The Last Kingdom (TV series)

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The Last Kingdom
The Last Kingdom TV series titlecard.jpg
GenreHistorical drama
Based on The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell
Developed by Stephen Butchard
Starringsee below
Composer John Lunn
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes46 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producersStephen Butchard
Nigel Marchant
Gareth Neame
ProducerBen Murphy
Production locationsHungary, Wales
CinematographyChas Bain
EditorPaul Knight
Running time50–59 minutes
Production company Carnival Film and Television
Release
Original network
Original release10 October 2015 (2015-10-10) 
March 9, 2022 (2022-03-09)
Chronology
Followed bySeven Kings Must Die

The Last Kingdom is a British historical fiction television series based on Bernard Cornwell's The Saxon Stories series of novels. The series was developed for television by Stephen Butchard, premiering on the 10 October 2015 on the BBC. In 2018 the show was acquired by Netflix. [1] The series lasted for a total of five seasons, with the final season airing on 9 March 2022. A feature-length sequel, titled Seven Kings Must Die, has been filmed for Netflix.

Contents

Plot

Series One

The first series roughly covers the events of The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman , the first and second novels in Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories , however they are condensed for the screen. In the year 866, the Great Heathen Army's arrival in Britain is about to redefine the relationship between Vikings and Anglo-Saxons. Following the establishment of Danish rule in Jórvík and East Anglia, the show largely focuses on the resistance of the Kingdom of Wessex to ongoing Viking incursions to Southern England.

The first season covers the years 866–78. The main protagonist (named Osbert in childhood) is re-baptized as Uhtred after his elder brother Uhtred is killed by the Danes; his father, along with other Saxon noblemen of Northumbria, are killed in battle against the Danes. Only his uncle and stepmother survive. Uhtred and a Saxon girl named Brida are taken as slaves by Earl Ragnar to his home in Danish Northumbria. Ragnar comes to accept Uhtred as his own son, adopts him, and raises him as Uhtred Ragnarsson. Time passes, and Ragnar's daughter Thyra is about to be married, but fellow Danes attack the night before the wedding and set fire to the hall in which the family is sleeping. Ragnar is burned alive, and Thyra taken as a slave. Only Uhtred and Brida escape as they have spent the night in the woods tending a charcoal kiln. The attackers are led by Kjartan, a disgruntled Viking who had been banished by Ragnar from his lands years earlier for an offence committed by Kjartan's son Sven. Uhtred vows to avenge his father Ragnar's death, while simultaneously hoping to reclaim Bebbanburg his birthright from his uncle, who seeks to kill Uhtred to keep Bebbanburg for himself. Uhtred is forced to choose between the kingdom of his ancestors and the people who have raised him, and his loyalties are constantly tested. The plot of the series one culminates with the Battle of Edington.

Series Two

The second series roughly covers the happenings of Cornwell's third and fourth novels The Lords of the North and Sword Song . The second season covers the years 878 to 886, and shows Uhtred quests in Northumbria, and Wessex and Mercia conflict with the brothers Sigefrid and Eric.

This was the final season to air on the BBC, before moving to Netflix.

Series Three

Beginning with the third series, the show was solely produced by Netflix. The third series is based on Cornwell’s fifth and sixth novels The Burning Land and Death of Kings , however there are considerable plot changes compared to the previous seasons. The third season roughly covers the years 893 to 900.

These episodes cover the decline in King Alfred's health and the continuing conflict between the Christians and Danes. One reviewer indicated that Netflix had a positive effect on the series indicating: "With it came a certain increase in production values, most notably during the epic end-of-episode clash in which the swing of every sword and thwock of every shield hit firmly home," but added that "the blood-and-gore budget has also undergone a significant increase, thanks in large part to the arrival of the beautiful but psychotic Skade (Thea Sofie Loch Næss)". [2]

All ten episodes of series three appeared on Netflix on 19 November 2018.

Series Four

The fourth series is based on Cornwell’s seventh and eighth novels The Pagan Lord and The Empty Throne. Similar to series three, there are significant plot changes from the novels. The fourth season takes place around 901 to 912 and deals with Danish attacks and political struggles in Mercia and attacks on Winchester.

All ten episodes of series 4 appeared on Netflix on 26 April 2020.

Series Five

The fifth season was announced as the final season in 2021. It is based on Cornwell’s ninth and tenth novels Warriors of the Storm and The Flame Bearer . Similar to series three and four, there are significant plot changes from the novels.

