Follow TV Tropes


Series / The Last Kingdom

Go To
There are more colours than these, if you look close enough.
"Soon, all the kings of England will be kings of...nothing."

The Last Kingdom is a British TV series produced by The BBC based on The Saxon Stories, an on-going series of Historical Fiction novels by Bernard Cornwell, starring Alexander Dreymon (American Horror Story: Coven) as Uhtred of Bebbanburg and David Dawson (Ripper Street) as Alfred the Great.

Set during the second half of the 9th century when the various kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England are in danger of being overrun by Viking invaders from Denmark, the series follows Uhtred, the rightful ealdorman (earl) of Bebbanburg (modern Bamburgh, Northumberland). Captured as a boy and raised by Danes after his uncle usurps his birthright, Uhtred comes to identify himself as Danish but misfortune and hopes of reclaiming Bebbanburg drive him into the service of Wessex, the titular last kingdom of the Saxons. From there, the story revolves around Uhtred's conflicting loyalties between the Danes and King Alfred, the man who dares to dream of a united England that can stand up to the invaders.

The second TV series adapted from Cornwell's books after Sharpe, it premiered on BBC America on October 10, 2015 and on BBC Two on October 22. After an eight-episode run, it was renewed for a second season, which started airing on March 16, 2017. After BBC dropped out, Seasons 3, 4, and 5 were produced exclusively by Netflix, releasing on November 19, 2018, April 26, 2020, and March 9, 2022, respectively. A feature film called Seven Kings Must Die was released on Netflix on April 14, 2023, serving as the finale of the series.

Each season adapts two novels, with the first season adapting The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman, the second adapting The Lords of the North and Sword Song, the third adapting The Burning Land and Death of Kings, the fourth adapting The Pagan Lord and The Empty Throne, and the final adapting Warriors of the Storm and The Flame Bearer. Seven Kings Must Die adapts Sword of Kings and War Lord, the final two novels (the twelfth novel of the series, War of the Wolf, is ignored).

Teaser 1, Teaser 2.

The TV series provides examples of:

