Have you ever sat there with the television’s dull light illuminating the space around you? It’s quiet; you’re bored or you want to relax after a long day of work. “Let’s watch something” you say to your significant other(boothang), yourself, or your cat- you scroll over to Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Hulu,(whichever you prefer really) and it hits you. “what the hell do I watch?”
The choices are endless, and frankly by the time you can make a solid decision you’ve already wasted a good chunk of free time. But, I’m here to help.
In this series I’ll help you decide what to queue up or what to avoid as you scour the endless streaming services for your next dopamine hit, sleep aid, or deep dive into the world of cinematic storytelling.
Starting off by going into key basics of a show: Where you can watch it, the cast, genre, the official synopsis, and a little bit of background if it applies.
I know different people have different tastes in what shows they like, as well as how they like to consume their content. I’ll consider things like season status, episode counts, and run times so you have all the necessary information to make decision on whether to watch a show or not, even without a personalized opinion.
But it’s impossible for me to properly talk about shows without getting personal. Who would read anything written by some shmuck who didn’t even pay attention amirite?
I’m going to try my very best to avoid spoilers but I will not avoid bringing up things that I find as major flaws.
Let’s start talking The Last Kingdom!
Table of Contents
- The Basics
- How I Watched It
- How I recommend Watching it
- Should You Watch?
The Last Kingdom is officially labeled under the History genre. While more historically accurate than many other shows based on history, The Last Kingdom is still very fantasized and dramatized.
Based off the series of novels ‘The Saxon Stories’ by Bernard Cornwell, each season covers different books and condenses each to make them fit the television format.
I found a few different synopses(is this the pural?) but this one is the official synopsis for The Last Kingdom given by Netflix:
“As Alfred the Great defends his kingdom from Norse invaders, Uhtred — born a Saxon but raised by Vikings — seeks to claim his ancestral birthright.”
This is the synopsis given by IMDB which I like more :
“In the year 872, many of the separate kingdoms of what is now England have fallen to the invading Danes, leaving the great kingdom of Wessex standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alfred. Against this turbulent backdrop lives Uhtred. Born to a Saxon nobleman, he is captured by the Danes and raised as one of their own. Forced to choose between his birth country and the people of his upbringing, his loyalties are ever tested. What is he? Saxon or Dane? On a quest to reclaim his birthright, Uhtred must tread a dangerous path between both sides to play his part in the birth of a new nation and–ultimately–recapture his ancestral lands.”
Season Status / Episode Count
There are a total of 5 Seasons with a total of 46 episodes. I won’t list runtimes per episode(it’s unsightly) but I’ll give you the episode count of each season and anything notable about each season.
Season 1 : Released October 10, 2015 on BBC Two
8 Episodes total.
Season 1 gave The Last Kingdom nominations for Special, Visual & Graphic Effects and Titles & Graphic Identity awards at the 2016 BAFTA’s.
Season 1 also gave The Last Kingdom a nomination from the Royal Television Society for best Drama Series.
Season 2 : Released March 16, 2017 on BBC Two
8 Episodes total.
Eva Birthistle was nominated for an IFTA award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Drama but lost.
Season 3 : Released November 19, 2018 on Netflix
10 Episodes total.
While this is the first season to be released on Netflix, it was still a joint venture with BBC.
Season 4 : Released April 26, 2020 on Netflix
10 Episodes total.
Season 5 : Released March 9, 2022 on Netflix
10 Episodes total.
Confirmed to be the final season of The Last Kingdom.
I will be covering what’s next for the show in the ‘Should You Watch?’ section and in future articles.
The Last Kingdom has finished airing episodes.
Genre / Network
The Last Kingdom is officially categorized as Historical Fiction. It is also categorized as Action Fiction.
Let’s just call The Last Kingdom… Historical Action Fiction.
While it is more Historically accurate than most other shows of the same genre, it is still important to note that events are dramatized and sometimes entirely made up. Characters in the show may have been real people or inspired by a variety of different people to create a wholly new one.
Characters that depict real people can be seen from a hundred different perspectives, so don’t swear off a show because a character isn’t “accurate.”
These are important things to note when you’re watching any period piece.
The Last Kingdom originally aired on BBC Two for it’s first two series until it moved over to Netflix for Season 3 and later, Seasons 4 and 5.
Its not uncommon for Netflix to pick up foreign content for it’s audiences worldwide, especially when said content can compete with other big name shows of the time with similar themes.
Below I will provide a list of the principle cast, who they play and a quick synopsis, and other notable projects that they have been on.
The Hero and Main character of The Last Kingdom. Uhtred of Bebbanburg was born a Saxon but kidnapped and raised by Danes. Growing up to be fond of his forced family, Uhtred embraces the Danish ways but never forgets his past and sets out to retake his ancestral birthright.
