I’ve been watching The Last Kingdom on Netflix. It’s a show that’s worth checking out if you want to feel better about the modern world, because the world of The Last Kingdom–which takes place in England circa 970 A.D.–is not a great place. Everyone is dirty and bloody, and at any given moment marauding Danes might swoop in, kill everyone in your village, torture the priests and monks in the local church, and turn everything upside down in their quest for silver. In short, it’s not really a happy place.
The show tells the story of Uhtred, son of Uhtred (he says this at the beginning of every episode), a Saxon whose family was killed by Danes. That’s him in the middle of the photo above. Uhtred was adopted by the Danes and he in turn adopted their way of life. He’s developed into a formidable fighter who basically beats everyone he goes up against. He’s also a charmer who is irresistible to women and a born leader of fighting men, who are intensely loyal to him. (Uhtred also is apparently ageless, because he’s still an unbeatable stud even as others are growing up and growing old around him.)
Unfortunately, Uhtred hasn’t inspired the same kind of loyalty in King Alfred, the annoying and literally holier-than-thou King of the kingdom of Wessex. (That’s Alfred on the left in the photo above.) Uhtred ended up pledging himself to Alfred and is easily Alfred’s best fighter, best strategist, and only hope against the Danes, but Alfred can’t accept that Uhtred is a pagan who isn’t moved by Alfred’s constant prattling about prayer and God. So even though Uhtred has saved Alfred’s children, Alfred’s life, and Alfred’s kingdom on multiple occasions, Alfred doesn’t trust him, never gives him the credit that is his due, and always ends up sentencing him to death or banishing him, until the Danes invade again and Alfred needs Uhtred to pull his chestnuts from the fire. Simply put, Alfred is just about the biggest ingrate you’ll ever run across. He’s a horrible king, for sure, but he’s the only king they’ve got.
I’m in the middle of season three, and the long and tortured tale of the relationship of Uhtred and Alfred seems to be finally coming to a close. After season three, there are two more seasons to go. I’ve found The Last Kingdom to be an interesting show that casts some light on the Dark Ages period of England, before the Norman Invasion in 1066. And speaking of light, after watching the show I find myself really appreciating electric lights, showers, soap, refrigerators, and other wonders of the modern world.