  • Action Dad: Lord Uhtred the Elder and Earl Ragnar the Fearless. Also, Uhtred himself after the birth of his son.
    • Ragnar the Elder takes the cake, along with the arms of the guy who handed it to him, given that he's so tough he can slaughter several assailants in his nightclothes while on FUCKING FIRE.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: Uhtred is mistaken for the promised king when he and Guthred (the actual king) enter Cumbraland; this applies even to Father Eothred who dreamed of Guthred's coming as the rightful king; his mistaking Uhtred for Guthred merely serves to expose him as the self-serving liar he is.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Father Beocca is described in the books as one of the most ugly men Uhtred has ever known. In the show he's played by Ian Hart.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • While Brida was formidable in the books, she wasn't the axe-throwing Action Girl she is here.
    • In the novels, Father Beocca is badly physically handicapped and rather naïve. The show makes him more physically able and perceptive, culminating in making him a warrior at the Battle of Ethandun (where he briefly becomes a Composite Character with the ex-warrior Father Pyrlig).
    • Although Svein of the White Horse, the character Skorpa replaces, was a perfectly respectable badass viking in the books, he didn't have anything like the Ax-Crazy manner that Skorpa does in the series. He also didn't get the better of Uhtred after the raid or personally kill Iseult.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Uhtred is blond in the books, but dark-haired here (the opposite of Sharpe). The same happens with Ubba who is described as being swarty but is very blond like the archetypical viking in the show.
    • Harald Bloodhair goes from blond to blackhaired in the adaptation.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: The Welsh in Season 4 are very condescending towards the Saxons and even plan to use their spoils from the Battle of Tettenhall to build a "barrier" between them and the Saxons. The Welsh warriors in the books are actually rather amicable with the Saxons (and don't spout ham-fisted references to modern-day politics).
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • In the books, Skorpa's name is Sveinn. Presumably, this was changed to avoid confusion with Sven Kjartansson.
    • For pragmatic purposes, Aelfric's son is renamed from Uhtred to Witger, in order to have less characters present named such.
  • Adapted Out: Uhtred has Named Weapons in the books: his sword Serpent-Breath and his seax Wasp-Sting. In the show they're left unnamed and his sword has a different design. Still, a nod to this remains when Earl Ragnar calls him a wasp who's lost his sting.
    • Halfdan is completely omitted.
    • Multiple characters who play important roles in the books are either omitted, condensed into other characters, or replaced by a Canon Foreigner.
  • Adaptation Title Change: Only the first book in The Saxon Stories is called The Last Kingdom. The show simply appropriated the name of the novel.
  • Adaptational Wimp: In the novels, Cnut Longsword is renowned for his speed and deals Uhtred a nearly mortal wound at Tettenhal. In the series, their duel is much more one-sided with Uhtred coming out unscathed.
  • Aerith and Bob: Because a few Norse and Saxon names have remained current to the present day, you have familiar names like Edmund and Alfred alongside others like Uhtred, Ubba, and Æthelwold. As the books note, Alfred should strictly be Ælfræd ("Wise Counsel") but the familiar form is kept because it's just too ingrained.
  • Age Cut: Ragnar pushes 12-year-old Uhtred off a bridge and 18-year-old Uhtred emerges from the water.
  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • Middle-aged father Beocca tries to help a young traumatized girl Thyra who was imprisoned as a sex slave to Sven, and he falls in love with her. She seems to have found her safe place with him. Uhtred advises his friend Beocca to ask her to marry him. Beocca says that he knows he could be her much, much older brother, and he is a Saxon while she is a Dane. However, they get married and seem very happy together.
    • Also at play in the fourth series where we see Uhtred and Aethelflaed having sex, given that back when they were hiding out in the Somerset marshes in the first series, she was a small child and he was already a battle-hardened adult warrior.
  • Age Lift: In the book series, Uhtred was nine at the start. In the television series, he is twelve.
  • Annoying Arrows: Deeply subverted at the Battle of Tettenhall; the Welsh archers wreak havoc with their longbows on the attacking Danes.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Æthelred was never less than a loathsome Jerkass in life, but his death is joyless, somber, and full of regret.
  • Arc Words:
    • Not in the show itself, but Once an Episode Uhtred closes his Opening Narration with the words "Destiny is all", paraphrasing the books' arc words "Wyrd bið ful aræd" ("Fate remains totally inexorable"), which is a line from the actual Anglo-Saxon poem The Wanderer.
    • When discussing Alfred's (and later Edward's) plans to unite the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms under one throne, every character uses the exact same phrase, "the dream of an England".
  • Arch-Enemy: Uhtred faces a lot of enemies, but his usurping Evil Uncle Ælfric, the Viking leader Ubba Lothbroksson, and The Resenter Odda the Younger are most like this to him.
    • Ælfric simply wants Uhtred dead so he can claim Bebbanburg without issue. He allows Uhtred to follow his father into battle, hoping he'll be killed. He is foiled when Ragnar the Fearless first captures and then adopts the boy. But years later, he allies with Kjartan when the latter takes revenge on Ragnar, and sends a henchman to make sure Uhtred dies. He later sends assassins against him but is Out of Focus after that.
    • Ubba believes the lie spread by Ælfric and/or Kjartan that Uhtred betrayed Ragnar, and he just won't accept Uhtred's denials, perhaps because he considers him an Anglo-Saxon. As one of the two most prominent Danish leaders along with Earl Guthrum, he's also an Arch-Enemy of Alfred and the Saxons in general.
