Based on Bernard Cornwell’s THE SAXON STORIES series of novels, the Netflix series THE LAST KINGDOM is just plain fun. I just finished the first season and found it engaging for its history but mostly for its engaging characters and solid storytelling.
The story follows the life of Uhtred, who is taken and raised by invading Danes until treachery forces him onto the road to seek his fortune in the Kingdom of Wessex, the last major kingdom in England that has not yet been conquered. There, he forms an uneasy relationship with King Alfred and constantly finds himself pulled between the culture and people of his upbringing and the kingdom that shares his ancestry and can restore his family title and lands. Along the way, there are tons of adventures that culminate in an impressive showdown between the English and the Danes.
The story is well told. Uhtred is a great warrior but runs more than fights. There’s no Conan-like killing here, fighting is brutal and best avoided unless necessary. This is just one of the ways the story is grounded in reality. Historically, it seems accurate enough for what I know of the period. Culturally, there’s a fantastic contrast between the pragmatic and warlike Danes and the God-fearing, terrified English. Uhtred is a great protagonist, cunning and smart and capable, and he makes a great pair with the pious and equally smart and cunning Alfred.
The show is not overly ambitious, setting its sights on a simple story well told, with solid action and engaging characters, and in that it succeeded for me.