||Stephen Butchard||10 October 2015||22 October 2015||2.02|
|In 866, the Viking Ragnar leads a fleet of dragonships to the coast of Northumbria. He lands and kills the eldest son of the Saxon King of Bebbanburg, Uhtred (Matthew Macfadyen). Uhtred engages Ragnar and his viking army at Eoferwic. The Saxon army is on the verge of victory when a second wave in the army ecstatically attacks too early, and the entire army is flanked by the Vikings. Uhtred is killed and his 10-year old son, Uhtred, and a girl called Brida are taken as slaves by Ragnar. Living on Ragnar's estate, the boy saves the Earl's daughter Thyra from Sven, son of Kjartan, Ragnar's shipbuilder. Kjartan is banished and Sven is blinded in one eye. Uhtred and Brida are raised as Danes. In adulthood Uhtred and Brida see Earl Ragnar killed and Thyra taken by Kjartan and Sven. Uhtred decides to embark on the task of regaining his lands from his uncle who is aligned with the Danes.|
|2||2||"Episode 2"||Nick Murphy||Stephen Butchard||17 October 2015||29 October 2015||1.54|
|The death of Earl Ragnar and an English uprising in the North is blamed on Uhtred. Appealing his innocence to Ubba and Guthrum, Uhtred witnesses the death of the East Anglian King Edmund in the manner of a Christian saint. When his appeal is rejected Uhtred and Brida flee to Winchester, capital of Wessex, the last surviving English kingdom. Alfred is wary of the pagan Uhtred and Brida and when Uhtred supplies information of an impeding Viking attack he advises King Aethelred to imprison them pending the outcome of the battle.|
|3||3||"Episode 3"||Anthony Byrne||Stephen Butchard||24 October 2015||5 November 2015||1.58|
|King Aethelred and Alfred win the battle but the king is mortally wounded, bequeathing his crown to Alfred rather than his own son. Uhtred and Brida are released and Alfred seeks a peace treaty with Guthrum and Ubba. Uhtred advises Alfred what the Danes fear and watches Alfred negotiate a peace to give Wessex time to prepare for future battles. Uhtred trains the Saxons after pledging his allegiance to Alfred for a year. Brida miscarries Uhtred's child. Earl Ragnar's son, Ragnar the younger, appears. Realizing that Uhtred will not break his word to Alfred, she leaves with Ragnar.|
|4||4||"Episode 4"||Anthony Byrne||Stephen Butchard||31 October 2015||12 November 2015||1.60|
|In order to gain land and become an Ealdorman, Uhtred is persuaded by Alfred to marry Mildrith. Unbeknownst to Uhtred she bears the burden of her deceased father's debt, two thousand shillings, to the church. Uhtred realises he has been tricked. Despite this, love blossoms and Mildrith becomes pregnant. The Danes, under Guthrum and Ragnar the Younger, capture the fortified town of Wareham. During peace talks Uhtred and nine others including a priest are used in a hostage exchange with the Danes. He meets his brother Ragnar and Brida again. Meanwhile Mildrith gives birth to a son. When the peace collapses, with Ubba's imminent return from Ireland, the hostages are all killed except Uhtred who is allowed to leave after Ragnar's intervention. He spies a large Danish fleet, under Guthrum, and lights the first beacon warning Wessex of a new invasion.|
|5||5||"Episode 5"||Ben Chanan||Stephen Butchard||7 November 2015||19 November 2015||1.60|
|The Danish fleet land in the south but lose many ships in a huge storm. Alfred goes south to defend against Guthrum and Uhtred joins the force led by Odda the Elder facing Ubba and the Danes at Cynwit on the Severn. Uhtred sneaks into the Danish camp and sets fire to some of their ships, causing confusion. But he is spotted and forced to fight Ubba to the death. He kills Ubba and Odda's forces arrive and defeat the Danes. But Odda is injured and, in Winchester, Odda the Younger persuades Alfred that the victory was his work. Uhtred objects and is humiliated by Alfred. Mildrith, Uhtred and their baby son (also Uhtred) return to their lands. Uhtred kills Oswald, the estate's steward, after realising that he has been cheating him.|
|6||6||"Episode 6"||Ben Chanan||Stephen Butchard||14 November 2015||26 November 2015||1.55|
|Uhtred and Leofric leave Wessex with armed fighters dressed as Danes, to raid Cornwall and pay off Uhtred's debts. They are approached by Brother Asser, a monk. His king Peradur pays Uhtred and his band to attack a nearby fort held by Skorpa and his Danish warriors. Uhtred and Skorpa double-cross and kill Peradur and his men. Skorpa double-crosses Uhtred to take the king's treasure. But Peradur's pagan queen Iseult shows Uhtred the hidden treasure. Uhtred pays off his debt to the church with some of the plunder. Uhtred and Iseult arrive at Alfred's court, where Uhtred is accused in the Witan by Asser of raiding Cornish territory. Leofric, who is forced to testify against Uhtred, pleads with Alfred to resolve the dispute by fighting Uhtred to the death.|
|7||7||"Episode 7"||Peter Hoar||Stephen Butchard||21 November 2015||3 December 2015||1.54|
|During Leofric and Uhtred's fight to the death, Guthrum's Danes attack. Uhtred, Leofric and Iseult rescue Hild and escape, hiding in the Somerset marshlands. There they discover Alfred, fleeing the Danes with his family. The king sends a message to Wulfhere, Beocca and Asser, who rally to him with their remaining forces. Iseult cures Alfred's sick son Edward, but warns that another child will die as a result. Skorpa's fleet of ships is moored elsewhere in the marshes. Uhtred and his men lure the guards into the deeper marshes, where they are killed and their ships set alight.|
