Norse warriors are all the rage these days; axe wielding, mead swilling, beard promoting, land grabbing and Christian baiting – these fearsome foes are cutting a swathe across our screens. With Thor Ragnarok and season five of Vikings about to be unleashed the Scandinavian hordes are dominating our celluloid dreams like never before and into this thronging mindscape struts Uhtred son of Uhtred, the true heir of Bebbanburg.
In The Last Kingdom the BBC have hit pay dirt, however the adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxons Stories would be nothing if not for the production values that the show luxuriates in. Tabards glinting in the sun with fine embroidery upon their sleeves, tabards that would not look out of place hung beside the Bayeux Tapestry, swords and axes that dull over time as blood drips down in pleasing globules, peasants and background characters that hold the attention for longer than other television stars who are front and centre, battles and skirmishes that rampage across the screen delivering crimson hued wonderments. The attention to detail, for the small screen, is astonishing; tattoos adorn the fearsome visage of the Danish foes, scars on bit characters bring their backstory to life, even the weapons have variety that would make a box of Quality Street blush.
All that would be for naught however if it was not for a strong storyline that delivers; intrigue, action, romance, infighting, plots against the throne and the odd moment of levity. While the romance might be somewhat relegated to the shadows, after all this a red blooded affair, it is still present – dalliances aplenty that put a smile on a embittered old face and a song in the heart of a true warrior are all the rage but somewhat tempered with guts and warfare. Manoeuvrings in the corridors of power that lead to bloodshed are commonplace as are double-crosses and backstabbing, all in a days work for the high and mighty. Much credit must be heaped at the feet of the actors, imbuing the fearsome hordes with more than just a cliché or two is no mean feat, motives remain hidden and agendas unclear as Alexander Dreymon and David Dawson steal the show as the heroic Lord of Bebbanburg and the pious King Alfred – each with different Gods and aspirations. And topped of with the frenzy and bloodletting of combat this is a series that is here for the long haul, move aside Ragnar Lothbrok and company Uhtred son of Uhtred is here to stay!