The Last Kingdom: Trapped in a World of Mediocre Inspirations

Thursday , 6, July 2017 63 Comments

I’ve heard good things about The Last Kingdom, so I decided to check it out. Judging from the first episode, it’s basically Vikings meets Game of Thrones… but without the most aggressively awful elements of each.

It’s still bad, though.

Now, I’m no historian. But the Christians depicted in this are just plain stupid. From the boy disobeying his father to hurl insults at boats full of vikings, to the superstitious mother, and on to Priest that nearly drowns a boy while baptizing him. It’s embarrassing. You don’t look at this and think, “man, I wonder who’s going to win… awesome Vikings or cool British people?” You think… “thank goodness the Vikings cleaned out the gene pool to the extent that they did!”

There’s nothing in the way of tension there. And no one to really root for. And if you started to, it’s all in vain. The whole point here is to create bargain bin Ned Stark and discount Robert Barantheon as quickly as possible so they can be killed off. I would have thought this sort of cheap trick would be worn out by now as it isn’t good for much once the shock value has worn off. The thing is… for it to work, the characters have to give off an ongoing protagonist type vibe long enough that you become attached to them. These guys don’t. At all.

And the actual protagonist…? Who you don’t really notice is a protagonist until he is replaced by a guy this really, really good at standing around, looking cool? His whole arc here is a carbon copy of The Last Samurai. You know the story: dumb American/Westerner/whatever goes off to fight barbarians somewhere. Something goes wrong and he finds himself a captive within their society. Gradually he goes native, with a great desire to earn their respect. Finally, by applying a synthesis of barbarism and civilization, he does stupendously awesome things and makes the bad people feel bad.

It’s already a tired plot. But it’s especially incoherent here. The writers have already gone out of their way to establish the premise that “Vikings are SMRT, Christians are brain damaged.” But this dumb kid that enjoys invoking Woden around his priest and lying about his dad… how does he just spontaneously know to be awesome and honorable and brave (and foolish) when everyone around him is contemptible? And why would a Viking chief– who are all established is being barbarically barbarous, wild, bloodthirsty, and cruel– why would he suddenly see something of value in this boy, enough to inspire him to adopt him and so forth…?

Where do the values come from that make all of this possible? Why… they’ve essentially been mocked at and sneered at and lampooned for the preceding thirty minutes. It’s the same thing as the Game of Thrones story beats. The writers understand that these sorts of scenes have worked pretty well for other creators over the past ten or twenty years. But they have no concept of how to organically set them up in such a way that they reproduce the intended emotional response.

It didn’t have to be this way, of course. There’s no reason that the writers couldn’t have read works from before 1980 such as The King of Elfland’s Daughter, The High Crusade, and The Roaring Trumpet. Equipped with a knowledge of the fantasy genre’s true history, they might used a broader palette of story elements to produce something different, inspiring, or wondrous. Locked into the least common denominator norms of our contemporary culture, they lack the capacity to even imagine doing something like that. And they don’t even know it.

Some day they may stumble across the masterworks of the bad old days of pulp fantasy. They may be shocked by just how good they are and wonder why it is that no one told them to read this stuff before. But the thing is, someone did tell them to check these authors out. His name was Gary Gygax. And it’s no accident that the same thing that was essential to getting a robust tabletop fantasy campaign off the ground could have saved these people from producing the utterly forgettable stories that they do.

63 Comments
  • His name was Gary Gygax.

  • PC Bushi says:

    The first episode or two are clumsy. But it gets good. And there *are* a lot of cool elements to it. Father Beocca is a badass, for one. Not all the Christians are portrayed as stupid and base, nor are all the Vikings either awesome or brutish. They are pagan, though.

    See my blog post for a different take! http://www.castaliahouse.com/you-should-watch-the-last-kingdom/

  • Xavier Basora says:

    Jeffro

    It’s pretty clear that the writers are wilfully ignorant about the history of the volkwandering and how Christanity was consolidating in Europe.
    The writers being so awesomelly smart(tm) don’t ask a baxic question of why did paganism fall by the wayside even if there was some inculturation and synthesis.

    xavier

  • Rick says:

    How would a priest almost drown a child during Baptism?!

