The Last Kingdom is a British historical fiction television series based on Bernard Cornwell’s series of novels The Saxon Stories. It first aired on BBC America and BBC Two in 2015, and then on Netflix in 2018.
As Alfred the Great defends his kingdom from Norse invaders, Uhtred, born a Saxon but raised by Vikings, seeks to claim his ancestral birthright.
All right, so even though this first season came out in 2015, I’m going to avoid spoilers just in case you’re like me and have somehow managed to miss seeing this medieval epic. The series starts out with Danish Vikings coming to England to invade.
Through some battles, the central character of Utread is raised by the Danes, and then once he becomes a man, he seeks to regain his English land and title. This requires a lot of political maneuvering, and there’s even an overabundance of treachery that Uthrad must face.
I love the storyline in this. There’s a central story of Utahd’s quest, but the theme that surrounds the season is the fight between the Church and the so called pagans. Both sides hold their beliefs as true and just, but both are identical in their brutalities.
We get to see the hypocrisy of the English Church as they pursue wealth and condemn any that question their motives. While Utrecht is English and baptized Christian, he’s raised by Danes and he comes to accept their beliefs.
The schemes that go on in this season are just equal to those in Game of Thrones. I mean, everyone at just about every turn are trying to position themselves in a better position of power, and then it becomes very compelling to watch this happen.
It’s also really frustrating at times, especially as we watch Utrid seemingly make allies and advances in his goals, only to be deceived, betrayed, or maybe even double-crossed.
He takes two steps forward and then three back because the English changed the conditions of an agreement, one that they never intended to honour in the first place, which then keeps him in a constant state of obligation.
Lutheran is honourable and a man of his word, but the majority of the English that he deals with are not that way at all.
There also seems to be a unifying factor among the Danes that they’re people of honour, while the English are conniving and untrustworthy, they waver in their stances, bowing to whatever will be of greatest benefit in that moment.
I was totally hooked on this season. I mean, the characters are complex for the most part. Now sometimes we meet a character and we can instantly tell exactly how they’re going to behave and whether they’re going to be an ally to Uterus or if they’re going to stab them in the back.
It’s amazing at how well the show got me invested in the characters, as well as providing development on them in the right amounts at the appropriate times.
And what’s also wonderful is that the majority of them are not static. Their arcs are very dynamic over the course of the season, which makes them worthy of investment. But that’s also the danger in a show like this. If you get too invested in the character, you might become disappointed if they end up meeting a violent end.
Alfred started off as one that I absolutely loved, partially because his actor was a villain in season two of Luther, so I just instantly see him as a bad guy.
And don’t get me wrong, I mean, in this, he’s kind of slimy, or at the very least, he’s a Noble with huge aspirations and the capacity to make them a reality.
Father Beocca is a conundrum to me. I mean, there are moments where he feels like he sways with the power, but it also seems like he’s scheming on his own in the background. Now, I still like him, but I’m always a bit wary of him.
Leo Fritz is one of my favorites from this season, partly because he introduced me to a new term, Arsling, which he calls Utrecht. I mean, he’s also a brutal warrior and then a man of huge honour, and his addition to the story creates some wonderfully heroic moments.
Brida is Uhtred’s childhood friend, but she is also a fierce warrior. I mean, she is direct and gruff and extremely tough. Her dynamic with Uhtred is awesome, and I think they make a very formidable team.
And finally, Abba is a Dane who is a blast to watch on screen. I mean, he’s outspoken, he’s proud, he’s extremely powerful, but he’s also swayed by prophecy. He’s complex because while in one way he’s made out to be the villain. But another perspective can show him to be great and honourable as a leader.
There are a bunch of other characters that Utrid comes in contact with as he goes on his journey. And some are tremendously powerful and violent, and others are just as dangerous, but they’re more cunning and secretive in their actions.
As is expected in a series like this, there are some spectacular fight sequences. The choreography is exciting, and the camera frames the battles, I think, in very immersive ways.
Sometimes we’re up close to witness just the sword blow as it pierces the flesh, and sometimes it’s very brutal, too. But other times we get these wider shots to illustrate the full scope of the fight.
Most of the time, these are also edited to be tense and urgent, and then more often than not, within that, it avoids quick successions of cuts that pull us out of the action.
The series features one on one battles, as well as larger battlefield sequences where armies just come together and clash. And I love how the camera will put us right in with the armies, allowing us to feel the claustrophobia of a setting and then the intensity of that impending fight.
Something that I really like, but it’s also a bit weird sometimes is the musical score. There are a lot of times where it’s rock instrumental with driving guitars and powerful drops. It certainly adds excitement and gives us an energetic vibe to the scenes, but it’s also just a bit weird as that sound doesn’t totally jive with the time.
I wouldn’t change it though. I found myself looking forward to these segments with those musical backgrounds.
The cinematography is beautifully executed. Whether we’re watching a foggy battlefield, Grassfield, Marsh, or even a group of nobles just congregating in court, the scenes are exquisite to view. The drab color palette creates a cold tone to the story which then complements the treachery of character actions.
I love how we get a mixture of aerials wide shots, some very intimate up close shots, and then medium wide shots that show us the context of a scene but where we don’t lose focus on the character.
There’s a great deal of emotion contained within this show. We see a variety of relationships and some are healthy and others not so much. I mean, you may find yourself rooting for different people in relationships, but they don’t always end the way that we might hope.
So this can be a quick binge Even though it’s eight episodes that are about an hour each. The reason I say it can be a quick binge is that it’s so incredibly compelling as a series. I was sucked in almost from the very beginning and it took incredible restraint not to start another episode when we were at 02:00 a.m I mean, the finale is tense and exciting too, but it also contains some surprises.
So overall, season one of the last Kingdom is a very strong start into this story that weaves historical accuracy and with dramatic elements.
I was captivated by the storytelling which was then made all the easier to just invest in because of the complex, varied, and charismatic characters.
The drama is high and while it can be frustrating to see the treachery and double-crosses, this also causes wonderful excitement and helps to pit us against certain players.
I’ve already started in on season two and will bring you my thoughts on that one very soon. There is sex, nudity, some profanity, and a bunch of brutal violence.
I am going to give season one of the last Kingdom 4/5.
So if you’ve already binged this show or are you late to the party like I am, in either way, what are some of your favourite moments in season one.
Guys thank you so much for reading The Last Kingdom Series Review (Season 1). See you next time.