Hearing people refer to The Last Kingdom as a grittier, more realistic version of Game Of Thrones felt like a sure fire way to write the show off before it even began. Set during the time of the Viking Invasions of Britain, The Last Kingdom quells any doubts with a well written, brutally realistic series, relying on the charisma of its many characters to drive the story of Uhtred Ragnarson (Alexander Dreymon) forward. The time period is perfectly captured in both atmosphere and set design too, complimented by a compelling story that draws from the rich history of Britain across its 8 hour long episodes.
Based on true events from history, the story begins in the year 872 with Britain fractured into two distinct factions. The Danes (Vikings) have invaded Britain and control Northumberland and the neighbouring regions in the North. The Kingdom Of Wessex in the south stands defiantly as the last nation controlled by the English, under the rule of King Alfred (David Dawson). With the nations teetering on the verge of war, caught in the middle of this crossfire is Saxon-born Uhtred Ragnarson.
After seeing his Father killed in battle, Uhtred is captured and raised as a Dane, forced to become a son to Ragnar Lothbrook. After witnessing betrayal and his past literally going up in flames, he flees to Wessex with fellow companion Brida (Emily Cox) in a bid to reclaim his rightful birth right as a Saxon Elderman. With both Dane and Saxon after him, the story sees Uhtred try to find his rightful place in the world. This sets the backdrop for the preceding episodes that regularly skip between Northumberland and Wessex. Much like Game Of Thrones and Vikings before it, The Last Kingdom boasts a rich history and lore that it draw on and this can be seen through much of the world building.
Historical fiction lives and breathes by the world it paints and the realism it tries to depict and in that respect, The Last Kingdom does a really impressive job. Although history buffs are such to find some anachronisms and a few of the events twisted for dramatic purposes, for the most part The Last Kingdom is incredibly faithful to the real-life story told. It helps too that the world is beautifully presented, with numerous establishing shots of the world and brutally depicted fight scenes helping to sell this inhospitable world.
Although the show doesn’t present every epic battle, reducing some to shots before and after the ensuing carnage, The Last Kingdom more than makes up for that with some tense and brutally realistic fights. From a chase sequence through tall marshland to a one on one fight lit by torchlight, The Last Kingdom does an excellent job presenting these bursts of action, keeping the pacing consistent throughout the show’s length.
While some may lament the slow pace and the constant switching perspectives, The Last Kingdom solidifies itself as a very impressive historical show indeed. With the tantalising prospect of a second and third season looming, The Last Kingdom promises more of the same going forward and that can only be a good thing. With a charismatic group of characters at its core and a story rich in history, The Last Kingdom is an impressive show indeed and one we’ll be watching with a keen eye going forward.