  • Nathan says:

    Unfortunately, the anti-Christian part can be traced to the author of the source material, Bernard Cornwell, who grew up under abusive Christian foster parents who adhered to an extremely strict and fanatic version of the faith. Christians in his books do not fare well, almost to the point of parody.

  • Dangerous Bob says:

    They did such a p*ss-poor job of casting this show. Imagine reading the Conan stories from REH and then casting Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory as Conan. The books are much better and, not surprisingly, the TV version is much more anti-Christian than the books.

  • Paul Wolfe says:

    He’s only noble in his own mind. He’s impulsive, over-proud to a point of self-destruction, and interested only in fighting, screwing and drinking — and being lauded for his achievements. I don’t remember Christians being overly parodied in the show — but like all people — they’re kinda dumb, self-centered, and damn sure their way is the right way. The vikings are depicted the same. Definitely not a Christian hit-piece in my opinion.

    As far as the character’s “dual-citizenship” — from the story, he was captured as a child and Ragnar Ragnarsson adopted him because the kid “had spunk.” So, he was raised in norse society and thus idolized his adopted father and brothers. The character has a great arc, in my opinion, if you think about how Britain, at the time, was not *just* Saxons vs Vikings. It was a hodge-podge of invaders over a long period of time (Saxons and Norse) displacing the natives (Celts and Britons) and after Alfred’s legacy got close to uniting all of England under one banner, the Normans (who were descended from Norse in France) invaded and took the whole country. The character was of both worlds, same as Britain at the time and England in the future.

  • Hooc Ott says:

    The Novels generally depict a secular godless world in regards to both the Norse and Christian. It is most harsh on the Christians depicting Christian historic miracles and artifacts of the time as either overzealous Clergy being mad or out right liars. All narrated under Utred’s inexplicable mocking modern secular view point.

    And then out of nowhere depicts real magic coming from Druidic Celts and Utred’s skepticism inexplicably vanishes.

    At one point he convinces King Alfred to allow his witch GF to preform a healing spell on Alfred’s son.

    Which of course cures the boy and the whole thing is thrown mockingly into Alfred’s devout christian wife’s face who doubted a Celt witch could cure her son.

    “why are you so superstitious as to not believe in magic?” or some such nonsense.

    This is not general secularism to entertain and inform modern audiences. It is deliberate and singularly targeted.

    • PCBushi says:

      Though in the show they spin it and say God could have been working through her. I mean I’m not saying there’s nothing to the argument and I’m not going to tell anyone not to be off-put. Just saying I’m pretty strongly Catholic and I didn’t find it offensive. If you’re looking for it, though, of course you’ll find it.

      I think it’s also fair to point out that a lot of the old pulp stories weren’t super Christian. Look at Conan and Kull. That doesn’t mean they weren’t fun (and awesome). For its failings, The Last Kingdom (show anyway) is a lot less nihilistic than Game of Thrones. It actually exalts a lot of virtues like heroism, courage, and loyalty. And again, Uhtred is skeptical of God and disdainful of the Christians. And a lot of the time he pays a price for his pride and disrespect.

      • Hrodgar says:

        While I haven’t watched the show myself, given the pernicious and persistent nature of syncretism and the very exclusive claims made by the Church, to depict pagan witchcraft as both efficacious and benevolent can hardly be other than anti-Christian. Exacerbating this is the grave calumny of portraying Alfred the Great, of all men, as consenting to witchcraft; a similar portrayal of St. Edward the Confessor would scarcely be less plausible.

        Whether or not old pulp stories were Christian is besides the point, as is whether virtues of some kind are extolled, or whether some other show has some other failing that may or may not be worse. Emperor Julian was in many ways a really very admirable man, after all.

  • Nan says:

    Hey! We needed something to binge watch after watching up everything we were interested in! We weren’t sure after the first episode but then we were hooked. It may not be historically correct but it was entertaining. The acting was as good as some of the so called top rated shows. We liked it!! Our son is a HUGE critic and he even liked it. Go figure. To each his own.

