The Last Kingdom (TV series)
The Last Kingdom is a British historical fiction television series based on Bernard Cornwell's The Saxon Stories series of novels. The first series of eight episodes premiered on 10 October 2015 on BBC America, and on BBC Two in the UK on 22 October 2015. A second series of eight episodes began airing on BBC Two in the UK in March 2017, co-produced by Netflix after the exit of BBC America. As of April 2018, Netflix was in production of a third season to air exclusively on the streaming service in 2018.
|The Last Kingdom|
|Based on||The Saxon Stories novels by Bernard Cornwell|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||16 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||58–59 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Carnival Film and Television|
BBC Two (UK)|
BBC America (US)
|First shown in||United States|
|Original release||10 October 2015– present|
|Website BBC America|
|Website BBC Two|
The series is set in the late 9th century AD, when England is divided into seven separate kingdoms. The Anglo-Saxon lands are gradually attacked, plundered, and effectively ruled by Viking Danes in many areas. The Kingdom of Wessex remains the last major stronghold against the Danes.
The protagonist is Uhtred of Bebbanburg. Several men of that name existed and ruled Bebbanburg (Bamburgh Castle), but little is known of their actual lives. Bernard Cornwell is descended from them and decided to invent a history based on actual historic events.
The tale has its main character be re-baptised as Uhtred after his elder brother is killed by the invading Danes. Then his father along with other Saxon noblemen of Northumbria are killed in battle with these same Danes. Only his uncle and step-mother survive. Uhtred and a Saxon girl named Brida are taken as slaves by Earl Ragnar, now settled in Danish Northumbria which becomes their adopted home as they grow older. Time passes and Ragnar's daughter Thyra is about to be married, but the Danes attack the night before the wedding and set the hall ablaze in which the whole family are sleeping. Ragnar is burned alive, and Thyra is taken as a slave. Only Uhtred and Brida escape, as they had been in the woods watching the charcoal burn.
The attackers are led by Kjartan, a disgruntled Viking who had been banished by Ragnar from his lands years earlier for an offense committed by Kjartan's son Sven. Uhtred vows to avenge his adoptive father's death, while simultaneously hoping to reclaim Bebbanburg from his uncle—who seeks to kill Uhtred in order to hold onto the land of Bebbanburg.
Uhtred is forced to choose between a kingdom that shares his ancestry and the people of his upbringing, and his loyalties are constantly tested.
The first series' story line roughly covers the plots of the novels The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman, although they are condensed for the purposes of television. The second series covers the plots of Cornwell's novels The Lords of the North and Sword Song.
- Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred of Bebbanburg
- David Dawson as King Alfred
- Tobias Santelmann as Ragnar the Younger
- Emily Cox as Brida
- Adrian Bower as Leofric (series 1)
- Thomas W. Gabrielsson as Guthrum (series 1)
- Simon Kunz as Odda the Elder
- Harry McEntire as Aethelwold
- Rune Temte as Ubba (series 1)
- Joseph Millson as Aelfric
- Brian Vernel as Odda the Younger (series 1)
- Amy Wren as Mildrith (series 1)
- Charlie Murphy as Queen Iseult (series 1)
- Ian Hart as Beocca
- Thure Lindhardt as Guthred (series 2)
- Eva Birthistle as Hild (supporting series 1, main series 2)
- Gerard Kearns as Halig (supporting series 1, main series 2)
- David Schofield as Abbot Eadred (series 2)
- Peri Baumeister as Gisela (series 2)
- Eliza Butterworth as Aelswith (supporting series 1, main series 2)
- Peter McDonald as Brother Trew (series 2)
- Mark Rowley as Finan (series 2)
- Alexandre Willaume as Kjartan (supporting series 1, main series 2)
- Julia Bache-Wiig as Thyra (supporting series 1, main series 2)
- Ole Christoffer Ertvaag as Sven (supporting series 1, main series 2)
- Björn Bengtsson as Sigefrid (series 2)
- Cavan Clerkin as Father Pyrlig (series 2)
- Arnas Fedaravičius as Sihtric (series 2)
- Christian Hillborg as Erik (series 2)
- Jeppe Beck Laursen as Haesten (series 2)
- Toby Regbo as Aethelred, Lord of the Mercians (series 2)
- Millie Brady as Princess Aethelflaed (series 2)
- James Northcote as Aldhelm (series 2)
- Adrian Bouchet as Steapa (series 2)
- Ewan Mitchell as Osferth (series 2)
- Matthew Macfadyen as Lord Uhtred
- Rutger Hauer as Ravn
- Peter Gantzler as Earl Ragnar
- Tom Taylor as Young Uhtred
- Henning Valin Jakobsen as Storri
- Jason Flemyng as King Edmund
- Alec Newman as King Æthelred
- Lorcan Cranitch as Father Selbix
- Victor McGuire as Oswald
- Sean Gilder as Wulfhere
- Jonas Malmsjö as Skorpa of the White Horse
- Nicholas Rowe as Brother Asser
- Richard Rankin as Father Hrothweard
- Magnus Samuelsson as Clapa
- Henrik Lundström as Rollo
- Marc Rissmann as Tekil
- Christopher Sciueref as Jonis
- Erik Madsen as Fiske
- Jóhannes Haukur as Sverri
- Oengus MacNamara as Bjorn
- Tibor Milos Krisko as Rypere
- Ingar Helge Gimle as Gelgill
The series started shooting in November 2014. It is produced by Carnival Films for BBC Two and BBC America with filming in Hungary and the United Kingdom. Nick Murphy (Prey, Occupation) is co-executive producing and directing multiple episodes.
