The Last Kingdom TV Series Overview (2015)


Introduction

The Last Kingdom is a British historical fiction television series based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories series of novels. It premiered in 2015 on BBC America, BBC Two and later in 2018 on Netflix.

The series lasted for a total of five seasons, with the final season airing on 09 March 2022. A feature-length sequel, titled ‘Seven Kings Must Die’ is in development at Netflix.

As Alfred the Great defends his kingdom from Norse invaders, Uhtred – born a Saxon but raised by Vikings – seeks to claim his ancestral birthright.

Outline

Series 01

The first series roughly covers the events of The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman, the first and second novels in Bernard Cornwell’s ‘The Saxon Stories’, however they are condensed for the screen. In the year 866, the Great Heathen Army’s arrival in Britain is about to redefine the relationship between Vikings and Anglo-Saxons. Following establishment of Danish rule in Jórvík and East Anglia, the show largely focuses on the resistance of the Kingdom of Wessex to ongoing Viking incursions to Southern England.

The first season covers the years 866-887. The main protagonist (named Osbert in childhood) is re-baptised as Uhtred after his elder brother Uhtred is killed by the Danes; his father, along with other Saxon noblemen of Northumbria, are killed in battle against the Danes. Only his uncle and step-mother survive. Uhtred and a Saxon girl named Brida are taken as slaves by Earl Ragnar to his home in Danish Northumbria. Ragnar comes to accept Uhtred as his own son, adopts him and raises him as Uhtred Ragnarsson. Time passes, and Ragnar’s daughter Thyra is about to be married, but fellow Danes attack the night before the wedding and set fire to the hall in which the family is sleeping. Ragnar is burned alive, and Thyra taken as a slave. Only Uhtred and Brida escape as they have spent the night in the woods tending a charcoal kiln. The attackers are led by Kjartan, a disgruntled Viking who had been banished by Ragnar from his lands years earlier for an offence committed by Kjartan’s son Sven. Uhtred vows to avenge his father Ragnar’s death, while simultaneously hoping to reclaim Bebbanburg his birthright from his uncle, who seeks to kill Uhtred to keep Bebbanburg for himself. Uhtred is forced to choose between the kingdom of his ancestors and the people who have raised him, and his loyalties are constantly tested.

Series 02

The second series roughly covers the happenings of Cornwell’s third and fourth novels The Lords of the North and Sword Song. The second season covers the years 878 to 886, and shows Uhtred quests in Northumbria, and Wessex and Mercia conflict with the brothers Sigefrid and Eric.

This was the final season to air on the BBC, before moving to Netflix.

Series 03

Beginning with the third series, the show was solely produced by Netflix. The third series is based on Cornwall’s fifth and sixth novels The Burning Land and Death of Kings, however there are considerable plot changes compared to the previous seasons. The third season roughly covers the years 893 to 900.

These episodes cover the decline in King Alfred’s health, and the continuing conflict between the Christians and Danes. One reviewer indicated that Netflix had a positive effect on the series indicating: “With it came a certain increase in production values, most notably during the epic end-of-episode clash in which the swing of every sword and thwock of every shield hit firmly home,” but added that “the blood-and-gore budget has also undergone a significant increase, thanks in large part to the arrival of the beautiful but psychotic Skade (Thea Sofie Loch Næss)”.

All ten episodes on series three appeared on Netflix on 19 November 2018.

Series 04

The fourth series is based on Cornwell’s seventh and eight novels The Pagan Lord and The Empty Throne. Similar to series three, there are significant plot changes from the novels. The fourth season takes place around 901 to 912, and deals with Danish attacks and political struggles in Mercia and attacks on Winchester.

All ten episodes of series 4 appeared on Netflix on 26 April 2020.

Series 05

The fifth season was announced as the final season in 2021. It is based on Cornwell’s ninth and tenth novels Warriors of the Storm and The Flame Bearer. Similar to series three and four, there are significant plot changes from the novels.

All ten episodes of the final series appeared on Netflix on 09 March 2022.

