Jennifer Pitt

The Last Kingdom: Love it or Loathe it?


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If you like Vikings, you will either hate The Last Kingdom, based on the books by Bernard Cornwell, or you will be obsessed. I fall into the latter category; I love them both, for different reasons. Full disclosure: I avoided The Last Kingdom because I thought it was just a rip-off of the Vikings (or vice versa!) but over the holidays a family member began a binge-watch, and I was hooked.

The History Channel’s Vikings depicts the first recorded Norseman to set foot on and invade English soil, and does not back down from the true telling of Ragnar Lothbrok’s (and all Viking’s, to be fair) propensity for violence during the Viking invasions of England and Paris. It tells about Ragnar’s battles with Horik, King Ecgbert, et al on his quest for wealth and lands in England.

Photo from, via Google Images

The BBC’s The Last Kingdom (now showing on Netflix) shows less violence (but you know it’s happening), and (but?) the story seems a bit meatier to me. The story follows Uhtred on his quest to reclaim the lands and title taken from him by his uncle when his father, a Saxon nobleman, was killed in battle. Uhtred is captured in that same battle and raised by the Danes; when his uncle finds out he is alive he tries to buy him back in order to kill Uhtred and secure his seat as an elderman. The Dane that has taken in Uhtred, Ragnar Ragnussen, feels something amiss and buys Uhtred out from under the uncle, therefore ensuring he stays alive and under his protection.

The two stories don’t run parallel. The Last Kingdom is set a few years later: a clan of Danes that is crossing England is headed up by Ubbe, the son of Ragnar Lothbrok, who is set on avenging the (SPOILER ALERT!) death of his father. In Vikings, the bastard son of Judith and Athelstan is adopted by King Ecgbert and named Alfred, which implies that he will become future king Alfred the Great, who is the reigning King in The Last Kingdom.

As a big fan of fictionalized historical accounts, I love that the two involve some of the same story but not the same time frames. I also love, because I am anal about correct historical depictions, that they both got it as right as they could. I googled a lot of the names when I was watching for the first time, trying to figure out if it was the same story or, if not, where it fit in.

Originally airing on the BBC in October 2015, Netflix was smart to pick this show up as quick as it did. With Vikings premiering it’s fourth season on February 18, the two shows dovetail nicely, and (in my humble opinion) will only help each other instead of battling it out in the historical fiction genre.

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