Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Show: The Last Kingdom, BBC America in the U.S., Saturdays at 10/9c
(So far as I can find, there’s no Canadian distributor for this [yet], but if any of you know otherwise, let me know and I’ll update!)
The Pedigree: The show is based on the novel of the same name by Bernard Cornwell; the TV version was written by Stephen Butchard (Five Daughters), who executive produces with Nigel Marchant and Gareth Neame (Downton Abbey). Nick Murphy (Dracula) directed the first episode.
The Cast & How You Know Them: The Last Kingdom stars Alexander Dreymon (American Horror Story), Emily Cox (The Silent Mountain), David Dawson (Ripper Street), Rune Temte (Lilyhammer), Ian Hart (Boardwalk Empire), and Joseph Millson (The Sarah Jane Adventures).
The Premise: A Saxon boy in the ninth century is kidnapped and raised by Vikings, and his story becomes entwined with that of King Alfred as England as we know it begins to take shape.
What Works: I’m someone who loves historical drama, so this is right up my alley – especially because it’s reasonably accurate, at least as far as these things go. (I mean, it’s not Salem.) The world and historical context are established well, and the violence is less flashy than in a show like Game of Thrones, which to me made it more powerful. I don’t have a great sense of the leads yet because they were children for much of the first episode (more on that below), but the cast is strong in general, and the show seems promising all around.
What Doesn’t: A lot of this first episode is basically prelude — it takes place during the main character’s childhood, so our lead actor doesn’t even show up until well into the premiere. And there are a lot of characters, often looking similar and with similar (and difficult) names; it’s not clear at the beginning who the viewer must focus on or remember. But things get less confusing and more compelling as the episode progresses. The look of the show is a bit dated (or perhaps just lower-budget) compared to the current trend of lush historical and fantasy dramas.
Our Favorite Line: “Men who take their orders from the gods are a bit unpredictable.”
You Might Like This if you like historical dramas like The Bastard Executioner or Vikings, or maybe quasi-historical fantasy like Game of Thrones.
NOTE: I’ll be recapping this one weekly here at The Televixen, so check back soon for a fuller take on this episode!
If You’re Interested: Catch the first episode on demand or on the BBC America site, then set your DVR for Saturday at 10/9c.
(Photo courtesy of BBC America.)