This year, while browsing through Netflix show after Netflix show, I came across The Last Kingdom. Like so many others, I was suffering through Game of Thrones withdrawals, and all of the hours spent playing Dungeons & Dragons or watching Lord of the Rings couldn’t quench my fantasy thirst.
I almost immediately got turned off by the series because it leans heavily on the historical aspect rather than fantasy, which is my jam. However I kept watching, and I found myself head over heels for The Last Kingdom!
The year is 872, and many of the separate kingdoms of what we now know as England have fallen to the invading Danes, leaving the great kingdom of Wessex standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alfred.
Against this turbulent backdrop lives our hero, Uhtred. Born the son of a Saxon nobleman, he is captured by the Danes and raised as one of their own. Forced to choose between the country of his birth and the people of his upbringing, his loyalties are ever tested.
What is he? Saxon or Dane?
On a quest to reclaim his birthright, Uhtred must tread a dangerous path between both sides if he is to play his part in the birth of a new nation and, ultimately, recapture his ancestral lands.
At the time of writing this article The Last Kingdom has come out with all three seasons and no information on if there will be a season four. But the three seasons that are available are worth every second you have.
A huge part of The Last Kingdom are the Danes who have come to the land to fight with the various Saxons and with them, they bring their sorcerers, religion, and unique customs. While there are many shows available that showcase the Viking people and their culture, I particularly loved their portrayal in this series because they are shown to be much more than barbarians.
While they do have iconic face paint, axes, and beards, they also display displays of genuine affection towards their lovers/family and deep seeded beliefs of honor and glory. You can easily romanticize with their culture since it varies so much with the medieval knights we are exposed to so often. At the same time, it also peeks into just how chaotic it was back then.
A lot of big budget films make grand scenes of sieges, combat, and the lifespan of people. In The Last Kingdom, death is all too real as almost no one in the series is safe. When combat occurs, it looks and feels real; it’s gritty, in your face, and those that fight look like normal men. Of course, the main cast are all square jawed and pretty, but the surrounding cast all look like normal people. This is such a breath of fresh air since there are plenty of hate/lovable characters that look so normal. It’s only their actions that make them who they are.
I should also mention, I never thought anything about arrows until this show. Now I fear them, since even the strongest of men can be felled by a well placed arrow. Or even more dangerous: the battle of religions.
A majority of The Last Kingdom has a very realistic spin to it. So, when we are first introduced to those who wield magic abilities like Seers, they come off initially as frauds who simply toy with the minds of those that are stronger than themselves. However as time goes on, the line blurs between pure coincidence and “Holy shit, are they really sorcerers!?”. Especially in Season 3 with one of my favorite characters, Skade!
A lot of times, in these shows, it can take a while for it to be entertaining. However, for The Last Kingdom, almost every single episode is so packed with action, adventure, and character development you just cannot help but yearn for so much more. The first season I watched like a normal human being, taking an episode a night. I found myself getting deeper and deeper immersed with the show, to the point where all I wanted was nothing but watching more.
I binged the entire second season in a matter of two days.
I may or may not have called off of work in order to do it. It was so hard to stop watching when in one, single episode you see the main characters siege an entire fortress, and then in the next episode they hint to even more drama. Yet none of it feels rushed at all, and there is enough time for each character.
I highly recommend The Last Kingdom to any and all who love Vikings, combat, accents, and a bit of a history lesson! It was a ton of fun to be taken on a crazy ride, filled with with death, glory, and beards!