Loosely based off of Uhtred The Bold, he is a fierce warrior, a skilled diplomat, and considered honorable by all he encounters. He has tremendous character growth throughout the series and serves as our main viewpoint throughout the series.
He has appeared in a films and shorts but his most notable other work is on American Horror Story as Luke Ramsey.
Just like our Main Character, Brida was born a Saxon but kidnapped as a child. Her and Uhtred grow up together in this forced family. Unlike Uhtred however, she was born a peasant, and forgets her old roots. She fully considers herself to be Dane and a deep distrust, which later grows to hatred of Saxons is a cornerstone of her character.
Serving as the Female lead throughout the entire series her story is constantly followed and always gives perspective on the scenarios unfolding throughout the show.
Emily Cox has such an extensive list of credits of projects in letters and letter combinations that I can’t recognize so I’m not going to type them out. If you’re interested you can check out here IMDB page.
Queen Aelswith of Wessex, a brilliant diplomat, a devout Christian, and incredibly f%#king rude for 5 seasons she is one of the best characters on the show. Taking an extreme stance against anything Dane, she helps her Husband rule Wessex and, while allied to Uhtred through Alfred, is a massive thorn in his side.
Her character grows significantly throughout the series. Where she starts off as an annoying and aggressively fervent Christian, she consistently shows that, even though she is coarse by nature, she is incredibly intelligent, has a good heart, and is critical in the formation of the future England.
She has had a variety of minor roles in other shows and films but her role on The Last Kingdom is her biggest one yet.
While Mark Rowley as Finan doesn’t appear until later seasons(I’m not spoiling when he arrives) he becomes sidekick to Uhtred very quickly. An Irish Slave freed by Uhtred, he’s loyal, a fierce warrior, a bit of a womanizer, and often a source of comedic relief, Finan’s own goals and ambitions take a backseat to Uhtred’s plans everytime.
He eventually gets what he wants, and though his character isn’t what many would call “deep” he is definitely a good character and always had a good presence on screen.
Mark Rowley has an impressive list with some good variety. What shocked me is his voice work on Star Wars Battlefront and Assassin’s Creed. But he has quite a bit of shows dating all the way back to 2011 so hes not exactly new. I assume we’ll be seeing more of him in the future.
Millie Bradley plays Princess Aethelflaed, Daughter of Alfred the Great and Queen Aelswith, Sister to King Aethelred.
One of my favorite characters on the show, she plays an important bridge between the world of Saxon and Dane. A symbol of the “next” generation of leaders, she breaks away from the blind hate of Danes as much as she could, as she helps forge the future.
She’s smarter than her mother, just as skilled a diplomat, and as inspiring a leader as her father.
Millie Bradley has appeared on The Queens Gambit recently and a mini-series called Roadkill.
She also appeared in something called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies back in 2016 and I’ve never wanted to watch a movie more based on title alone.
I have watched a lot of period pieces. I have seen many actors and actresses portray Kings and Queens in different movies, TV Shows, Plays, etc. To play a King or a Queen, you have to command a certain presence every time you pop up on a screen.
David Dawson does just that.
Alfred the Great didn’t get that name by sitting around doing nothing. He was a legendary figure, rightfully so, and has gone down as one of the most important figures in English History.
Incredibly Intelligent, Devout to his Core, and an Incredible Leader, Alfred the Great serves as friend and foe to Uhtred. He grows incredibly quickly-as kings must– throughout the show and his story stays compelling throughout. Even when he no longer appears physically on the show, he is always referenced by the characters.
David Dawson has also appeared in Luther, Peaky Blinders, and Ripper Street.
Lord Aldhelm of Mercia serves as one of the main characters from the Mercian Kingdom. Intelligent past his years, loyal, and good hearted, he helps defend Mercia and do what’s right for all.
I don’t like his character too much, but he does have some good lines later in the show. His story doesn’t do much but further progress Aethelflaed’s story.
Some of his more notable roles are a two-episode appearance in Catherine The Great and a role in The Imitation Game(2014)
Sihtric serves Uhtred without question. Honestly, I don’t remember much about his background and neither do I care much for his story.
He’s there most of the time. He doesn’t really do much other than what he’s told, he also doesn’t say much.
The fact that I don’t care and don’t care to remember anything about him should tell you enough.
Father Beocca serves as a “fill-in” dad and guide to Uhtred throughout the show. He is one of the few people who know the truth about Uhtred and vowed to Uhtred’s father(also Uhtred) that he would protect him.
An incredibly good and honest man, he tries to keep Uhtred in line as if he were a child. And though sometimes he can get really irritating, he’s a good character who’s story truly expands throughout the show.
I knew I recognized Ian Hart when I first saw him on my screen I just couldn’t put my finger on where. But then I realized that his credits list is also very extensive, so feel free to check out his IMDB page.
Oh he played Professor Quirrel!