Cast

  • Main:
    • Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred of Bebbanburg.
    • David Dawson as King Alfred (series 1-3).
    • Tobias Santelmann as Ragnar the Younger (series 1-3).
    • Emily Cox as Brida.
    • Adrian Bower as Leofric (series 1, 3).
    • Thomas W. Gabrielsson as Guthrum (series 1).
    • Simon Kunz as Odda the Elder (series 1-2).
    • Harry McEntire as Aethelwold (series 1-3).
    • Rune Temte as Ubba (series 1).
    • Joseph Millson as Aelfric (series 1-2, 4).
    • Brian Vernel as Odda the Younger (series 1).
    • Amy Wren as Mildrith (series 1).
    • Charlie Murphy as Queen Iseult (series 1).
    • Ian Hart as Beocca (series 1-4).
    • Eliza Butterworth as Aelswith, Alfred’s wife and Queen of England (series 2-present; recurring series 1).
    • Thure Lindhardt as Guthred (series 2).
    • Eva Birthistle as Hild, a nun and one of Uhtred’s most trusted allies (series 2–present; recurring series 1).
    • Gerard Kearns as Halig (series 2; recurring series 1).
    • David Schofield as Abbot Eadred (series 2).
    • Peri Baumeister as Gisela, Uthred’s second wife and sister of Guthred (series 2-3).
    • Peter McDonald as Brother Trew (series 2).
    • Mark Rowley as Finan, a fierce Irish warrior sworn to Uhtred (series 2-present).
    • Alexandre Willaume as Kjartan (series 2; recurring series 1).
    • Julia Bache-Wiig as Thyra (series 2-3; recurring series 1).
    • Ole Christoffer Ertvaag as Sven (series 2; recurring series 1).
    • Björn Bengtsson as Sigefrid (series 2).
    • Cavan Clerkin as Father Pyrlig, a Welsh priest and former warrior (series 2-present).
    • Arnas Fedaravičius as Sihtric, Kjartan’s son who becomes one of Uthred’s allies (series 2-present).
    • Christian Hillborg as Erik (series 2).
    • Jeppe Beck Laursen as Haesten (series 2-present).
    • Toby Regbo as Aethelred, Lord of the Mercians (series 2-4).
    • Millie Brady as Princess Aethelflaed (series 2-present).
    • James Northcote as Aldhelm (series 2-present).
    • Adrian Bouchet as Steapa, Alfred’s and later Edward’s chief of guards (series 2-4).
    • Ewan Mitchell as Osferth, Alfred’s illegitimate son and one of Uthred’s allies (series 2-present).
    • Simon Stenspil as Dagfinn, a chief of the Danes (series 2-3).
    • Timothy Innes as Edward, King of England (series 3-present).
    • Thea Sofie Loch Næss as Skade (series 3).
    • Ola Rapace as Earl Sigurd “Bloodhair” (series 3).
    • Magnus Bruun as Cnut, a powerful Danish Warlord and cousin of Ragnar (series 3-4).
    • Adrian Schiller as Aethelhelm the Elder, a rich and powerful Ealdorman in Wessex (series 3-present).
    • Kevin Eldon as Bishop Erkenwald, a bishop in service to Alfred (series 3).
    • Jamie Blackley as Eardwulf, the commander of Lord Æthelred’s household troops (series 4).
    • Stefanie Martini as Eadith, the mistress of Ealdorman Æthelred and the younger sister of Eardwulf (series 4-present).
    • Finn Elliott as Young Uhtred, Uhtred’s son (series 4-present).
    • Ruby Hartley as Stiorra, Uhtred’s daughter (series 4-present).
    • Richard Dillane as Ludeca, an Ealdorman of Mercia (series 4-present).
    • Dorian Lough as Burgred, an Ealdorman of Mercia (series 4-present).
    • Steffan Rhodri as King Hywel Dda (series 4-present).
    • Nigel Lindsay as Rhodri (series 4).
    • Eysteinn Sigurðarson as Sigtryggr, a Viking warlord (series 4-present).
    • Amelia Clarkson as Ælflæd, wife of King Edward and Aethelhelm’s daughter (series 4-present; recurring series 3).
  • Recurring:
    • Introduced in Series 1:
      • Matthew Macfadyen as Lord Uhtred.
      • Rutger Hauer as Ravn.
      • Peter Gantzler as Earl Ragnar.
      • Tom Taylor as Young Uhtred.
      • Henning Valin Jakobsen as Storri.
      • Jason Flemyng as King Edmund.
      • Alec Newman as King Æthelred.
      • Lorcan Cranitch as Father Selbix.
      • Victor McGuire as Oswald.
      • Sean Gilder as Wulfhere.
      • Jonas Malmsjö as Skorpa of the White Horse.
      • Paul Ritter as King Peredur.
      • Nicholas Rowe as Brother Asser.
  • Introduced in Series 2:
    • Richard Rankin as Father Hrothweard.
    • Magnus Samuelsson as Clapa.
    • Anthony Cozens as Aidan.
    • Henrik Lundström as Rollo.
    • Marc Rissmann as Tekil.
    • Christopher Sciueref as Jonis.
    • Erik Madsen as Fiske.
    • Jóhannes Haukur as Sverri.
    • Oengus MacNamara as Bjorn.
    • Tibor Milos Krisko as Rypere.
    • Ingar Helge Gimle as Gelgill.
  • Introduced in Series 3:
    • Ed Birch as Sigebriht.
    • Julia Brown as Ecgwynn.
    • Ian Conningham as Offa.
    • Tygo Gernandt as Jackdaw.
    • Jon Furlong as Brother Godwin.
    • Debbie Chazen as Sable.
    • Anton Saunders as Godric.
    • Ciáran Owens as Tidman.
    • Daniel Tuite as Brother Hubert.
    • Annamária Bitó as Ælfwynn.
    • Bernard Cornwell as Beornheard.
    • Lee Boardman as Guthlac.
  • Introduced in Series 4:
    • Caspar Griffiths as Æthelstan.
    • Máté Haumann as Cenr.
    • Marcell Zsolt Halmy as Ælfweard.
    • Gabriel Harland as Young Cnut.
    • Tristan Harland as Esga.
    • Debbie Chazen as Sable.
    • Helena Albright as Ælfwynn.
    • Anthony Cozens as Aidan.
    • Kirill Bánfalvi as Burgred’s Son.
    • Richard Heap as Brother Oswi.
    • Nicholas Asbury as Brother Iestyn.
    • Ossian Perret as Wihtgar.
    • Oscar Skagerberg as Bjorgulf.
    • Julia Brown as Ecgwyn.
    • Antal Leisen as Creoda.
    • Kimberley Wintle as Taetan.
  • Introduced in Series 5:
    • Emili Akhchina as Vibeke.
    • Ilona Chevakova as Ingrith.
    • Klara Tolnai as Sidgeflaed.
    • Lara Steward as Hella.

