If you’re a fan of historical dramas, you may be wondering if The Last Kingdom is worth your time. In short, with its action-packed battle scenes, compelling characters, and engaging plot based on real historical events, The Last Kingdom makes for highly entertaining and binge-worthy viewing.
In this approximately 3000 word review, we’ll take an in-depth look at what makes The Last Kingdom such an acclaimed and popular historical drama series. We’ll cover topics such as the show’s background and origins, its plot and characters, production values like costumes and sets, comparison to similar shows in the genre, and reception by viewers and critics.
Whether you’re considering starting the show or are already a fan looking to better appreciate its elements, this review will provide extensive details and analysis to help you understand why The Last Kingdom is regarded as one of the best historical dramas on television.
Background and Origins
Based on Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories/The Warrior Chronicles Books
The Last Kingdom is a captivating TV series that is based on Bernard Cornwell’s popular book series known as The Saxon Stories or The Warrior Chronicles. Cornwell is a renowned historical fiction author who is known for his meticulous research and attention to detail.
His books provide a rich and immersive portrayal of the events and characters during the tumultuous time of the Danish invasions in 9th century England.
By adapting Cornwell’s books, The Last Kingdom brings to life the gripping storyline and complex characters that have captivated readers for years. The TV series stays true to the essence of the books, showcasing the political intrigue, epic battles, and personal struggles of the main character, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, as he navigates the treacherous world of Viking invasions and Anglo-Saxon politics.
Produced by BBC and Netflix
The Last Kingdom is a joint production between the BBC and Netflix, two giants in the entertainment industry. This collaboration ensures that the series benefits from the expertise and resources of both organizations.
The BBC is well-known for its high-quality period dramas, while Netflix has revolutionized the way we consume television with its streaming platform.
The partnership between these two powerhouses results in a visually stunning production that is able to reach a global audience. The Last Kingdom boasts impressive production values, from the meticulous attention to historical accuracy in the costumes and sets, to the breathtaking cinematography that transports viewers back in time.
Set in 9th Century England During Danish Invasions
The Last Kingdom takes place during a tumultuous period in English history, when Viking raiders from Denmark were sweeping across the land. Set in the 9th century, the series showcases the fierce battles and shifting alliances that characterized this era.
It explores the clash between the pagan Vikings and the Christian Anglo-Saxons, highlighting the cultural and religious tensions of the time.
The historical backdrop of the Danish invasions serves as a compelling setting for the intricate political maneuverings and personal journeys of the characters. The Last Kingdom delves into the complexities of power struggles, loyalty, and identity, as the characters navigate a world torn apart by war and invasion.
For more information about Bernard Cornwell’s books and the historical events depicted in The Last Kingdom, you can visit https://www.bernardcornwell.net/.
Plot Summary and Key Characters
Uhtred of Bebbanburg – Dispossessed Saxon Nobleman
One of the key characters in The Last Kingdom is Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a dispossessed Saxon nobleman who is taken as a slave by the Vikings after his father’s death. Uhtred, played brilliantly by Alexander Dreymon, undergoes a dramatic transformation as he navigates the complex world of political intrigue and battles for power.
Uhtred’s journey is filled with challenges and conflicts as he struggles to regain his birthright and protect his people.
Brida – Uhtred’s Childhood Friend and Fellow Warrior
Brida, portrayed by Emily Cox, is a fierce and loyal warrior who shares a deep bond with Uhtred. She is a complex character, torn between her loyalty to her Viking heritage and her friendship with Uhtred.
Brida’s character adds depth and emotional resonance to the series, and her relationship with Uhtred is one of the highlights of the show.
King Alfred – Visionary King Intent on Unifying England
King Alfred, played by David Dawson, is a visionary leader who is determined to unify England and defend it against the Viking invasions. Alfred’s character is based on the historical figure of King Alfred the Great, and the portrayal in the series captures his intelligence, strategic thinking, and inner struggles.
His interactions with Uhtred form a central part of the storyline, showcasing the complex dynamics between the Saxons and Vikings.
Overview of Key Plot Points and Story Arcs
The Last Kingdom is set in the 9th century during the time of Viking invasions in England. The series follows Uhtred’s journey as he finds himself torn between his Saxon roots and his Viking upbringing.
With each season, the story unfolds with gripping plot twists, intense battles, and political machinations.
The show expertly weaves together historical events and fictional elements to create a compelling narrative. It explores themes of identity, loyalty, honor, and the clash of cultures. The plot takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, with moments of triumph, heartache, and suspense.
Throughout the series, viewers are treated to breathtaking cinematography, stunning battle scenes, and captivating performances by the cast. The attention to detail, both in terms of historical accuracy and character development, is commendable.
Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply a fan of gripping storytelling, The Last Kingdom is a must-watch series that will keep you hooked from the very beginning.
When it comes to evaluating a TV series, one of the key aspects to consider is its production values. The Last Kingdom is no exception, as it impresses viewers with its meticulous attention to detail and high-quality production elements.
From the casting of compelling lead and supporting actors to the stunning cinematography and the immersive costume and set design, this series truly excels in bringing the 9th Century England to life.
