The Last Kingdom Review: Episode 1

“A village can be rebuilt; a warrior can die only once.”

Stephen Butchard

The Last Kingdom seems to be the BBC’s answer to Game of Thrones. Based on a Bernard Cornwell novel, it’s a story of the last Anglo-Saxon kingdom to stand against the Danish invasion of the late ninth century, following as it does Uhtred, the son of a Saxon nobleman, who’s taken hostage by the Danes and brought up as one of them.

This first episode seems to trace, then, a kind of cultural blurring which feels quite relevant right now, in an age when politicians are once again seeking to define what it is to be British (and not really succeeding). A story full of betrayals and changed allegiances, it seems to be groping towards a discussion of how invasion (or migration) attacks the boundaries between Them and Us: far from adhering slavishly to these boundaries, characters are constantly using the gaps between them as leverage for their own schemes and plots, manipulating identity politics to gain revenge, or money, or power, or land.

The episode doesn’t go as far as it could in this line, but then it is a first episode, so I can forgive it that. However, I can’t forgive it the fact that it gives us a “historical” narrative in which women are literally only there to be slept with. I had enough of this shit from Game of Thrones, and even that let its women have proper opinions. Sorry, Kingdom; however interesting your thoughts in migration are, I won’t be coming back to be patronised.

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