The Last Kingdom (BBC America)

The premise of this series, based on novels by the contemporary British novelist Bernard Cornwell, is simple enough.  In 9th C Britain, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, born a Saxon but raised by Danes, ultimately makes common cause with Alfred the Great, who is trying to counter the Viking invasion.  Uhtred, who finds himself far from home with people who mistrust him, is a brave warrior with little sense of how to influence people.  Alfred, who is willing to fight, prefers to negotiate, a real rarity in this darkest of dark ages.  Uhtred learns (slowly) to appreciate Alfred’s ability to think ahead, while Alfred learns (even more slowly) the value of Uhtred’s ability to seize the moment.

It’s like a scaled-down version of Game of Thrones — one plotline at a time instead of 7 or 8, and 20 characters with impossible-to-remember names instead of 200.  The violence, gore and gratuitous nudity is toned down too.  The series is surprisingly good – although Uhtred is fictional, Alfred is very real, and some of his more prominent Viking adversaries (including the wonderfully-named Ubba the Boneless) were real too.  The writing is generally good, the characters are believable, and there’s even a little humor.

Catch it if you can.

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