In August 2016, Aftonbladet reported that Swedish actors Björn Bengtsson, and Magnus Samuelsson would join the main cast. Also that month, it was reported that Stephen Butchard would return as the sole script writer and that Netflix had signed on as an international co-production partner for the second series.
In April 2018, Netflix confirmed that a third series was in production, which would air exclusively on the streaming service, and Bernard Cornwell indicated that he had been offered a cameo appearance.
|First episode||Last episode|
|1||8||22 October 2015||10 December 2015|
|2||8||16 March 2017||4 May 2017|
Series 1 (2015)Edit
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||UK airdate||UK viewers|
|1||1||"Episode 1"||Nick Murphy||Stephen Butchard||10 October 2015||22 October 2015||2.02|
|In 866, Danish earl Ragnar leads a fleet of dragonships to the coast of Northumbria, where he kills the eldest son of the Saxon Lord of Bebbanburg Uhtred (Matthew Macfadyen). Uhtred engages Ragnar and his viking army at Eoferwic. The Danish army feigns being pushed back, leading the reserves of the English army to attack too early, and the entire army is flanked by a hidden force of vikings. Uhtred is killed, and his 10-year-old son Uhtred and a Saxon girl named Brida are taken as slaves by Ragnar. The boy later saves the Earl's daughter Thyra from Sven, son of Kjartan, one of Ragnar's ship captains. Sven is blinded in one eye as punishment and Kjartan is banished. Uhtred and Brida are adopted into Ragnar's family and raised as Danes. In young adulthood, Uhtred and Brida see Earl Ragnar killed when his hall is burned. Only Thyra survives and she is taken by Kjartan and Sven. Uhtred decides to embark on the task of regaining his lands from his uncle, who is aligned with the Danes.|
|2||2||"Episode 2"||Nick Murphy||Stephen Butchard||17 October 2015||29 October 2015||1.54|
|Uhtred is blamed for the death of Earl Ragnar during a reported English uprising in the North. He pleads his innocence to Danish warlords Ubba and Guthrum, but he watches while they murder East Anglian King Edmund in the manner of Christian martyr Saint Sebastian. Ubba and Guthrum do not believe that Uhtred is innocent of Ragnar's death, so Uhtred and Brida flee to Winchester, capital of Wessex and the last surviving English kingdom. There, Uhtred supplies information of an impending Viking attack, but Lord Alfred is uncertain whether the young couple can be trusted and advises King Aethelred to imprison them pending the outcome of the battle.|
|3||3||"Episode 3"||Anthony Byrne||Stephen Butchard||24 October 2015||5 November 2015||1.58|
|King Aethelred and Alfred win the battle, but the king is mortally wounded, bequeathing his crown to Alfred rather than his own son. Uhtred and Brida are released and Alfred seeks a peace treaty with Guthrum and Ubba. Uhtred advises Alfred what the Danes fear and watches Alfred negotiate a peace to give Wessex time to prepare for future battles. Uhtred trains the Saxons after pledging his allegiance to Alfred for a year. Brida miscarries Uhtred's child. Earl Ragnar's son, Ragnar the younger, appears, seeking the truth about the death of Ragnar the older. Realizing that Uhtred will not break his word to Alfred, Brida leaves with Ragnar who is bent on revenge against Kjartan.|
|4||4||"Episode 4"||Anthony Byrne||Stephen Butchard||31 October 2015||12 November 2015||1.60|
|In order to gain land and become an Ealdorman, Uhtred is persuaded by Alfred to marry Mildrith. Unbeknown to Uhtred, she bears the burden of her deceased father's debt to the church, two thousand shillings. Uhtred realises he has been tricked. Despite this, love blossoms and Mildrith becomes pregnant. The Danes, under Guthrum and Ragnar the Younger, capture the fortified town of Wareham. During peace talks Uhtred and nine others, including a priest, are used in a hostage exchange with the Danes. He meets his brother Ragnar and Brida again. Meanwhile Mildrith gives birth to a son. When the peace collapses, with Ubba's imminent return from Ireland, the hostages are all killed except Uhtred, who is allowed to leave after Ragnar's intervention. He spies a large Danish fleet under Guthrum, and lights the first beacon warning Wessex of a new invasion.|