Production

Development

The series started shooting in November 2014. It was produced by Carnival Films for BBC Two and BBC America. Nick Murphy (Prey, Occupation) co-executive produced and directed multiple episodes. For portrayals of the Vikings at sea, the Viking ship replica Havhingsten fra Glendalough was used. The series was filmed primarily in Hungary, with most scenes at the eight acres near Budapest owned by Korda Studios with its Medieval Village Set and surrounding mountains, forests and lakes.

Filming for the second series began in Budapest in June 2016. Richard Rankin, Gerard Kearns, Thure Lindhardt, Millie Brady, Erik Madsen, and Peter McDonald joined the cast. In August 2016, Aftonbladet reported that Swedish actors Björn Bengtsson and Magnus Samuelsson would join the main cast. Also that month, it was reported that Stephen Butchard would return as the sole script writer and that Netflix had signed on as an international co-production partner for the second series.

In April 2018, Netflix confirmed that a third series was in production, based on the books The Lords of the North and Sword Song, which would air exclusively on the streaming service, and Bernard Cornwell indicated that he had been offered a cameo appearance. Swedish actor Ola Rapace joined the cast for series 3, as Jarl Harald Bloodhair. Swedish director Erik Leijonborg was behind the camera for series 3, he has collaborated with Rapace on several Swedish TV-series.

On 26 December 2018, the series was renewed for a fourth series by Netflix.

On 7 July 2020, the series was renewed for a fifth series by Netflix. On 30 April 2021, it was announced that the series would conclude with the fifth series. Filming for season 5 wrapped in June 2021.