    • Uhtred and Odda the Younger's relationship escalates from being mere Sitcom Arch-Nemeses into arch-enemies when Odda takes Uhtred's wife and child away for their safety without his knowledge, and later when Odda steals credit for Uhtred's deeds, making Uhtred draw his sword on him both times. And unknown to Uhtred, Odda had attempted to convince the elder Odda to abandon him while he was on a mission for the Saxon army that led to those deeds. Later, Odda insists on Uhtred's death when he is convicted of raiding Cornwall.
  • Arranged Marriage: Uhtred enters into one with Mildrith purely to gain lands and a title in Wessex. Despite this, it proves a happy match until their son is born and cultural and religious differences take their toll.
  • Arrested for Heroism: After spying on the Viking army and bringing word back to the West Saxons, Uhtred and Brida are imprisoned as hostages to their information while the battle is fought.
  • Artistic Licence – Traditional Christianity: Played with humorously. King Edmund of East Anglia tries to convert Ubba and his men, but since they don't grasp the basic premises behind the Christian faith, they totally misinterpret everything they are told. They see Heaven as Valhalla without the eternal fighting, feasting or humping (which is what the Danes are looking forward to in Valhalla). They see baptism as forcing someone to take a bath (which shows something that is true across all religions — if you don't understand and accept the spiritual component of a ritual, going through the physical component is meaningless and possibly rather silly). And the tale of St Sebastian is seen not as that of a holy martyr, but just some guy who took multiple attempts to kill; Ubba actually tries to reproduce Sebastian's miraculous survival on Edmund, only to just end up killing him. In all cases Edmund is speaking of his faith fairly accurately, it's just that the Danes just don't get what he's talking about.
  • Ass Shove: Storri the soothsayer tries to curse Brida, so she strips him naked and stuffs a branch up his arse.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: This mentality leads King Ælla to be drawn into a Defensive Feint Trap and defeated at the Battle of Eoforwic.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Aethelred is incredibly abusive towards Aethelfled. After she returns from Beamfleot, with her kidnapper-turned-lover Erik's child in her belly, they are cold towards each other and live apart. Later, Aethelred orders the murder of Aethfled.
  • Back from the Brink: Being that England is called "England" rather than "Daneland" today, its obvious that no matter how dark things seem, Wessex and the Anglo-Saxons will never be completely snuffed out by the Danes.
  • Badass Boast: Father Beocca delivers one in the final battle to Skorpa after he presents Iseult's severed head to taunt Uhtred.
    Beocca: You will be struck down by my spear! And you will spend eternity in the fires of Hell!
  • Badass Bookworm: Alfred. Uhtred finds him remarkably well informed and as Leofric remarks, he's a ruthless Manipulative Bastard. Beocca also warns Uhtred that Alfred will see right through him (Uhtred's motivations at this point are solely to use Alfred as a means to the end of retaking Bebbanburg) and he does. Alfred is also completely unfazed by Ubba's temper and Guthrum's threats, calmly informing them that he is not going to surrender and that they can accept his terms or starve.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: While his feeble health prevents him from being personally dominant on the battlefield, Alfred of Wessex wields a pen to great effect in collecting information and running the kingdom of Wessex.
  • Badass Family: Uhtred has the good fortune to be born into a Saxon one and raised by a Danish one.
  • Badass Preacher: Father Beocca's involvement in the Battle of Ethandun definitely makes him this.
  • Back for the Dead: Having been absent for most of Season 5, save one brief appearance in which he is revealed to have settled down into the life of a comfortable trader, Haesten returns to the forefront of the action in episode 9, allying with Uhtred to rescue Aelfwynn from Bebbanburg. He is caputured and killed off in the attempt.
  • Barbarian Hero: Uhtred reluctantly serves Alfred and the kingdom of Wessex, but still identifies as a Dane and is openly contemptuous of Anglo-Saxon culture and Christianity in particular.
  • Barbarian Longhair: Most Danes wear their hair long, in contrast to the Saxons. Uhtred keeps his knotted behind his head, a fact that indicates his affiliation with Danish culture.
  • Beard of Barbarism: The more barbarous Vikings also lay claim to the more outrageous facial hair.
  • Beauty Inversion: The lovely Eliza Butterwoth does a remarkably convincing job playing a frumpy middle-aged woman despite being in her twenties.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Uhtred is captured by the Great Heathen Army as a child, witness to the death of Edmund the Martyr, becomes a close advisor and military commander to Alfred the Great, and participates in several historical battles.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Ragnar kills his wife and father rather than leaving them to burn.
  • Between A Rock And A Hard Place: Ragnar the Elder is faced with the choice of staying in his hall to burn to death, or be massacred by the murderers outside. He chooses the latter, charging at his enemies and going out in a literal blaze of glory.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Uhtred saves Ragnar the Elder's daughter Thyra from being raped (or molested further) by Sven. No doubt this helped make Ragnar decide to adopt him.
    • Years later, Ragnar the Younger saves Uhtred from being killed when he's a hostage of a Viking army. He dares the others to kill him first and threatens that his own men will leave if this happens.
    • Inverted when Uhtred saves Ragnar the Younger from being killed in battle between their armies.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Uhtred, when he saves Ragnar's daughter from a Near-Rape Experience.
    • After Uhtred kills Ubba in a duel, Ubba's men prepare to swarm him under, but he is saved by the arrival of Odda's men.