Casting of Compelling Lead and Supporting Actors
A crucial factor in the success of any TV series is the casting of its actors. In the case of The Last Kingdom, the casting director has done an exceptional job in selecting actors who not only embody their characters but also bring depth and complexity to their performances.
The lead actor, Alexander Dreymon, delivers a captivating portrayal of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon nobleman torn between his loyalty to his birthright and his Viking upbringing. The supporting actors, including David Dawson as King Alfred and Emily Cox as Brida, further enhance the series with their talent and charisma.
Cinematography brings 9th Century England to Life
The cinematography in The Last Kingdom deserves special praise for its ability to transport viewers back in time to the 9th Century England. The breathtaking landscapes, sweeping aerial shots, and carefully crafted compositions create a visually stunning experience that captures the essence of the era.
Whether it’s the sprawling battle scenes or the intimate character moments, the cinematography adds depth and authenticity to the storytelling, making the series a visually immersive treat for the audience.
Costume and Set Design Anchor Viewers in the Time Period
Another aspect of the production values that sets The Last Kingdom apart is its exceptional costume and set design. The meticulous attention to historical accuracy is evident in every detail, from the intricately designed armor and weapons to the elaborate costumes worn by the characters.
The set design, from the grand halls of Wessex to the Viking encampments, transports viewers into the world of the 9th Century, making them feel like they are truly witnessing a bygone era. The authenticity of the costumes and sets not only enhances the visual appeal of the series but also helps to anchor viewers in the time period, immersing them in the story and its historical context.
Comparison to Other Historical Dramas
More Action-Oriented than Downton Abbey
The Last Kingdom stands out from other historical dramas like Downton Abbey with its thrilling and action-packed storyline. While Downton Abbey focused on the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic staff, The Last Kingdom takes us into the heart of the Viking Age.
The series is filled with epic battles, sword fights, and intense political intrigue. Fans of action-packed shows will find themselves on the edge of their seats as they follow the adventures of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon nobleman caught between two worlds.
Darker Tone than The Tudors
Compared to The Tudors, which portrayed the scandalous and extravagant reign of King Henry VIII, The Last Kingdom has a much darker and grittier tone. Set in the 9th century, the series depicts the brutal realities of war, the clash of cultures, and the struggle for power.
With its realistic portrayal of medieval life, The Last Kingdom immerses viewers in a world where violence and treachery are a constant threat. It delves into the complexities of human nature and the moral dilemmas faced by its characters, making it a captivating watch for those who enjoy thought-provoking historical dramas.
Less Fantasy Elements than Game of Thrones
Unlike Game of Thrones, which incorporates elements of fantasy and magic, The Last Kingdom is grounded in historical reality. While both shows share a similar medieval setting and political intrigue, The Last Kingdom focuses more on the historical events and characters of the time.
It offers a glimpse into the conflicts between the Saxons and the Danes, highlighting the real-life struggles and alliances that shaped the history of England. If you prefer a historical drama that stays true to the facts and avoids the fantastical, then The Last Kingdom is a great choice.
Reception and Reviews
Positive Response from Critics
The Last Kingdom has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, establishing itself as a highly acclaimed TV series. Critics have praised the show for its gripping storyline, well-developed characters, and impressive production values.
The attention to historical detail and the authenticity of the setting have also been commended. The series has been lauded for its strong performances, particularly by lead actor Alexander Dreymon, who portrays the protagonist Uhtred of Bebbanburg with great skill and charisma.
The Last Kingdom’s ability to captivate both critics and viewers alike is a testament to its quality and craftsmanship.
High Scores on Review Aggregator Sites
Review aggregator sites have consistently given The Last Kingdom high scores, further cementing its status as a top-notch TV series. On Rotten Tomatoes, the show has an impressive approval rating of over 90%, with critics praising its compelling storytelling and impressive production values.
IMDb, the popular online database for movies and TV shows, also reflects the positive reception of The Last Kingdom, with an average rating of 8.4 out of 10 based on thousands of user reviews. These high scores indicate the widespread appreciation and enjoyment of the series among both critics and viewers.
Built a Loyal Fan Following Over the Seasons
Since its debut, The Last Kingdom has managed to build a dedicated and loyal fan following. The show’s ability to connect with its audience on an emotional level and keep them engaged with its intricate plotlines and character development has been instrumental in cultivating this devoted fan base.
The Last Kingdom has spawned numerous online communities and fan forums, where enthusiasts passionately discuss the show’s themes, theories, and favorite moments. Fan art, fanfiction, and cosplay inspired by the series can be found all over social media platforms, showcasing the immense love and dedication of its fanbase.
With its gritty action sequences, strong character development, and compelling plot rooted in real history, The Last Kingdom has captured the imaginations of viewers and critics alike. Over its five seasons so far, the series has built up a passionate fanbase and received praise for the high quality of its production and acting.
While historical inaccuracies are present for dramatic effect, the show strives to maintain the core spirit of the chaotic world of 9th century England. For those who enjoy complex characters, high stakes drama, and brutal on-screen battles, The Last Kingdom is definitely worth your viewing time.