    • bar1scorpio says:

      Let’s add that there is 1 Christian miracle Uhtred witnesses, Father Beoca walking through wild dogs and bringing sanity to Uhtred’s insane step sister. Even Uhtred is in shock at the old priest’s bravery.

  • RS646 says:

    I appreciate it might not be historically accurate but it’s TV entertainment not a documentary. I found it interesting , acting good , best hair and costumes ever and quite gripping. If your looking for accuracy read a history book – and don’t take the telly too seriously.

    • Jack Hoff says:

      I agree. This has to be the worse review ever. The guy doesn’t even like Game of Thrones, I should have stopped reading there

  • Alex says:

    Hello,

    While I respect your opinion, I feel that you did not even pay attention to this one episode (weird) you based your entire review on. A he was raised for the first 8-10 years by an honorable man that followed the code of their land to a T. He was then taken by the Vikings because they thought he would be worth something, which he was. During this time he should courage and honor by saving old Ragnars daughter. After this old Ragnar saw Uhtred differently and when it came time to decide his fate, send him to his death or buy him, Ragnar decided to save the boy just as Uhtred had saved his daughter. This explains all of errors you pointed out. All of this is very clear even though it unfolds quick. Ragnar is not supposed to be like Ned Stark or Robert Baratheon, that is a terrible comparison. Watch the whole show before you try to demean an entire show and fan base. Also, you had a lot of spelling errors.

  • Doug. says:

    The series isnt amazing. But its not copying Vikings or GOT. Its following the book series which is fantastic which itself is based of the saxon chronicles written at the time by the priest Assar.
    I recommend the bolks ober the series as its dulles down for the ignorant audience of today.

  • Pam B says:

    I absolutely love The Last Kingdom! I hope there is a 3rd season. I love Utred. He is a bad ass Viking.

  • Alise says:

    I agree with RS646. Some of you are taking this way too seriously. It’s a show, not history of England. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course, but I thought casting was excellent. Carry on Last Kingdom, I for one will be watching.

  • Hooc Ott says:

    “Nan says:
    RS646 says:
    Alex says:
    Doug. says:
    Pam B says:
    Alise says:”

    I spy with mine eye one two three four five six or more shills

    Hope you lads are getting paid.

    On a side note for the PulpRev fam I have good news, have you heard? We are breaking through.

    https://kek.gg/i/66SmG5.png

    • deuce says:

      Rather than “shills”, I would say it’s very likely that someone linked the post to a TLK fansite/FB group, maybe Twitter. The show DOES have legitimate fans — I’m just not one of them.

  • L.C. Dawson says:

    I read them all 12 or 13, found em entertain.Certainly worth the read. Later books by auther Bernard Cornwell. Deal with the hundred yrs. war,through the conflict in India and the battles with the French. hIstorical fiction to be enjoyed.

  • Matt3046 says:

    It would have been better if they had stayed more true to Cornwells books. But the fact is that Utred was always a conflicted arsling. A flawed character with plenty of hubris.

  • Rubo says:

    I wonder why everthing these days is compared to game of thrones! Broaden your horizons and open free your minds!

    • Vlad James says:

      NONE of these shows, including “The Last Kingdom”, ever get greenlit without the smash success of GoT.

      I’m not the biggest GoT fan and think it should have ended a season or two ago (it’s been on a sharp decline since Season 4), but its influence is undeniable.

  • Ms. Redwine says:

    I truly believe your review stinks. The character development and the heart kept us watching. I hope this series continues. I call such shoes man movies, but it wasn’t. It kept my attention to the end and I wanted more. I loved the actors and it was man, but it was also woman and child. I hope it comes back.

