We are in a golden age of television. We are also in an age of excess. As such, we often have to pick and choose what we watch, because we simply don’t have enough time to watch everything that is good. Unfortunately, that means that a lot of great shows slip through the cracks. As a fan of TV, who watches much more TV than the regular person, I am always sad to see some of the best TV shows slip so far beneath the radar that they become obscure and unknown. In an effort to improve the standing of some of these “lost” shows, I have decided to create Spotlight, a new Feature series at TVEnthusiast. Spotlight will be a regular article series that, with each iteration, pleads the case of a different series that has somehow slipped under the radar.
The Last Kingdom
Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories serves as the source material for the BBC’s Vikings Vs British epic, The Last Kingdom. The series was created by Stephen Butchard (Vincent) who also wrote every episode. The Last Kingdom stars Alexander Dreymon (American Horror Story), David Dawson (Peaky Blinders), Charlie Murphy (Rebellion), Tobias Santelmann (The Saboteurs), Emily Cox (Homeland), and Adrian Bower (A Touch of Cloth). Though the first season aired first in the United States on BBC America, the series itself is a production of the United Kingdom’s The BBC. Netflix will be streaming the second season of The Last Kingdom in the United States, as BBC America decided not to pursue a second season of the series. In the United Kingdom, the series will still air on BBC 2. The first season of the series covered the first 2 books of The Saxon Stories, The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman. Season 2 is expected to cover the next 2 books in the series, The Lords of the North and Sword Song. The Saxon Stories currently covers 9 books, with a 10th coming this October. Season 2 of The Last Kingdom is expected to air and stream in 2017.
What is The Last Kingdom?
Fans of the Fire Emblem series will immediately notice the similarities between The Last Kingdom and the most recent entry of Fire Emblem, Fire Emblem Fates. The series follows Uhtred of Bebbanburg, an Anglo-Saxon Noble who is taken by the Danes (Vikings) as a child and raised as one of their own. After a vendetta is carried out by a Dane who broke loyalty to Uhtred’s foster family, Uhtred is again left without a home. Now having accepted the ways of the Danes as his own, Uhtred must return to the world of the Saxons, to claim his noble birthright. Uhtred’s loyalties bend and complicate as he is trapped between the Danes he considers family, which includes his Foster brother Ragnar the Younger (Tobias Santelmann) and his childhood friend Brida (Emily Cox), and the current rulers of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, who are his only hope to reclaim his lost nobility. In his struggles he encounters King Alfred (David Dawson) of the Anglo-Saxons and forms a tenuous relationship with the overly pious King.
What makes The Last Kingdom good?
Vikings, ancient England, massive battles, betrayal, conspiracy, it is all there in The Last Kingdom. Though unlike History’s Vikings, The Last Kingdom is a fun ride that fully embraces the hard partying lifestyle of the Danish Vikings. Outside of fun and violence, The Last Kingdom is loaded with great performances, including Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred, a man trapped between the worlds of the Saxons and Danes, his Saxon friend Leofric (Adrian Bower) who has a very Bron (Game of Thrones) esque role in the series, and even the iconic Rutger Hauer as Ravn, a blind Dane who served as a Grandfather figure to Uhtred when he was taken by the Danes as a child. The strength of the series is in the characters, their alliances, their belief systems, and how Uhtred navigates the spaces between these varied philosophies to reach his goals.
Why is The Last Kingdom being featured in Spotlight?
The Last Kingdom is, quite simply, dwarfed by the scope of similar series. Much of the plotting is reminiscent of Game of Thrones, while the setting is basically identical to that of History’s Vikings. While I adore Game of Thrones, I quickly fell out of love with Vikings. The Last Kingdom doesn’t approach the overall quality of Game of Thrones, but I found the characters far more interesting and relate-able than those of Vikings. Besides suffering under the shadow of larger shows, The Last Kingdom also aired on a fairly niche network in BBC America. BBC America has its share of hits with Doctor Who and Orphan Black leading the pack. Those same hits, however, are just part of the problem plaguing shows like The Last Kingdom on the cable channel. Doctor Who, Orphan Black, and just about every other hit on the channel fall squarely into the science fiction category of shows. If The Last Kingdom was full blown fantasy, rather than historical fiction, the series would have likely done better on the network. Though judging by the recent surge of awareness for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, which aired last year on BBC America to little fanfare, but just recently streamed on Netflix with far more buzz, perhaps not.
Should I watch The Last Kingdom?
Do you like Vikings? How about the show Vikings? Does the Anglo Saxon era of England intrigue you? Are you a fan of the split loyalties theme of Fire Emblem Fates? Do you like large pitch battles between medieval forces? If the answer to any of those is yes, than The Last Kingdom is, at the very least, worth a passing glance. I enjoyed the series, and you might as well.
The Last Kingdom aired 1 seasons, a total of 8 episodes, on BBC America, the first season is currently available to stream on Netflix. BBC America passed on a second season, so the BBC has partnered with Netflix for the second season of the series, which is set to debut in 2017.
Have you seen The Last Kingdom? Are you interested? Tell us in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast for more coverage of all of your favorite shows.