Timothy Innes plays Prince Edward. Son of Alfred and Aelswith, and sister to Aethelflaed. His character carries importance throughout most of the show, but his story is immemorable or just nonexistent until later seasons.
I think the acting job is pretty good, but the character himself falls flat for me.
I only brought him up because how you gunna put in his entire family and skip him lol
He hasn’t been in much else, but has been working consistently since 2016.
How I Watched It
I watched the first 4 seasons of The Last Kingdom over the course of 2 weeks. I randomly stumbled upon the show shortly after completing the original Vikings and wanted something to forget about that atrocious ending.
I chose it only because it was similar to what I just watched and thought to myself “Well, I’ll watch another viking show.”
I was instantly hooked to The Last Kingdom
I started watchign Season 5 the day it aired, and completed it over the course of 3 days. Again, I had found myself watching it immediately after finishing Vikings:Valhalla. I found it funny that I’d be finding myself comparing the two shows yet again.
I cover Vikings:Valhalla here for those interested.
Here I’ll cover some key elements of the show that stuck out to me and then finish it off overall in the ‘Should You Watch?’ section.
One of things that truly stand out about The Last Kingdom is the way that the characters are written.
Because I don’t know how the characters are written in the books, I’m strictly judging them based off the show and their portrayals by their actors and actresses.
Seeing that most characters in the show are 3-dimensional was a breath of fresh air. Most characters in these Hero Saga-Type shows are strictly tools to be used and then thrown away in the main characters story.
In The Last Kingdom, side characters are shown the respect they deserve. They have their own goals, their own ambitions, and, like main characters, they learn through the events of the story. Seeing characters not being mouth-pieces for our MC makes the story so much more compelling.
Every character in the show establishes an emotional connection with the audience which makes their entrances, and exits that much more impactful to the viewers and to the story. It makes it especially impactful when, characters return in later seasons. *wink wink*
A Slow Burn
I consider ‘The Last Kingdom‘ to be a slower show, for it’s first two seasons at the very least.
The way I see it, people watch Viking themed shows for bloody battles, stunning landscapes and an Epic Hero just to name a few things. And ‘The Last Kingdom‘ delivers on that. But it takes some time.
The first two seasons of the show have some really incredible action sequences, unmatched dialogue, and some incredible twists. But takes a while to build up.
Depending on the type of viewer you are, this may not appeal to you, and if it doesn’t I totally get it.
The show is filled with long sequences of dialogue about Politics, Religions, History, and everything else that other action shows only lightly touch upon.
This doesn’t mean that it’s boring, it’s actually quite the opposite. The slow burn of the show early on, I believe, allows the characters to thrive and set important foundations for later seasons of the show.
I won’t go into too much detail to avoid spoilers.
It’s Over But Not Over!
Yes, this reads confusing. Yes, I will simplify it.
While Season 5 is confirmed to be the final season of ‘The Last Kingdom‘ it was very obvious to fans of the show(while watching season 5) that there is no way it was over.
The final two episodes of the last Season opened up and showed the very moment we were waiting for for most of the show.
However, the final scenes of the show open up a litany of different avenues for the story to progress.
There is currently a ‘The Last Kingdom’ movie in production. To learn more click here
How I recommend Watching it
Even though I binge-watched ‘The Last Kingdom‘, I would not recommend binge-watching it.
I recommend breaking up ‘The Last Kingdom’ into whatever you consider your “leisurely” watching pace.
Though binge-able(is this a word?) I think that ‘The Last Kingdom‘ is better when you give yourself time to process what’s going on in the show.
There are plenty of things in the show that can get overlooked if you’re blowing through episodes. Such as key names, subtle actions in the backgrounds, and connections between the stories through dialogue.
Should You Watch?
The Last Kingdom is definitely worth the watch.
Even with a slow start, the story is incredibly engaging with interesting characters and terrific writing.
A Historical Fiction that rivaled Vikings as it was airing, it’s comparable but uniquely different to it. I would argue that it’s even better than Vikings.
With 5 Seasons there is plenty to watch, and with the show being officially completed you won’t have to wait for more seasons to be released. You will however have to wait to watch a feature-length movie which takes place AFTER the events and end of Season 5. For more information on the movie, click here.
It has plenty of rewatch value. I’m re-watching it for the second time at a much slower pace than I originally did and am finding it just as enjoyable the second time around.
Though not mentioned earlier in the article, the action and cinematography of the show are impressive throughout.
I’ll give The Last Kingdom 8.5 Uhtred Of Bebbanburg’s out of 10.
I’ve compiled all the trailers in a neat little section if you’re still not convinced to watch!
Watch the Series 1 Trailer below
Watch the Series 2 Trailer below
Watch the Season 3 Trailer (First Netflix Season)
Watch the Season 4 Trailer Below
Watch the Season 5(Final Season) Trailer Below