The final season would be followed by a feature-length film titled Seven Kings Must Die which began filming in 2022.

Historical Background

The main events of the reign of Alfred the Great and his heirs are well recorded, and a number of men called Uhtred ruled from Bamburgh Castle, most notably Uhtred the Bold more than a century later. The people identified as “Danes” came from many places in and around Denmark, including Southern Sweden and Norway. Historians believe that the Danish invaders of Northumbria came from Jutland in Denmark, as mentioned in Cornwell’s books, as well as some of the Danish islands and East Denmark (southern Sweden).

Release

The first series of eight episodes premiered on 10 October 2015 in the United States on BBC America, and was broadcast shortly after in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 22 October 2015. It became available online in the United States via Netflix on 06 July 2016. It was added to Netflix on 28 December 2015 in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. The first series was broadcast in the Spanish region of Catalonia on TV3 on 24 July 2017.

The second and third series were released on Netflix in the US, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Japan, Australia, and Portugal.

Netflix was the sole distributor of the third series of ten episodes, produced by Carnival Films. On 26 December 2018, Netflix renewed the show for a fourth series, released on 26 April 2020 and once again produced by Carnival Films. It was renewed for a fifth and final season on 07 July 2020. On 09 February 2022, it was announced that the fifth season is going to be released on 09 March 2022.

The series has been met with a positive critical response.

Trivia

  • Though used as such by Leofric, the middle English word ‘arseling’ isn’t actually derogatory in nature (or wasn’t, back then).
    • It means ‘backwards/at the back’.
    • Uhtred usually wears his sword ‘arseling’ for instance (on his back).
    • This is however most likely where the British word ‘arse’ comes from.
  • Shot primarily in Hungary.
  • Danes shared the same ethnic background with the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes who had migrated to Britain from Denmark and Northern Germany some four centuries earlier.
    • Thus, they were technically kin.
  • Unlike most other English language productions dealing with the viking age, the Danes are almost exclusively played by Scandinavian actors.
    • Additionally, all of the Anglo-Saxon characters of the series are played by English actors to reinforce a cultural divide between Saxon and Danish characters.

The Last Kingdom Series

  • Seven Kings Must Die (?2022 or 2023).

