Quick Review: The Last Kingdom

Playing as much CK2 as I do, I took notice of this Netflix show when it first popped up. I love the Early Medieval Period as the Wild West of Europe, when kingdoms were new and ambition was the way forward. When I first tried to watch it, I was turned off by the low production values and uninteresting cinematography. It looked really fake, especially when compared with Game of Thrones. That’s what money’ll do for ya.

Over the weekend, I took in most of the first season and a bit of the second. I don’t know how much longer I’m gonna go. The biggest problem the show has is a desparate lack of likable characters. Everyone is either vicious or a fool, and sometimes both. Alfred the Great is soundly portrayed as a Christian politician, a man working desperately to save the titular Last Kingdom of Wessex from the Viking onslaught. But he’s not much fun. Nor is his Queen, a pinch-faced puritan, or the Vikings, who are all menace.

Our protagonist, Uhtred of Babbenberg, is the classic man with a foot in both worlds: a Saxon by birth, he was taken as a thrall by Danes who killed his father and raised as one of them. He is a man without loyalty, almost an anti-hero. This works in the early episodes, when he has an insouciant grin on his face and a devil-may-care attitude. But it becomes tedious as he gets angrier and angrier at the Saxon court which – surprise! – doesn’t trust him. He starts doing dumb things just for the hell of it.

He has several love interests, starting with Brita, another thrall who goes full Stockholm Syndrome. He has a nice wife, whom he loses to his dumb behavior. He has a Celtic pagan sorceress type, whom he also loses. I think this is the pattern: he’ll never settle down, because a TV show needs new nekkid playtime every season. Odds of him knocking boots with Alfred’s freshly-introduced warrior daughter in the Second season: better than average.

It’s hard to keep caring about a show when you can start calling the shots ahead of time. I know already that the Danish gull they’ve made King of Cumberland won’t last. I know that Uhtred won’t make it to his father’s estate in Northumbria any time soon, because that event completes his arc, and there’s two more seasons of the show. I know that Alfred the Great is going to triumph over the Danes, because that is, in fact, what he did.

Overall, I’m kinda bored now. The battle scenes are fun, and I wouldn’t say they need more of them, as they’re appropriately spaced out. I’m just worn out on Epic TV shows that stretch story for unnecessary drama. Characters going two steps forward, one step back for 5 seasons wears on me.

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