|5||5||"Episode 5"||Ben Chanan||Stephen Butchard||7 November 2015||19 November 2015||1.60|
|The Danish fleet lands in the south but loses many ships in a huge storm. Alfred goes south to defend against Guthrum and Uhtred joins the force led by Odda the Elder, facing Ubba and the Danes at Cynwit on the Severn. Uhtred sneaks into the Danish camp and sets fire to some of their ships, causing confusion. But he is spotted and forced to fight Ubba to the death. He kills Ubba and Odda's forces arrive and defeat the Danes. But Odda is injured and, in Winchester, Odda the Younger persuades Alfred that the victory was his work. Uhtred objects and is humiliated by Alfred. Mildrith, Uhtred and their baby son (also Uhtred) return to their lands. Uhtred kills Oswald, the estate's steward, after realising that he has been cheating him.|
|6||6||"Episode 6"||Ben Chanan||Stephen Butchard||14 November 2015||26 November 2015||1.55|
|Uhtred and Leofric leave Wessex with armed fighters dressed as Danes, to raid Cornwall and pay off Uhtred's debts. They are approached by Brother Asser, a monk. His king, Peradur, pays Uhtred and his band to attack a nearby fort held by Skorpa of the White Horse and his vikings. Uhtred and Skorpa double-cross and kill Peradur and his men. Skorpa then double-crosses Uhtred to take the king's treasure. But Peradur's pagan queen Iseult shows Uhtred the hidden treasure. Uhtred pays off his debt to the church with some of the plunder. Uhtred and Iseult arrive at Alfred's court, where Uhtred is accused in the Witan by Asser of raiding Cornish territory. Leofric, who is forced to testify against Uhtred, pleads with Alfred to resolve the dispute by fighting Uhtred to the death.|
|7||7||"Episode 7"||Peter Hoar||Stephen Butchard||21 November 2015||3 December 2015||1.54|
|During Leofric and Uhtred's fight to the death, Guthrum's army attack. Uhtred, Leofric and Iseult rescue Hild and escape, hiding in the Somerset marshlands. There they discover Alfred, fleeing the Danes with his family. The king sends a message to Wulfhere, Beocca and Asser, who rally to him with their remaining forces. Iseult cures Alfred's sick son Edward, but warns that another child will die as a result. Skorpa's fleet of ships is moored elsewhere in the marshes. Uhtred and his men lure the guards into the deeper marshes, where they are killed and their ships set alight.|
|8||8||"Episode 8"||Peter Hoar||Stephen Butchard||28 November 2015||10 December 2015||1.65|
|Wulfhere and his men desert Alfred to join Guthrum. Alfred and his remaining force journey to Odda in the hope of gathering an army. Uhtred discovers his son has died, fulfilling Iseult's prophecy. Iseult also reveals that Uhtred's sister Thyra is still alive. Alfred sends messages for loyal troops to gather at Egbert's Stone. Odda the Younger rejects Alfred's request for troops. Odda kills his son for his treason, and his men join Alfred and meet up with the other troops. Alfred delivers a rousing battle speech and Uhtred leads the army in a shield wall. The Saxons push the Danes back but Leofric is mortally wounded. Skorpa leads his horsemen behind the Saxon army and slaughters all the camp followers, including Iseult. Skorpa taunts Uhtred with Iseult's severed head and on seeing this Uhtred goes beserk, breaks rank and charges over the Viking shield wall. His rage opens a gap that allows the Saxons to pour through the Danes' defense and claim victory. Young Ragnar and Brida are taken as hostages to secure the new peace with the Danes, and Guthrum converts to Christianity having seen Alfred's victory as proof that his 'God is with him'. Uhtred, Hild, and Halig ride north to Bebbanburg.|
Series 2 (2017)Edit
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||UK airdate||UK viewers|
|9||1||"Episode 1"||Peter Hoar||Stephen Butchard||16 March 2017||16 March 2017||1.60|
|In 878 Uhtred, the fearless and instinctive warrior, begins his voyage north to reclaim his ancestral lands of Bebbanburg. Alfred's conviction to unite the kingdoms of England is stronger than ever, and he sets his sights on the wild lands of the north, which have fallen under the control of the Danish warlords Erik and Sigefrid. Beocca recruits Uhtred and his companions to rescue Guthred, the king of Cumberland, from his Danish captors. Guthred is both Dane and Christian and the hope is that he will unite northern England against the pagan invaders. Guthred is held for ransom by Sven, and Uhtred pretends to be an undead warrior, sent by Odin to avenge the death of Ragnar the Elder. The ploy works and the Danes are scattered. At his keep in Dunholm, Kjartan hears word of Uhtred's presence in Northumbria and plots revenge.|
