The Making of England.
As the Second Season was co-produced and is about to be released on Netflix, here is a recap of the tv series called ‘the most underrated show on television’ by ‘The Guardian’ and ‘Game of Thrones without the dragons’ by ‘GQ’.
‘The Last Kingdom’ is a historical British television series based on the best-selling novels of the same name by Bernard Cornwell. Set in an England, (that is not yet England), there are 4 kingdoms, with the Kingdom of Wessex being the last to stand against the Danes. The year is 872 and the story is about Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon), who has been robbed of his birthright and in the process is captured by Vikings who raise him as a Dane and as one of their own.
Lots of people have thought that this series is the Saxon reply to the History Channel series ‘Vikings’. It is roughly around the same time period and some historical characters appear in both series. But this series is completely different in many ways, although both series are a fantastic contrast to one another. The cast includes Rutger Hauer (‘Bladerunner’), Matthew Macfadyen (‘Spooks’), Jason Flemyng (‘X-Men : First Class’), Tobias Santelmann (‘Point Break’), Emily Cox (‘Futuro Beach’) and Ian Hart (‘Boardwalk Empire’).
Episode 1 – Spoilers ahead.
The Vikings arrive at Bebbenbur (a mouthful of a name), and Uhtred’s father musters an army to fight. Uhtred’s treacherous uncle Aelfric is left in charge giving orders that if his brother falls in battle, to kill young Uhtred the heir. The Vikings meet at York to plan their takeover strategy and decide Uhtred’s father must die, as he is the most capable leader. Uhtred follows his father into battle and is subsequently adopted by Earl Ragnar for his bravery – ‘he fights like a Dane’.
At the feasting he meets Ravn, Earl Ragnar’s blind father who befriends him. Uhtred plays with Brida, (Emily Cox), another Saxon hostage and Thyra (Julia Bache-Wig), daughter of Ragnar. Sven, son of Ragnar’s man Kjartan, appears with a real sword and assaults Thyra. Uhtred defends her and Ragnar grows closer to him while banishing Kjartan and taking one eye from Sven. In revenge Kjartan goes to Aelfric to tell him his nephew is alive. In fact Aelfric has been in cahoots with Ubbe, another Viking from the beginning. He offers to pay a ransom and Father Beocca (Ian Hart) a priest who loves Uhtred, overhears. When the exchange takes place Beocca gives Uhtred the heads-up that his uncle wants him dead, and tells him to escape and go to Wessex. Although they agree on a price, Ragnar guesses what is going on and pays the ransom himself, adopting Uhtred as his son. And in that strange way of tv series suddenly everyone grows up overnight into very very very attractive people.
Ragnar the elder then suggests to Uhtred he claim Brida as his woman asap as she is now beautiful and has lots of admirers. Uhtred thinks this is a great idea and visits Brida in the forest with both of them having a very nice time of it. This bliss is shortlived as they overhear Kjartan’s men creeping up to the hall of Ragnar where they inflict horrible deaths on Uhtred’s adoptive family burning everything to the ground. Brida and Uhtred can only watch in horror, but stick around until the next day to retrieve the treasure of Ragnar, vow revenge, kill one of Aelfrics spies and find their way to Wessex. Unfortunately poor Thyra is dragged away by
One-eyed Sven who is spurting out lots of horrible rapey threats which you just know are going to make Thyra’s life beyond miserable for a long long time.
Uhtred chops the head off his Uncle’s spy and rides off to Bebbenbur to wave it at his uncle and vow revenge.
The production team who also produced ‘Downton Abbey’ are amazing and the way the action is filmed is gritty and naturalistic. It shows England in a guerrilla warfare kind of way divided by internal power struggles within the kingdoms, invaders who are determined to build their own communities, conflicts and blood-feuds between Vikings as well as the greater conflict between Saxons and Danes and religions at odds with one another. Just like today, in fact in modern Britain…