  • Kathey says:

    I love the Last Kingdom! And I thought they did a great casting job!! I hope they come with season 3 🙂

  • Helard peralta says:

    You wrong mate the last kingdom was awesometacular the characters , the landscapes , the battles , the acting , the romance between the queen and Erik the only part indid.not like that you forgot to mention was when father beocca and Hilda the nun were able to fight Dane warriors that i think was not cool but you could say that they trained with uhtred and we’re on rage mode

  • Marge says:

    This is a great show! I enjoyed it so much! Relax and just enjoy something for once!

  • Kathy says:

    I hated to see it end. Looking forward to binge watching season 3

  • Boudicca says:

    This article forgets – the Christians of the Dark Ages WERE stupid. Horrifically, irredeemably, pathetically stupid. Ever heard of trial by fire, medieval medicine, or, to be frank, Christian theology? The Pagans were industrious, enquisitive, lovers of knowledge, accepting of human nature (they weren’t terrified of sex), and innovative. They lived in democratic societies where a tyrant could and would be overthrown and a new leader chosen. The Church advocated monarchy, dictatorship, and a network of kings ruled by the king of kings, the supreme tyrant – God, the first Nazi. The Dark Ages was named such because of a decline in civilisation, in intellect, in art, in medicine, in health…it all went dark. What began the Dark Ages? Christianity. So don’t be surprised when christians are depicted as hysterical, pathetic and stupid. Dark Ages Christians were some of the most terrifying individuals who ever lived.

    • Charlie Baud says:

      Since you’re clearly not a strong reader, I’ll break down your argument bit by bit and explain to you plainly why you’re wrong.

      “This article forgets – the Christians of the Dark Ages WERE stupid. Horrifically, irredeemably, pathetically stupid.”

      Odd, given the numerous cultural and scientific advances made in the so-called “Dark Ages”.

      http://jameshannam.com/medievalscience.htm
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/cosmostheinlost/2014/03/21/science-terrible-middle-ages/

      “Ever heard of trial by fire, medieval medicine, or, to be frank, Christian theology?”

      The first one happened in The Enlightenment, Medieval medicine was more advanced than people like you car to admit, and Christian theology was what made modern science possible.

      “The Pagans were industrious, enquisitive, lovers of knowledge, accepting of human nature (they weren’t terrified of sex), and innovative.”

      Why does it always come back to sex with you people? Though I shouldn’t be surprised, I’m clearly arguing with a CUNT.

      The Germanic Pagans and Saxons still practiced human sacrifice, and didn’t really do all that much before the monasteries came along.

      “They lived in democratic societies where a tyrant could and would be overthrown and a new leader chosen. The Church advocated monarchy, dictatorship, and a network of kings ruled by the king of kings, the supreme tyrant – God, the first Nazi.”

      Yeah! Authority is bad, maaaaaaaaaaaan! You sound like a spoiled teenager, as if there was any reason to objectively prefer democracy to monarchy, or if Monarchy is the same thing as dictatorship. Actually, given that civilization tends to stagnate with democracy, I’d say the medieval model is to be preferred.

  • Kim says:

    The last kingdom doesn’t imitate anything on tv, it’s similar to thrones and Viking in genre only. Its well cast, well acted and very entertaining. If you don’t like it don’t watch it, your review was inaccurate, you’ve misunderstood quite a lot about the first few episodes, the weight of your argument is rested in a few insignificant moments of the story. Utters character has a fantastic duality that endears you to his him.alfreads does the same. And father beoca???? Bro I watch this show just got him and the nun that fights with them. Your an assling if you don’t like this show.

  • Priscilla Skelton says:

    My husband and I watch this show for entertainment not to have a history llesson. Not everyone enjoys the thick jumping plots that the Game of Thrones employs. Leave our show alone! We are patiently waiting for season 3.

  • Jose Salazar says:

    I love the show. Period.

  • John Perrier says:

    I read all 9 books and they were fantastic and way less confusing than the Game of Thrones books. I do agree that Utred is no where near the deacription of the character in the book from his size and the color of his hair. However, what we must understand is that there almost wasn’t a second season of TLK because they didn’t have the budget. I believe if TLK had the Game of Thrones budget there would be a lot less criticism.

