THE LAST KINGDOM
Bernard Cornwell's Saxon series features a Saxon born, Viking raised hero named Uhtred at the time of King Alfred. It has been a great series to read, and one that probably inspired me to collect Viking and Saxon miniatures.
Here's a link: The Last Kingdom
The first two episodes do have a lot to recommend, primarily the acting. Matthew MacFayden as the main character's father is spot on with the book, as is Ian Hart as Beocca, the kindly priest. The actor playing Uhtred, Alexander Draymon, is fine for the young version of the character. If he can mature into the steely and brutal character from the novels remains to be seen. And any scene with Rutger Hauer is eminently watchable.
My main critique with the first episode is with some of the pacing and story direction. If this is the first episode of an eight part miniseries, and this miniseries intends to only adapt the first book, The Last Kingdom, then this first episode has churned through quite a bit of the book. The heart of Uhtred's story is his internal conflict between his Saxon heritage and his assimilated Viking identity. A great deal of character development is lost when we advance so quicly from Uhtred's childhood abduction by Ragnar into his late teens. One key childhood event that sets up later conflict is shown, but very little of his embrace of the pagan religion. I understand that devoting two episodes out eight to a child may alienate action-seeking viewers, but I think it is essential for understanding Uhtred's torn loyalties between Saxon and Viking.
On a more positive note, the battle at the end of the first episode showed shieldwall combat as two forces pushing and jabbing at each other. Whereas the History Channel's Vikings, a good show with great characters, shows shieldwall combat as two armies forming into walls, and then running like crazy at each other.
Here are some remaining Gripping Beast plastic Saxons I painted this week with the Last Kingdom as inspiration. My color choices are a bit brighter than the series - thank you Peter Jackson for turning all medieval themed costuming into blacks, browns and greys.
These are one of the oldest plastic Dark Ages sets available, and I think it shows. While better than the Wargames Factory line, the posing and options are limited, and the definition on the chain mail is muddy, especially on the sides.
Nonetheless, they are great for building up an army in a Hail Caesar type game, but for your elite troops in a skirmish game, one might want something with a little more distinctiveness.
SAGAS OF THE NORTHMEN
If you are looking for some more Viking themed media, I highly reccomend a new graphic novel I received recently through a Kickstarter I backed.
Sagas of the Northmen is a 64 pages black and white graphic novel. An anthology format, it contains a number of seperate, unconnected stories by multiple artists and writers. Anthology can be hit mess The writing is consistently good and most of the art is excellent - with a few exceptions,
It is a $6.99 digital download currently, with a print edition promised later.
Sagas of the Northmen at Drive Thru Comics