All ten episodes of the final series appeared on Netflix on 9 March 2022.

Cast

Main

ActorCharacterSeries
12345
Alexander Dreymon UhtredMain
David Dawson King Alfred Main
Emily Cox BridaMain
Tobias Santelmann Ragnar the YoungerMain
Adrian Bower LeofricMainRecurring
Thomas W. Gabrielsson Guthrum Main
Simon Kunz Odda the Elder Main
Harry McEntire Aethelwold Main
Rune Temte Ubba Main
Joseph Millson AelfricMainMain
Brian Vernel Odda the YoungerMain
Amy Wren MildrithMain
Charlie Murphy Iseult Main
Ian Hart Father BeoccaMain
Eliza Butterworth Aelswith RecurringMain
Thure Lindhardt Guthred Main
Eva Birthistle HildRecurringMain
Gerard Kearns HaligRecurringMain
David Schofield Abbot Eadred Main
Peri Baumeister GiselaMain
Peter McDonald Brother TrewMain
Mark Rowley FinanMain
Alexandre Willaume  [ da ]KjartanRecurringMain
Julia Bache-Wiig  [ no ]ThyraRecurringMain
Ole Christoffer Ertvaag  [ no ]SvenRecurringMain
Björn Bengtsson SigefridMain
Cavan Clerkin Father PyrligMain
Arnas FedaravičiusSihtricMain
Christian Hillborg  [ fi ]ErikMain
Jeppe Beck Laursen Haesten Main
Toby Regbo Aethelred Main
Millie Brady Aethelflaed Main
James Northcote AldhelmMain
Adrian BouchetSteapaMain
Ewan Mitchell Osferth Main
Simon Stenspil  [ da ]DagfinnMain
Timothy Innes Edward Main
Thea Sofie Loch Næss SkadeMain
Ola Rapace Earl Sigurd "Bloodhair"Main
Magnus Bruun Cnut Main
Adrian Schiller AethelhelmMain
Kevin Eldon Bishop ErkenwaldMain
Jamie Blackley EardwulfMain
Stefanie Martini EadithMain
Finn ElliotYoung UhtredMain
Ruby HartleyStiorraMain
Richard Dillane LudecaMain
Dorian Lough BurgredMain
Steffan Rhodri King Hywel Dda Main
Nigel Lindsay RhodriMain
Eysteinn Sigurðarson Sigtryggr Main
Amelia Clarkson Aelflaed RecurringMain
Harry Gilby Aethelstan Main
Patrick Robinson Father BenedictMain
Phia Saban Aelfwynn Main
Micki Stoltt Rǫgnvaldr Main
Harry AntonBresalMain
Ryan QuarmbyCynlaefMain
Jaakko OhtonenWollandMain
Ossian PerretWihtgarRecurringMain
Ewan Horrocks Aelfweard Main
Sonya Cassidy Eadgifu Main
Rod Hallett King Constantin Main
Bamshad Abedi-AminYahyaMain
Ross AndersonDomnalMain

Recurring

Episodes

SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast airedNetwork
1 810 October 2015 (2015-10-10)28 November 2015 (2015-11-28) BBC Two
2 816 March 2017 (2017-03-16)4 May 2017 (2017-05-04)
3 1019 November 2018 (2018-11-19) Netflix
4 1026 April 2020 (2020-04-26)
5 109 March 2022 (2022-03-09)

Production

Development

The series started shooting in November 2014. [7] [8] It is produced by Carnival Films for BBC Two and BBC America. Nick Murphy ( Prey, Occupation ) is co-executive producing and directing multiple episodes. [9] For portrayals of the Vikings at sea, the Viking ship replica Havhingsten fra Glendalough was used.[ citation needed ] The series is filmed primarily in Hungary, [10] with most scenes at the eight acres near Budapest owned by Korda Studios [11] with its Medieval Village Set and surrounding mountains, forests and lakes. [12]

Filming for the second series began in Budapest in June 2016. Richard Rankin, Gerard Kearns, [13] Thure Lindhardt, Millie Brady, Erik Madsen, [14] and Peter McDonald joined the cast. [15] In August 2016, Aftonbladet reported that Swedish actors Björn Bengtsson [16] and Magnus Samuelsson [17] 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. [18] [19] [20]

