The number of historical series has grown in the past few years, especially this fall, which sees the start of two new series: The Bastard Executioner, which premiered last month, and The Last Kingdom, which premieres this week.
In 865 AD, England is divided into several kingdoms, but most of the kingdoms have been overrun by Viking invaders. Although the two shows are on different networks, The Last Kingdom is a kind of sequel to Vikings, which presents the adventures of Ragnar Lodbrok, since Ragnar’s sons lead the initial invasion that conquers all of England, except for Wessex, which becomes the last kingdom. Alfred, king of Wessex and a devoted Christian, is determined to drive the pagan Vikings out of England and unify the kingdoms into a single English nation. Despite his fierce faith, Alfred has a frail body, so he reluctantly relies on Uhtred Ragnarson, a Saxon who was raised by Danes, to lead his armies. Mistrusted by most Saxons because he openly worships the Norse gods, Uhtred struggles as much with his own loyalties as with his many enemies.
The Last Kingdom is based on The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell, so its premiere this week gave me an excuse to re-read the series, and I noticed two things. One, Cornwell is a bit formulaic, so I hope the writing team gives the characters a bit more depth. Two, Uhtred may be the hero but he is not a nice person. Aside from his habit of accidentally killing priests, he thinks nothing of looting towns to become rich enough to attract followers. Also, I wonder if the series will tone down Cornwell’s contempt for Christianity which permeates the books.
Aside from the fact that I am a big Bernard Cornwell fan, and the Saxon stories are my favorites among his books, I am naturally happy that one of the series in my post Six historical fiction series that should be adapted as television shows has been made into a show.
The Last Kingdom premieres on BBC America on October 10.
Here is the trailer.