Why I Love the Last Kingdom

*No spoilers*

last kingdom poster.jpg

So I’m feeling some resentment towards this series at the moment. I mean, it basically took over my life so I *had to* binge watch it, made me preoccupied when I wasn’t watching it and then had the audacity to end?! (well, I ran out of episodes) I’ve been bereft since I finished! Really, it was TOO GOOD. I’ve not been able to watch TV properly since I finished it a few weeks ago (no joke!) And with the time I haven’t been watching the show- in typical bookworm fashion– I’ve been reading the books (I’m already upto number 4 and loving it!) I just can’t get it out my head! Ach, I love it so much, too much. But- you might ask- why do I love it?

Well, I’m glad you asked 😉 It’s simple really: I love a damn good story. Each episode/chapter is action-packed and also manages to build up to a dramatic crescendo. Meaning, I didn’t have to wait forever for something to payoff, while there’s always the promise of bigger, better things to come. My heart was in my mouth the whole time I was watching it- there was tumultuous relationships, tender friendships, brilliant fight scenes, and pain that was all too REAL. Simultaneously agonising and cathartic, it crushed me and rebuilt my hopes over and over. I felt so alive with it that it made me want to go out and have adventures of my own– and you can’t give a series a better compliment 😉 In short, it was EPIC.

It was also stunningly shot. I know it’s nots big budget, but I don’t think that’s always necessary to do a story justice. And there was something authentic in this– it felt super gritty. This may sound like a weird thing to mention, but one thing my mum used to complain about with BBC productions is how often they have clean faces- they go to all the trouble of getting the costumes right and then make everyone spotlessly clean, even poor people super clean (even though in the book it mentions how royalty bathe once a month). I know historical cleanliness is something that’s up for debate- but having people who’ve been fighting or farming be somewhat grubby makes this feel more realistic to me.

For all this, the show still has a very lively spirit and this is thanks to… the main character. Oh my goodness, Uhtred is a fantastic hero. Funny, clever, slightly immature, arrogant as heck, all heart, but strong as a blade- he’s pretty hard not to love. One thing I did notice is how the book and TV show highlight different aspects of his personality, though all of the ingredients are the same. In the book, he’s more head than heart- and I did like seeing him being more calculating and particular successes being more down to cunning. However, I feel like this was swapped out for a tad more joie de vivre and so there was something ineffably charming about the TV iteration. There were also some other necessary for TV changes- like ageing him up faster- but again I feel like they played with this by making him younger in mind rather than physically showing it.

On top of that, there were so many interesting side characters and the show certainly played around with them. In particular, I found myself intrigued by King Alfred, both ally and on-and-off antagonist. He’s one of those weirdly complex individuals who I both dislike and respect at the same time. Some characters did feel superfluous earlier on, but the best ones always get intriguing storylines, which adds a little more depth.

Something else I loved, in both versions, is how the story explores the meeting of Saxon and Dane cultures. I believe (from what little I know of the period) that there eventually was cohabiting and intermarriage between the cultures- and I do like how the show allows this to develop organically. Plus, I think the depictions of *world’s colliding* is brilliantly done. Obviously, Christianity is in the ascendancy in the story, though that clash between the old gods and the new is still a consistent cause of tension. And one of the best ways this is done is through Uhtred’s inner conflict about being a Saxon vs being a Dane. This struggle then ripples out to the how others interact with him and how he moves within the world. I appreciated how subtly this is tackled- both in the book and the show- so it simmers in the background, infrequently boiling over and yet never fully flooding the other aspects of the plot.

Likewise, I liked how this tied into historical events (what little I know of them anyway), without being overpowering. The music and setting go a long way to creating a convincing atmosphere for this peculiar, fascinating, lost world. I know it’s filmed abroad, still it feels like a lost corner of England, if that place had been frozen in time.

What is most amazing about The Last Kingdom was that when I finished my first question was “why don’t we learn more about the Saxons/Vikings in British schools?” And then, with some fateful research, I read online that this was what had inspired the author. Now, call me crazy, but when an author actually manages to light the same fuse in its audience with their book, I think it’s pretty special. Any story that manages to get across its exact premise is a success to me. And this most definitely fed my hunger for history. It’s like the creator passed over the torch to the showrunners, and they passed it over to me (and hopefully other viewers).

I personally am very happy I watched the TV show first– I felt it conveyed the atmosphere brilliantly and I had *so much* fun with it. While I liked the books- they are written with plenty of clarity, are funny at times and Cornwell has a strong voice- I did find they are foreshadowing heavy (which is fine, I often like that, but in the case of spoilers, I liked going into the show fresh and unaware where the plot was headed). Either way, I believe the two exist very well as separate entities and stand on their own just fine.

I can safely say the show will go into my very selective hall of *favourite shows*. I am absolutely enthralled by this story and think it’s a MUST WATCH. And yes, I am saying this so that more people watch it (it’s on Netflix! Go now! #nonspon). While they’ve commissioned season 3 (*mush mush*) I need this show in my life for longer! Or I will make like a Dane and get an axe… *ahem* in case you can’t guess, I kinda want to to BE a Viking warrior now…

orangutan viking

(yes I know the helmet’s historically inaccurate, but c’mon, doesn’t my monkey look cute?)

Okay, I will admit, I got a little carried away in that last paragraph- but can anyone blame me? This show is awesome! Have any of you seen it? What do you think about it? Do you plan to watch it? Let me know in the comments!