In April 2018, Netflix confirmed that a third series was in production, based on the books The Lords of the North and Sword Song, [21] which would air exclusively on the streaming service, and Bernard Cornwell indicated that he had been offered a cameo appearance. [22] Swedish actor Ola Rapace joined the cast for series 3, as Jarl Harald Bloodhair. [23] [24] Swedish director Erik Leijonborg was behind the camera for series 3; he has collaborated with Rapace on several Swedish TV series. [25]

On 26 December 2018, the series was renewed for a fourth series by Netflix. [26] [27] On 7 July 2020, the series was renewed for a fifth series by Netflix. [1] On 30 April 2021, it was announced that the series would conclude with the fifth series. [28] Filming for season 5 wrapped in June 2021. [29]

The final season will be followed by a feature-length film titled Seven Kings Must Die, whose filming finished on 19 March 2022. [30] [31] [32]

Historical background

The main events of the reign of Alfred the Great and his heirs are well recorded, and a number of men called Uhtred ruled from Bamburgh Castle, [33] most notably Uhtred the Bold more than a century later. [34] The people identified as "Danes" came from many places in and around Denmark, including Southern Sweden and Norway. Historians believe that the Danish invaders of Northumbria came from Jutland in Denmark, as mentioned in Cornwell's books, as well as some of the Danish islands and East Denmark (southern Sweden). [35]

Release

The first series of eight episodes premiered on 10 October 2015 in the United States on BBC America, [36] and was broadcast shortly after in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 22 October 2015. [37] It became available online in the United States via Netflix on 6 July 2016. [38] It was added to Netflix on 28 December 2015 in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. [39] [40] The first series was broadcast in the Spanish region of Catalonia on TV3 on 24 July 2017. [41]

The second and third series were released on Netflix in the US, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Japan, Australia, and Portugal. [42] [43]

Netflix was the sole distributor of the third series of ten episodes, produced by Carnival Films. On 26 December 2018, Netflix renewed the show for a fourth series, released on 26 April 2020 and once again produced by Carnival Films. It was renewed for a fifth and final season on 7 July 2020. [44] [28] On 9 February 2022, it was announced that the fifth season would be released on 9 March 2022. [45]

Reception

The series has been met with a positive critical response. On Rotten Tomatoes, series one has an 87% approval rating based on reviews from 31 critics, with an average of 7.61/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Last Kingdom fuses beautiful cinematography and magnificent action sequences to create highly gratifying historical drama". [46] On Metacritic, series 1 has a score of 78/100 based on 15 reviews. [47] On Rotten Tomatoes, the second series received 86% (7 reviews) and the third series received 100% (7 reviews). [48] [49]

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". [50] Charlotte Runcie gave the opening episode four out of five in The Daily Telegraph , writing that the series had "satisfyingly high production values, a bloodthirsty appetite for violence and a proper cliffhanger." [51] Wollaston and Runcie both remarked on the similarities between The Last Kingdom and Game of Thrones . [50] [51] Kari Croop of Common Sense Media also gave the series 4/5 stars, writing: "With high production values, strong writing, and compelling characters, this series rivals some of the best and bloodiest epics on TV". [52] Dennis Perkins of The A.V. Club gave the first season a grade of B+, writing: "BBC America’s sprawling, arresting eight-part historical miniseries The Last Kingdom proves that there’s room enough on television for more than one Viking invasion." [53]

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". [54] 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. [55]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bernard Cornwell</span> British writer (born 1944)

Bernard Cornwell is an English-American author of historical novels and a history of the Waterloo Campaign. He is best known for his novels about Napoleonic Wars rifleman Richard Sharpe. He has also written the Saxon / Last Kingdom stories about King Alfred and the making of England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Cynwit</span>

The Battle of Cynwit, was a battle between West Saxons and Vikings in 878 at a fort which Asser calls Cynwit. The location of the battle is not known for sure but probably was at Countisbury Hill, near Countisbury, Devon.

Ælla was King of Northumbria, a kingdom in medieval England, during the middle of the 9th century. Sources on Northumbrian history in this period are limited, and so Ælla's ancestry is not known and the dating of the beginning of his reign is questionable.

Uhtred or Uchtred is a common masculine personal name from the Middle Ages period of British history. It may refer to:

The Saxon Stories is a historical novel series written by Bernard Cornwell about the birth of England in the ninth and tenth centuries. The protagonist of the series is Uhtred of Bebbanburg, born to a Saxon lord in Northumbria. He is captured as a child and adopted by a Danish warlord. The name of the fictional protagonist comes from the historical Uhtred the Bold; Cornwell is a descendant of this family.