|10||2||"Episode 2"||Peter Hoar||Stephen Butchard||23 March 2017||23 March 2017||TBD|
|Kjartan's spies infiltrate the Cumberland camp. Uhtred is attacked, but saved by his warriors. Hild goes on a journey of self-discovery as she considers exchanging her life as a nun for that of a warrior, and Guthred's efforts to emulate Alfred's conciliatory tactics backfire when his indecision and lack of ruthlessness weaken the Saxons' position. Uhtred and Guthred's sister Gisela discover a mutual attraction while the Cumberland count brokers a truce with Erik and Sigefrid. Uhtred swears loyalty to Guthred as his ealdorman, but Guthred's advisor Eadred convinces Guthred that Uhtred's popularity among the men will eventually lead to Uhtred usurping the crown. Guthred enters an alliance with Uhtred's uncle Aelfric and has Uhtred made a slave, to be sold off. Uhtred's follower Halig refuses to leave his master and is sold as well.|
|11||3||"Episode 3"||Jon East||Ben Vanstone||30 March 2017||30 March 2017||TBD|
|Uhtred and Halig are thrown in chains on a ship by the Icelandic slaver Sverri. The lords of the north congregate in Eoferwic, where Aelfric abandons his alliance with Guthred due to him not being presented with Uhtred's head. Erik and Sigefrid break their truce with Guthred as well, now that he has no backing. Uhtred and Halig are brought to the Norse colony at Húsavík as timber workers. After a failed escape attempt, Sverri has Halig bound to the prow of his ship, where he eventually dies. That spring, Uhtred is brought back to England to be sold to Sven. Young Ragnar arrives and rescues Uhtred, having been instructed by Alfred to bring his field commander back. Hild nurses Uhtred back to health. Eadred tries to force Gisela into marriage with Aelfric to rekindle the alliance, with a proxy standing in for the missing Aelfric. Uhtred and Ragnar interrupt the "marriage", and Eadred is killed by Uhtred after taunting him numerous times. In Wessex, Alfred confronts Uhtred about the murder. As Ragnar held responsibility for Uhtred, Alfred blames him and blackmails Uhtred into swearing fealty once more to save Ragnar from retribution.|
|12||4||"Episode 4"||Jon East||Sophie Petzal||6 April 2017||6 April 2017||N/A|
|The followers of Ragnar the Younger, led by Rollo, gather to avenge the death of Ragnar the Elder. They decide in order to have sufficient men to storm Dunholm, Guthred's men are needed and an alliance is necessary. However, Brida does not want Ragnar's men to die for Guthred, whom she dubs "the Turd". Uhtred sneaks into Erik and Sigefrid's camp and attempts to assassinate Sigefrid. He fails, but manages to cut off Sigefrid's sword hand and take him hostage. In order to save his brother, Erik agrees to leave England. Uhtred then presents Sigefrid's hand to Guthred and confronts him about his betrayal. Guthred agrees to support Ragnar's campaign against Kjartan. Uhtred and Beocca infiltrate Dunholm through a secret entrance and let Ragnar's and Guthred's forces into the keep. In the ensuing battle, Rollo and Sven are killed, and Ragnar duels with Kjartan to the death. Thyra scolds her brothers for not rescuing her years ago, but Beocca soothes her and helps her deal with her trauma.|
|13||5||"Episode 5"||Jamie Donoughue||Stephen Butchard||13 April 2017||13 April 2017||N/A|
|Some time has passed since the battle of Dunholm, and Uhtred still serves Alfred as lord of the Wessex town of Coccham. Despite the peace of recent years, trouble is brewing in nearby East Anglia and Aethelwold brings Uhtred a strange tale, along with a proposition that is hard to ignore. Uhtred's continued strong will and latent restlessness create tension and strain during a royal visit from Alfred, and an unexpected meeting with the Northman Erik gives Uhtred more food for thought, although it puts him and Gisela at odds. Meanwhile, at Winchester, preparations for the royal wedding are under way, as Aethelred of Mercia arrives. Beocca confides in Uhtred and is left with an important question to ask.|
