Move over Jon Snow, there’s a hot new warrior in town. After giving The Last Kingdom a shot this past Saturday evening, I was pleasantly surprised. Figuring it could hardly be another The Bastard Executioner, I stayed on the channel after watching Doctor Who, and was immediately swept into the plight of the young boy who would be future ruler of his father’s lands.
***Spoilers for the first episode follow, but they’re kind of story-setting spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled, skip to the characters’ general descriptions, though they do also contain slightly spoilerish information.***
After Uhtred’s father is killed in battle and invading Viking Earl Ragnar orders the Lord’s son be taken as prisoner, you’d expect the young lad to escape as soon as a chance presented itself. Instead, Uhtred and a girl Ragnar keeps as work slaves are eventually treated as part of the family (in contrast to the way Uhtred’s father treated his son), and in turn, the children become fiercely loyal to Ragnar. With exceptional actors (hey, was that Rutger Hauer?), a rich (fictionalized) history — The Last Kingdom is based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories — and some truly impressive battle scenes, this new series feels akin to Game of Thrones in terms of quality (but it’s not a copycat); it’s everything we would have wanted TBE to be. If you haven’t already, just drop that series, and give The Last Kingdom a go. Here are the characters you’ll be happy you met.
Tom Taylor as young Uhtred
Uhtred’s story as a young boy kidnapped by Vikings and eventually raised as part of his captor’s family is just as compelling as the events that later befall the grown man, and Taylor is an affecting young actor.
Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred of Bebbanburg
Intense and emotional (the anti-gloomy/pouty, Kit Harington, if you will), Dreymon’s (who you may recall as Luke from American Horror Story: Coven) Uhtred is immediately commanding and decisive. When he announces he’ll “take back what is mine” to his ratty uncle, you’ll believe him, dragon or no.
Matthew Macfadyen as Lord Uhtred
I can’t say too much about the good Lord without getting too spoilerish, but Macfayden (Ripper Street, MI-5) is excellent as a commander leading his men into a terrible battle.
Peter Gantzler as Earl Ragnar
One of those at first you’ll despise him, then suddenly love him kind of guys, Gantzler (Borgen) has similar inherent strength and the softness necessary to his character. He’s a violent, harsh man who’ll do anything to protect his family.
Rutger Hauer as Ravn
Yup, it was him, and thought I practically squealed with delight when I saw Hauer’s name, it took a second for me (several scenes for the mister) to recognize him in a darkened room. Though his Ravn, a poet and Earl Ragnar’s father may be a low key role, he’s as memorable and eccentric as ever.
Emily Cox as Brida
Cox (Homeland, The Silent Mountain) stars as the grown up little girl kidnapped and raised along with Uhtred. She’s his best friend, and probably more.
Rune Temte as Ubba
Ubba is a crazy-violent senior soldier in Ragnar’s circle.
Joseph Millson as Alferic
Milson (Casino Royale, Macbeth, Penny Dreadful) is appropriately despicable as Uhtred’s nasty uncle, who’ll stop at nothing to steal his nephew’s throne.
Ian Hart as Beocca
Hart (Boardwalk Empire, The Bridge, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, ) is suitable creepy as the priest who baptizes Uhtred and advises his (English) family.
Tobias Santelmann as Ragnar the Younger
Santelmann (Homeland, Hercules) is Uhtred’s new (Danish) brother.
David Dawson as King Alfred the Great
We haven’t met him yet, but stand by for Dawson (Ripper Street, Peaky Blinders, The Borgias) in episode 2.
Here are a few giftastic moments, and video:
The Last Kingdom airs on BBCA Saturdays at 10 pm EST.