<i>The Last Kingdom</i> 2004 book by Bernard Cornwell

The Last Kingdom is the first historical novel in The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell, published in 2004. This story introduces Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon noble who is kidnapped by Danish Vikings as a young child and is assimilated into their culture, religion and language before a series of events lead him into the service of King Alfred of Wessex and his participation in multiple battles, including the notable Battle of Cynwit before the book's conclusion.

<i>The Pale Horseman</i> 2005 historical novel by Bernard Cornwell

The Pale Horseman is the second historical novel in the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell, published in 2005. It is set in 9th century Wessex and Cornwall.

Sonny Ola Rapace Jawo is a Swedish actor best known for playing Patrice in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.

<i>The Lords of the North</i> 2006 historical novel by Bernard Cornwell

The Lords of the North is the third historical novel in the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell published in 2006. The story is set in the 9th century Anglo-Saxon kingdoms Wessex and Northumbria. Uhtred wants revenge against his uncle, and falls in love. He fights for both the Danes and for Alfred.

<i>Sword Song</i> 2007 historical novel by Bernard Cornwell

Sword Song is the fourth historical novel in The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell, published in 2007. Uhtred leads battles against the Danes, as King Alfred strengthens the defences of his kingdom of Wessex.

<i>The Burning Land</i> 2009 historical novel by Bernard Cornwell

The Burning Land is the fifth historical novel in The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell, published in 2009. The story is set in the 9th-century Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Wessex, Northumbria and Mercia. The first half of season 3 of the British television series The Last Kingdom is based on this novel.

<i>Death of Kings</i> 2011 historical novel by Bernard Cornwell

Death of Kings, published in 2011, is the sixth novel of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Tales series. It continues the story of Saxon warlord Uhtred of Bebbanburg who resists a new Danish invasion of Wessex and Mercia.

<i>Vikings</i> (TV series) Canadian-Irish historical drama television series

Vikings is a historical drama television series created and written by Michael Hirst for the History channel, a Canadian network. Filmed in Ireland, it premiered on March 3, 2013, in Canada. The series concluded on December 30, 2020, when the second half of the sixth season was released in its entirety on Amazon Prime Video in Ireland, ahead of its broadcast on History in Canada from January 1 to March 3, 2021. A sequel series, titled Vikings: Valhalla, premiered on Netflix on February 25, 2022.

<i>The Pagan Lord</i> 2013 historical novel by Bernard Cornwell

The Pagan Lord is the seventh historical novel in the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell, first published in 2013. The story is set in the early 10th century in Anglo-Saxon Mercia and Northumbria.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alexander Dreymon</span> German actor

Alexander Dreymon is a German actor. He is best known for portraying Uhtred of Bebbanburg in the television series The Last Kingdom (2015–2022). Dreymon's other notable roles were in Christopher and His Kind (2011) and American Horror Story: Coven (2013–2014). Dreymon also appeared in the WWII film Resistance. He is fluent in German, English, and French.

<i>Vikings</i> (season 5) Season of television series

The fifth season of the historical drama television series Vikings premiered on November 29, 2017 on History in Canada. The series broadly follows the exploits of the legendary Viking chieftain Ragnar Lothbrok and his crew, and later those of his sons. The first season of the series begins at the start of the Viking Age, marked by the Lindisfarne raid in 793.

<i>The Flame Bearer</i> 2016 historical novel in The Saxon Stories series by Bernard Cornwell

The Flame Bearer is the tenth historical novel in The Saxon Stories series aka The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwell, first published in April 2016. It is set in 10th-century England and continues to follow the fortunes of the fictional Uhtred of Bebbanburg. In this novel Uhtred sets out to finally regain his childhood home, Bebbanburg, which is now held by his cousin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mark Rowley (actor)</span> Scottish actor

Mark Rowley is a Scottish actor, has appeared in Home Fires (2016), The North Water and The Spanish Princess (2020), but known mainly for his role as the Irish warrior Finan, Uhtred’s sidekick in battle, in The Last Kingdom.

Stephen Butchard is a British screenwriter and television producer, best known for adapting Bernard Cornwell's The Saxon Stories into the BBC/Netflix drama series The Last Kingdom.

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