If you’re looking for something to binge-watch during quarantine and while working from home, check out ‘The Last Kingdom’. A series based on novel saga ‘The Saxon Stories’ by Bernard Cornwell, the series takes its backdrop from historical events of the Danish Viking invasion of the isle of England.
The series’ main character, Uhtred Ragnarson of Bebbanburg (portrayed by Alexander Dreymon), is born a Saxon and a Christian but is raised as a Dane after his father is killed and lives the life of a slave. The entire story revolves around his adventures into reclaiming what is rightfully his.
The Kingdom of Wessex – the last Saxon Kingdom and the reason why the series gets its name – is the backdrop in which the story plays out. The Saxon King Alfred of Wessex sees Uhtred’s potential in creating the England he desires. Living among the Danes for years, Uhtred has inside knowledge on how Vikings live and engage in war. Because of this, King Alfred enlists him to the point of indentured service to unite the Saxon lands and turn it into his dream of England. The plot sounds simple enough, but ‘The Last Kingdom’ is actually not as straightforward of a story as it appears on the surface.
Despite all of his military and combat genius, Uhtred lacks the wisdom to overcome his hot-tempered nature. This oftentimes complicates an otherwise simple encounter, and all hell breaks loose. It is Uhtred’s inherent weaknesses that drive the story of the series and leads him to uncharted territories – both physically and emotionally. He is not a politician, and he thinks with the heart of a warrior. As the series progresses, he learns enough about politics to survive, but his lack of social graces progresses in some emotional and oftentimes heart-wrenching decisions. This is a constant theme throughout the series.
Without spoiling too much, Season 4 introduces new characters, such as brother and sister Eadith and Eardwulf. The siblings are natives of Mercia, the neighboring kingdom and alley of Wessex, and they are deeply involved in the plot of this season. Otherwise, the new season shows more of the same: Uhtred relying on the destiny of his ‘heathen’ gods to guide his actions.
This is a series that is quite similar to Game of Thrones in terms of character deaths, though ‘The Last Kingdom’ is more history than fantasy. Aside from Uhtred, religious overtones between the Christian and Norse faith are at the core of the story. This is deeply highlighted in Uhtred’s background, who is baptized a Christian but raised in the Norse belief system. This creates layers upon layers of political and social intrigue that is on par to the courts of Westeros.
Having said that, ‘The Last Kingdom’ stands on its own merits as one of the more underrated series on Netflix. Let there be no mistake: your guide in the series is Uhtred Ragnarson. You will immerse yourself in all of his joys and sorrows. You will empathize with his plight and the decisions that he makes. Uhtred is a very well-rounded character; and just like any good character he has his weaknesses. Of these, there are many, and he oftentimes does not deny it. Sometimes, he even thrives in these weaknesses. He is reminiscent of an old school barbarian in Dungeons and Dragons. This is what makes him more appealing as a character since his experiences are very relatable. Uhtred Ragnarson is a warrior beyond politics who seeks equality that most lords in ‘The Last Kingdom’ deny.
As such, that is what I think the strength of ‘The Last Kingdom’ is. It shows that inequality exists no matter where we go. However, we shouldn’t stop with mere recognition. We should work towards subduing this inequality in every way we can. Uhtred Ragnarson is a prime example of that sort of thinking, though it took him time to get there. Thus, we can learn from his example. If a seemingly uncultured individual like Uhtred can see solutions to inequality, then everyone else with enough culture should be able to follow suit.
With that, what makes ‘The Last Kingdom’ such a special series is how it shows that there is more than one way of achieving unity and peace. Though it will take time, there will always be a better way than progressing the inequality that is the norm.
‘The Last Kingdom’ is now streaming on Netflix. Destiny is all.
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