|14||6||"Episode 6"||Jamie Donoughue||Stephen Butchard||20 April 2017||20 April 2017||N/A|
|Winchester celebrates Aethelred and Aethelflaed's wedding, but the festivities are short lived as the clouds of war gather and Alfred runs out of options to keep the peace. When rumours swirl, Alfred's mistrust of Uhtred deepens and Uhtred is relegated in his duties as the warlord of Wessex. Aethelred is called to step forward, but a fatal mistake allows Erik and Sigefrid to outwit the Saxons. Terror reigns.|
|15||7||"Episode 7"||Richard Senior||Stephen Butchard||27 April 2017||27 April 2017||N/A|
|Aethelflaed is missing and Aethelred and the Saxons return to Winchester to break the news to King Alfred, while Uhtred goes home to Gisela with plans to uncover the truth by his own means. Alfred's stubborn determination causes Odda to question whether the will of the king and the good of the kingdom are at odds – will he need to make a choice of loyalty between the two? Uhtred and Sigefrid come face to face for the first time since the Northmen's banishment from Northumbria, and Uhtred is confronted with a decision which will define the fate of Wessex.|
|16||8||"Episode 8"||Richard Senior||Stephen Butchard||4 May 2017||4 May 2017||N/A|
|When King Alfred is told the great sum of Aethelflaed's ransom – and the horror that will likely befall his daughter if Wessex does not pay – he feels there can be only one way forward, despite this jeopardising the kingdom. Suspicions at Beamfleot threaten to unravel the lovers' escape plan, and Uhtred must think on his feet if he is to secure Aethelflaed's freedom and save Wessex. Odda risks everything for the kingdom and makes an unlikely ally, while Gisela and Uhtred contemplate a future as enemies of Alfred. In a devastating showdown at Beamfleot, there is passion, heartbreak and treachery.|
The Last Kingdom premiered on 10 October 2015 in the United States on BBC America, and was broadcast shortly after in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 22 October 2015. It became available online in the United States via Netflix on 6 July 2016. It was added to Netflix on 28 December 2015 in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. The first season was broadcast in the Spanish region of Catalonia on TV3 on 24 July 2017.
The second season was released on Netflix in the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Japan, Australia, and Portugal.
The series has been met with a positive critical response. It has a 92% Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 25 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. On Metacritic, it holds a score of 78/100 based on 15 reviews.
Sam Wollaston reviewed the first episode in The Guardian and warned, "It's wise not to get too attached to anyone in The Last Kingdom." Charlotte Runcie gave the opening episode 4 stars out of 5 in The Daily Telegraph. Wollaston and Runcie both remarked on the similarities between Last Kingdom and Game of Thrones.
Sean O'Grady in The Independent found that some of the language gave the series "a satisfyingly earthy quality," but he thought that the plot was "a little convoluted". The television reviewer for Private Eye was more critical, arguing that The Last Kingdom demonstrates how Game of Thrones "haunts the BBC," and that the series was directly derivative of both fantasy series and European dramas such as The Killing and Wallander, yet lacking the features that have made such series successful.
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- Wollaston, Sam (23 October 2015). "The Last Kingdom review: The Vikings are here – and it's wise not to get too attached to anyone". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
- Runcie, Charlotte (23 October 2015). "The Last Kingdom, BBC Two, review: 'the thinking person's Game of Thrones'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
- O'Grady, Sean (22 October 2015). "The Last Kingdom, TV review: This Viking saga is less silly than Game of Thrones – and less exciting, too". The Independent. London. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
- 'Eye TV', The Private Eye 1404, p. 14.
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