  • Dillon says:

    It’s obvious that the writer of this so called review is a closed minded arrogant scrub. If he did any real research on the show or the book from where it is derived any person with half of a brain could take from this show the idea of how religions and the the need for land where two wars wrapped into one.

  • Logan 9 fingers says:

    On the second to last book if the series, and after reading them then watching the TV series the books are so much better and explain more not like the TV show, you have to try and figure out what is going on as so much is missed out.

  • G says:

    Whoever made this review must’ve been watching something entirely different. It is an insult to anyone with a cerebral cortex.

  • Monica says:

    I loved this show. Can’t wait for next season. It is supposed to be a little about the history of Alfred. Uhtred is a fictional character while Alfred is historical. If you watch Vikings you can see Alfred as a child before the last kingdom. The first few episodes may be clumsy but I’ve seen a lot worse. And these actually have some historically true points. I wish there were more shows like these.

  • Ali Templeton says:

    I love The Last Kingdom. I haven’t read the books, but maybe I will now. I found the meeting of two cultures based on historical fact absolutely fascinating. I thought Alfred’s complex character was brilliantly acted – loved them all and can’t wait for the next season. Maybe best not to judge on just one episode. Most series need a chance to develop and we watchers need to work with the premise and characters.

  • Katie McB says:

    I love the series! It’s an historical drama loosely based on facts, however I only watch for entertainment. Not history lessons!

  • Michael says:

    I loved this show. I want more. So I bought the books and am reading on. Many movies are not exact on their history. But this is a great story. Great actors that I can enjoy following. The adventure. The attitudes. The characters. The boldness. Great Story.
    I can’t wait to see more shows.

  • Charlie Baud says:

    How much of the British public’s taxes does the BBC spend to shill here?

  • NARoberts says:

    It’s the Supernatural fandom! Welcome back everyone!

  • John E. Boyle says:

    Man, Jeffro, you really kicked open the box with this post.

  • Reno wumpkins says:

    I love the show. It’s well acted, well cast and totally gripping! I’m sorry but you can’t give a well rounded review based on watching one episode. You need to give any drama a chance to grow and develop before you rip it to pieces. It isn’t a historical documentary,it’s a historical drama loosely based around historical facts, but more so based on adventure,a great story and great characters. Uhtred and Alfred’s complex Characters were brilliantly acted as well as some very strong characters like Erik, Ragnar and Beocca. The Bernard Cromwell books have much more depth but this is a TV series with a limited budget, so enjoy a well made, well acted drama that will keep you entertained and on the edge of your seat. I don’t like GOT but this is fabulous and I can’t wait for the season. Love it!!

  • BRENDA MAS-DRYSDALE says:

    Personally cannot wait for season 3. The screenwriters have done a brilliant interpretation of the story and not only that the actors are brilliant especially Uhtered his expressions say it all. Best thing BBC has done with our Licence Fee in an extremely long time!

  • NARoberts says:

    Hmm…they’re not as rude as the Supernatural fandom, but they share the former’s inability to put forward any other arguments besides: “I like it” and “Don’t think to hard about it.”

  • redbeardjoey says:

    Horrible review. Everyone thinks they are a critic these days. South park nailed it when they mocked these type of online godly critics thinking thier opinion really matters.

    The show was cool, it’s fun to watch in between vikings and got. So gtfo.

  • Lynn Root says:

    I have no idea how accurate this show is, nor do I care. It has made me want to know more about the history of my ancestors.
    The actors brought it to life made me want to really know more.
    We are not stupid we can look history up myself, but experiencing it through the actors helps us to feel it too.
    I was heartbroken when Ubba died he was my favorite character.
    Rune Tempte brought him to life in a very big loud way.
    Everyone learns differently some need to see it come to life, but thank you for keeping tabs on it.

  • Kimberly Q says:

    This is a terrible review. How is it even fair to the writers, cast and actors? The acting is awesome, especially David Dawson as Alfred. He was an amazing character and Uhtred is too. I love the show and it’s better than Vikings or GOT. Anticipating Series 4 on April 26!!

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