73 thoughts on “Why I Love the Last Kingdom

  1. Thank you for reminding me I need to get these books. I’ve only watched the first season of the show because it demands I give it all my attention and most of my TV time these days is multitasking. I’m looking forward to watching more and picking up the books.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I decoded your secret message but I’m sorry, I won’t nuke the Vikings. Now, maybe if you had said North Korea, then we could talk…

    So have you always been a Cornwall fan? I’ve found he’s like a cult. Everyone who likes his stuff seems to worship his very spittle 😉 The rest of us just wonder. Ha.

    That viking orangutan, priceless!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. 😂😂😂 I’m literally laughing my head off at your comment!! 😂😂 haha fortunately (for everyone involved) the Vikings are long gone- so no need to pull out the big guns 😂😂😂

      hehe no- I only discovered him after watching this. And can’t say I’ll be joining any cult lol 😂😂 (I mean, he’s a good writer, but if I’ve managed thus far to not get involved in any author cult of personality, I think I’ll be alright 😉 😂 worshipping the artist isn’t really my style 😂😂)

      hehe thank you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t watched it but it sounds good. When I lived in the UK 25 years ago we used to fight with real swords and spears etc. as part of a Romano-Saxon group, and it was fun, and of course we got hurt, but didn’t sue people over it, since we were fighting with real swords and spears and shields etc. and knew there were risks. I know a lot of the folks were people who taught fighting at castles etc. It was fun.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Watched it. Loved it. Dying for season 3, haha. Season 2 absolutely gutted me emotions wise. I was up and down and around and upside down so much went on in comparison to season one. I got interested in the show not only because I’m interested in anything in that time period but mostly because I’d watched Vikings and really liked it so when I saw that this show was a different take of the story I was all over and yeah, definitely did not disappoint. I live Viking orangutan. Hat and shield are super cool! (P.S. (random) have you seen the teaser trailer for GOT season 8??)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. hehehe glad we’re on the same page!! 😉 Oh my goodness- me too!! It was so emotional!! Ah I really want to watch that too now (but amazon’s messing me around with the cheap dvd version I ordered *sigh*) hehe thank you!! THERE’S A TEASER TRAILER?!?… brb!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You’re an excellent source of new ways to procrastinate – a double edged sword. I should dislike the way your enthusiasm encourages me to detach myself from the pressing tasks of reality by immersing myself in fiction… but I can’t. This is added to my list. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh, they should hire you as their hype-person, you definitely got ME curious and I will try it out on Netflix soon 🙂 It helps, that I wasn’t very lucky with the shows I tried out there lately, so I don’t really have anything that I am watching at the moment. I like Vikings, so maybe this will be for me as well. And I DO like BBC productions!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. hehe well thanks 😉 That’d be a fun job lol! I’m glad you want to check it out. Ah fair enough. I have watched the first episode of Vikings and it’s in a similar (though not the same) vein. And yeah, this started off as BBC, though it was taken over by Netflix for the second season- but they didn’t lose anything in terms of style when it switched 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the last kingdom! I got halfway through season 2 and stopped watching because school, but your review just reminded me that I need to go back and finish it. I love historical fiction shows in general so this one was so well done that it easily became a favouite. I didn’t know this was based on a book so now I have that to look forward to as well! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love this series too. So good to watch and fantastic for a history lover like myself. My husband enjoyed watching this with me too. I vaguely remember reading some of the books in the series years ago but don’t really feel the need to revisit them.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m in the ‘never heard of neither the books nor the show’ category.
    Your post definitely made me curious. 🙂 I will check both of those out. Thank you for that, I am currently on a GoT replacement hunt so this could be a great option. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah well I’m glad- if you’re interested, it’s like “light” Game of Thrones (minus the more overt magic, though there’s hints of mysticism). And actually as a replacement for GRRM and GOT it really works, because GRRM is a fan of the Cornwell’s work, recommends it and says he took inspiration from it 🙂 So definitely worth giving it a go!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Brilliant, I actually did not know about the GRRM connection or if I had, I promptly forgot about it. 🙈
        Thank you, I’ll be reporting back once I check the Last Kingdom out. 👍😊

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I haven’t seen this but you certainly make it sound amazing. Glad they did such a good job with the tv adaption as that’s pretty rare, there’s usually a lot to complain about even when you do like them. LOL

    Liked by 2 people

  11. An enthusiastic review if I’ve ever seen one but so totally true! I am watching it (unfortunately, or rather fortunately, no time for binge watching) these days and it is absolutely stunning! I don’t know if I will go on to the books but the show itself is so good. Enough, go watch it!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I was so waiting for you to write a post about this, just because I knew how much you love The Last Kingdom. I personally think that I would lean more towards just watching the show and not necessarily reading the books as well, but I am glad you enjoyed both of them for what they were. I do promise I really will watch it, but it has to be a certain mood for that and I cannot predict when that will be hahaha

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m glad you have joined us on this dark and dangerous path. 😛 I’ve only actually watched the TV show, but I loved the way they explored the relationship between the Saxon and the Danes. In particular, I love the fact that that we get an emphasis on how the Dane were just looking to settle instead of following the stereotypical “we’re brutish and pillaging just for the fun of it.”

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Amazing review… I’ve had the first book in the series on my shelf for a couple of years and now I feel like I have been seriously missing out 😀 hahahah… and I completely understand the finishing a tv show an then just feeling lost- I usually, when totally sucked into something and it ends, just get petulant like a child and lost in life 😀 horrible! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Okay, is it weird I quit this show because I don’t like the main character’s hairstyle? 😀 To be honest, I’ve only watched the 1st episode, AND I was watching Vikings at the time, so it felt too confusing, but … the hair 😀 Btw you rekindled my interest in it, and I’m going to start as soon as I’m done binging my current show! I devour historical shows for dinner ❤

    Like

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