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Jon East … (6 episodes, 2017-2022).
    • Edward Bazalgette … (6 episodes, 2018-2020).
    • Peter Hoar … (4 episodes, 2015-2017).
    • Andy Hay … (4 episodes, 2020-2022).
    • Paul Wilmshurst … (3 episodes, 2022).
    • Anthony Byrne … (2 episodes, 2015).
    • Ben Chanan … (2 episodes, 2015).
    • Nick Murphy … (2 episodes, 2015).
    • Jamie Donoughue … (2 episodes, 2017).
    • Richard Senior … (2 episodes, 2017).
    • Andy De Emmony … (2 episodes, 2018).
    • Erik Leijonborg … (2 episodes, 2018).
    • Jan Matthys … (2 episodes, 2018).
    • David Moore … (2 episodes, 2020).
    • Sarah O’Gorman … (2 episodes, 2020).
    • Anthony Philipson … (2 episodes, 2022).
  • Producer(s):
    • Nigel Marchant … executive producer (46 episodes, 2015-2022).
    • Gareth Neame … executive producer (46 episodes, 2015-2022).
    • Howard Ellis … producer: Hungary (36 episodes, 2015-2020).
    • Adam Goodman … producer: Hungary (36 episodes, 2015-2020).
    • David O’Donoghue … co-executive producer (36 episodes, 2015-2020).
    • Stephen Butchard … executive producer (26 episodes, 2015-2018).
    • Chrissy Skinns … producer (22 episodes, 2015-2018).
    • Alexander Dreymon … associate producer / co-producer (20 episodes, 2018-2020).
    • Martha Hillier … co-executive producer (13 episodes, 2020-2022).
    • Cait Collins … producer (10 episodes, 2018).
    • Edward Bazalgette … co-executive producer (10 episodes, 2020).
    • Vicki Delow … producer (10 episodes, 2020).
    • Jessica Pope … executive producer (10 episodes, 2020).
    • Pam Roberts … line producer (10 episodes, 2020).
    • Mat Chaplin … series producer (10 episodes, 2022).
    • Helen Ostler … producer (10 episodes, 2022).
    • Jacquie Glanville … line producer (8 episodes, 2015).
    • Polly Hill … executive producer: BBC (8 episodes, 2015).
    • Nick Murphy … co-executive producer (8 episodes, 2015).
    • Phil Temple … development producer (8 episodes, 2015).
    • Peter Hoar … co-executive producer (8 episodes, 2017).
    • Elizabeth Kilgarriff … executive producer: BBC (8 episodes, 2017).
    • Guy Tannahill … producer (6 episodes, 2017).
    • Dominic Barlow … producer (2 episodes, 2017).
    • Michael Robins … line producer (2 episodes, 2017).
    • Liz Trubridge … producer (2 episodes, 2017).
  • Writer(s):
    • Lydia Adetunji … (written by) (1 episode, 2018).
    • Stephen Butchard … (written by) (21 episodes, 2015-2018).
    • Bernard Cornwell … (based on the novels by) (36 episodes, 2015-2020).
    • Jamie Crichton … (written by) (2 episodes, 2020).
    • Martha Hillier … (written by) (6 episodes, 2020).
    • Peter McKenna … (written by) (1 episode, 2020).
    • Sophie Petzal … (written by) (2 episodes, 2017-2018).
    • Ben Vanstone … (written by) (2 episodes, 2017-2018).
    • Charlotte Wolf … (written by) (1 episode, 2020).
  • Music:
    • John Lunn … (39 episodes, 2015-2022).
    • Eivør Pálsdóttir … (31 episodes, 2017-2022).
  • Cinematography:
    • Chas Bain … (22 episodes, 2015-2018).
    • Tim Palmer … (7 episodes, 2020-2022).
    • Ashley Rowe … (5 episodes, 2020-2022).
    • Sergio Delgado … (4 episodes, 2020).
    • Richard Donnelly … (2 episodes, 2018).
    • Dale Elena McCready … (2 episodes, 2018).
  • Editor(s):
    • Paul Knight … (8 episodes, 2015-2017).
    • Mike Phillips … (5 episodes, 2017-2020).
    • Adam Green … (5 episodes, 2018-2022).
    • Andy Morrison … (4 episodes, 2020-2022).
    • Catherine Creed … (2 episodes, 2015).
    • Kim Gaster … (2 episodes, 2015).
    • Sarah Brewerton … (2 episodes, 2017).
    • Tim Murrell … (2 episodes, 2017).
    • Joris Brouwers … (2 episodes, 2018).
    • Dan Crinnion … (2 episodes, 2018).
    • Mark Thornton … (2 episodes, 2018).
    • Nikki McChristie … (2 episodes, 2020).
    • Laura Morrod … (2 episodes, 2020).
    • Steve Singleton … (1 episode, 2018).
    • William Oswald … (1 episode, 2020).
    • Tom White … (1 episode, 2020).
    • David Yardley … (1 episode, 2020).
  • Production:
    • Carnival Film & Television.
  • Distributor(s):
    • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (2015-) (UK) (TV) (BBC2).
    • BBC America (2015) (USA) (TV) (season 1).
    • BBC First (2015-) (Netherlands) (TV) (limited).
    • BBC Two (2015-2017) (UK) (TV).
    • Capelight Pictures (2017) (Germany) (Blu-ray).
    • Capelight Pictures (2017) (Germany) (DVD).
    • KVH Media Group (2017) (World-wide) (all media) (ships).
    • Netflix (2017) (Argentina) (video).
    • Netflix (2017) (Singapore) (video).
    • Netflix (2017) (USA) (video) (VOD) (season 2).
    • Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (2020) (Netherlands) (DVD) (season 4).
  • Release Date:
    • Series 01: 10 October 2015 to 28 November 2015 (BBC Two).
    • Series 02: 16 March 2017 to 04 May 2017 (BBC Two).
    • Series 03: 19 November 2018 (Netflix).
    • Series 04: 26 April 2020 (Netflix).
    • Series 05: 09 March 2022 (Netflix).
    • Seven Kings Must Die (?2022 or 2023).
  • Rating: 18.
  • Running Time: 60 minutes.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

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