|8||8||"Episode 8"||Peter Hoar||Stephen Butchard||28 November 2015||10 December 2015||1.65|
|Wulfhere and his men desert Alfred to join Guthrum. Alfred and his remaining force journey to Odda in the hope of gathering an army. Uhtred discovers his son has died, fulfilling Iseult's prophecy. Iseult also reveals that Uhtred's sister Thyra is still alive. Alfred sends messages for loyal troops to gather at Egbert's Stone. Odda the Younger rejects Alfred's request for troops. Odda kills his son for his treason, and his men join Alfred and meet up with the other troops. Alfred's army defeats Guthrum, however Leofric and Iseult are both killed. Young Ragnar and Brida are taken as hostages to secure the new peace with the Danes, and Guthrum converts to Christianity having seen Alfred's victory as proof that his 'God is with him'. Uhtred, Hild, and Halig ride north to Bebbanburg.|
The Last Kingdom premiered on 10 October 2015 in the United States on BBC America, and was broadcast shortly after in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 22 October 2015. It became available online in the United States via Netflix on July 6, 2016. It was added to Netflix on 28 Dec 2015 in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.
The series has met a positive critical response. It has a 92% Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 25 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. On Metacritic, it holds a score of 78/100 based on 15 reviews.
Reviewing the first episode in UK daily newspaper The Guardian, Sam Wollaston decided that, "It's wise not to get too attached to anyone in The Last Kingdom. He noted that, "The shadow of Game of Thrones hangs over The Last Kingdom. Comparison is inevitable, because of the hairy dudes with swords, daggers, cloaks, leather, mud, blood, the imaginative violence. The odd lady too – beautiful ones, wise ones, brave ones, bad ones and dead ones, obviously. […] But it's not just an attempt at a Game of British Thrones, on a smaller scale, with a little less sex. Crucially, it isn’t pure fantasy, this is historical drama (based on the books by Bernard Cornwell). Dungeons there may be, but no dragons. I wouldn't bother taking notes, it's not going to help you on University Challenge, but this is about a real time and a real place, some of these hairy dudes were actual dudes". Wollaston finished by concluding that, "Most importantly of all, it's a ton of fun".
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Charlotte Runcie gave the opening episode 4 stars out of 5. Like Wollaston, she remarked on the similarities with Game of Thrones, saying: "At first, the echoes of Game of Thrones were plentiful: battles, gore, abuse of women, people claiming to be kings, and famous actors meeting grisly ends. Matthew Macfadyen had barely got his chainmail on before a sword was thrust into his windpipe and his body nailed to a post". However, she noted, "The similarities mostly end there […] The Last Kingdom was less flashy than Game of Thrones, more serious and more grey in visual tone, with a fraction of the swearing or nudity". Although she found that, "There were a few fantasy clichés in the script that should have been cut", she ended by writing that, "overall this was a fresh and enticing introduction to an atmospheric world. There were satisfyingly high production values, a bloodthirsty appetite for violence and a proper cliffhanger. Sign me up".
Sean O’Grady in The Independent found some of the language gave the series, "a satisfyingly earthy quality" but thought that the plot was, "although less silly than Game of Thrones, […] a little convoluted". He observed that, "Bernard Cornwell's historical novels, and their TV adaptations such as this, have been highly successful – the Peninsular War saga Sharpe being a fine example – but the writing can be constrained by the stilted clichés of the genre, give or take the odd 'turd'. Thus: 'Every man must be prepared to die'; 'He fights like a Dane'; 'You're a son to me now' […]" and concluded his review of the first episode by saying, "Uhtred, with his mixed-up heritage, has the potential to become a more emotionally complex Prince of Denmark; but so far The Last Kingdom is, well, a bit of a flying turd".
The television reviewer for Private Eye was more critical, arguing that The Last Kingdom demonstrated how Game of Thrones 'haunts the BBC', and that the series was directly derivative of both fantasy series and European dramas such as The Killing and Wallander, yet lacking the features that have made such series successful.
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- Tartaglione, Nancy (2016-06-09). "Netflix Joins 'The Last Kingdom' As Co-Producer Of Historical Epic's Season 2". Retrieved 2016-08-17.
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- Wollaston, Sam (23 October 2015). "The Last Kingdom review: The Vikings are here – and it's wise not to get too attached to anyone". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
- Runcie, Charlotte (23 October 2015). "The Last Kingdom, BBC Two, review: 'the thinking person's Game of Thrones'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
- O’Grady, Sean (22 October 2015). "The Last Kingdom, TV review: This Viking saga is less silly than Game of Thrones - and less exciting, too". The Independent. London. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
- 'Eye TV', The Private Eye 1404, p. 14.
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