ⓘ The Last Kingdom, TV series. The Last Kingdom is a British historical fiction television series based on Bernard Cornwells The Saxon Stories series of novels. T ..

The Last Kingdom (TV series)

ⓘ The Last Kingdom (TV series)

The Last Kingdom is a British historical fiction television series based on Bernard Cornwells 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 was aired on BBC Two in the UK in March 2017, co-produced by Netflix after the exit of BBC America. Netflix was the sole producer of the third series of ten episodes, streamed from 19 November 2018. On 26 December 2018, Netflix renewed the show for a fourth series. On 19 March 2020, Netflix announced 26 April 2020 as the official series 4 release date.


1. Premise

The series is filmed primarily in Hungary, with most scenes at the eight acres near Budapest owned by Korda Studios with its Medieval Village Set and surrounding mountains, forests and lakes. The story 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 fictional protagonist is Uhtred of Bebbanburg. An earl of that name existed and ruled Bebbanburg Bamburgh Castle, and Northumbria during the reign of Æthelred I and about a century after the story told in The Last Kingdom. When Æthelred had the ealdorman of Southern Northumbria, Ælfhelm of York, murdered in 1006, Uhtred the Bold was made Earl of a united Northumbria and likely Ealdorman of York, his seat at Bebbanburg. He spent much of his time defending the northern border from the Scots. He fought loyally beside the Anglo-Saxons against the Danes, and with Edmund Ironside. But in 1016 after Cnut came to power, Cnut had Earl Uhtred treacherously killed along with 40 other Saxon nobles, probably on Christmas Day. In Bernard Cornwells series he adds a historical note at the end, in which, especially in the first book, he mentions that Uhtred the Bold was his ancestor. He took the liberty of installing Uhtred earlier in history.

The tale has its main character 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 Ragnars daughter Thyra is about to be married, but fellow 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 Kjartans son Sven. Uhtred vows to avenge his adoptive fathers 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 Cornwells novels The Lords of the North and Sword Song.

Series 3 is based on The Burning Land and Death of Kings, but there have been major changes to the plot. This series 10 episodes were produced solely by Netflix. One reviewer indicated that this had a positive effect: "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". Much of the series was written by Stephen Butchard and the filming was completed in Hungary. These episodes cover the decline in King Alfreds health, according to one report "while he tries to ensure that his fiercely-held vision of a Christian, Saxon Wessex as part of a stable English nation will survive him as his legacy. the Uhtred-Alfred relationship is at the core of the story".


2.1. Production Development

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. For portrayals of the Vikings at sea, the Viking ship replica Havhingsten fra Glendalough was used.

Filming for the second series began in Budapest in June 2016. Richard Rankin, Gerard Kearns, Thure Lindhardt, Millie Brady, Erik Madsen, and Peter McDonald will join the cast. In August 2016, Aftonbladet reported that Swedish actors Bjorn 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, based on the books The Lords of the North and Sword Song, which would air exclusively on the streaming service, and Bernard Cornwell indicated that he had been offered a cameo appearance. Swedish actor Ola Rapace joined the cast for series 3, as Jarl Harald Bloodhair. Swedish director Erik Leijonborg was behind the camera for series 3, he has collaborated with Rapace on several Swedish TV-series.

On 26 December 2018, the series was renewed for a fourth series by Netflix.


2.2. Production 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, most notably Uhtred the Bold more than a century later. The people identified as "Danes" came from many places of Denmark, including Southern Sweden and Norway. Historians believe that the Danish invaders of Northumbria came from Jutland in Denmark, as mentioned in Cornwells books, as well as some of the Danish islands and East Denmark southern Sweden.

Ubba from series 1 really existed. He is thought to have led a mixed force including Frisians and men from Ireland. The TV series Vikings has him born in Norway and the son of Ragnar Lodbrok. There are records that support this, but some historians doubt it.


3. Release

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 series was broadcast in the Spanish region of Catalonia on TV3 on 24 July 2017.

The second and third series were released on Netflix in the U.S., Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Japan, Australia, and Portugal.


4.1. Reception Critical reception

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

Sam Wollaston reviewed the first episode in The Guardian and warned, "Its 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 OGrady 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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