    • In Season 3, Edward leading an army to rescue Uhtred's forces from Haesten at Beamfleot and Aethelflaed and Sigebriht leading cavalry charges to save Wessex forces at the Battle of Beddanford.
    • In Season 4, Edward and Aethelred leading their respective armies to rescue Uhtred and Aethelflaed's forces from Cnut at the Battle of Tettenhall.
    • In Season 5, Uhtred and Stiorra bringing Danish reinforcements to the siege of Bebbanburg, saving Edward's army from being overwhelmed by King Constantin's forces.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Aelflaed, the wife of Edward. She initially portrays herself as an innocent girl, but she's secretly a schemer working with her father against Aelswith and Aethelflaed.
  • Bittersweet Ending: After pursuing it for a lifetime and losing many friends and loved ones along the way, Uhtred finally reclaims the fortress of Bebbanburg for himself and his family and declares Northumbria a place for Saxons and Danes to live and thrive together. To secure peace with the Scots, however, he abandons his allegiance to Edward and declares Northumbria an independent kingdom, ensuring that Alfred's dream of an England will not come to be until Edward's son Aethelstan takes the throne. Edward's fury at this and his and King Constantin of Scotland's ambitions to claim Northumbria for themselves also foreshadows conflict with Uhtred in the future.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Guthrum dares God to strike him down for trashing an altar, then scoffs, "I thought not," when nothing happens.
  • Bling of War: Discussed. Uhtred makes his heirloom amber the pommel-stone of his new sword, but the smith reminds him that a sword is a tool first and foremost.
  • Blood Knight: Ubba doesn't seem to have any real ambitions beyond fighting for the sake of fighting.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: When Brida takes Eoferwic with the intent to capture Stiorra, she keeps captive the women of the castle in the courtyard. Stiorra is in hiding, and Brida wants to lure her out by killing off more and more captives. One of these killings results in blood splattering on Stiorra's face, who is observing everything from a basement.
  • Book Ends:
    • The first episode begins and ends with a Decapitation Presentation at the gates of Bebbanburg.
    • In the beginning of the first season Wessex is the last of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms not somehow under Danish rule. By the end of the fifth season, Northumbria is now the last Anglo-Saxon Kingdom not under the rule of Wessex.
  • Braids of Barbarism: Braided hair is popular among Danes like Ubba.
  • The Bully: Sven, who tries to beat up Uhtred for being a thrall.
  • Cain and Abel: Sigefried (reulctantly) kills his brother Erik, after the latter attempts to escape with Aethelfled ruining the brothers' former gambit to take over England.
    Sigefried: You did this! You killed us!
  • Call-Back
    • Ragnar the Fearless drops the head of the firstborn son of Uhtred the Elder before the gates of Bebbanburg. Later, Uhtred Ragnarson drops the head of one of Aelfric's men before the gates of Bebbanburg.
    • Lampshaded after Thyra is burnt to death in her home, by a fire set deliberately. Beocca points out that her parents burnt to death similarly, in their own home by a fire set deliberately.
  • Call That a Formation?:
    • Averted by the Danes, who form a very respectable shield wall in the first episode and use it to overcome the Northumbrians.
    • Deconstructed by the English who—unlike in the books—eschew their historical shield-wall tactics initially and get their arses handed to them by Danes who use one. However, once Uhtred teaches them the tactic, they employ it frequently, are often shown drilling shield formations, and are rewarded with better success.
    • Increasingly played straight as the series goes on. By Season 4, battles tend to involve a whole lot of swirling melee without a shield wall to be seen.
  • Canon Foreigner: The Saxon Halig was invented for the show. He get's to do a lot of action in the 8th episode of Season 1 where he is introduced and becomes a member of Uhtred's routine in Season 2. He is also made a slave by Guthred and sold to Sverri and dies on the slave ship.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Uhtred and Brida, who grow up together among the Danes.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Justified as it's the 9th century.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Uhtred's youngest son vanishes without a trace in Season 4; not a single line of dialogue acknowledges his existence, even though Uhtred's two older surviving children feature prominently throughout the season.
      • They suddenly remember him at the tail end of Season 5. He's been with Hild this whole time.
    • The film Seven Kings Must Die is infinitely guilty of this:
      • Stiorra, Hild and Aelfwynn simply disappear without mention.
      • Aelswith is also absent, but this can be justified, since she presumably died due to her old age.
  • Clear My Name: After Kjartan kills Earl Ragnar, he claims that Uhtred was responsible. Uhtred tries to convince the other Danish warlords that he is innocent, but unfortunately, they don't believe him, forcing him to flee to Wessex and swear loyalty to Alfred in order to escape death.
  • Coitus Interruptus: Uhtred is not impressed when he returns to his estate to find his bailiff Oswald having sex in his bed.
  • Composite Character:
    • In Season 1, Ubba and Guthrum both take on aspects of Ubba's brothers Halfdan and Ivar the Boneless from the novel. For instance, Ubba takes over first Ivar and then Halfdan's role as the overall Viking leader and more specifically Ivar's role in the murder of Edmund of East Anglia and Halfdan's role of abandoning Guthrum to avenge Ivar in Ireland. Meanwhile, in addition to his own role, Guthrum often steps into Halfdan or even Ubba's role whenever Ubba is standing in Ivar or Halfdan's (such as in East Anglia).
    • Leofric takes on the role of Steapa in being made to duel Uhtred. The actual Steapa makes his appearance in Season 2, after Leofric's death.
    • Hild takes over the role of the tavern prostitute Eanflaed in being rescued during the sack of Chippenham/Winchester and accompanying Uhtred to serve Alfred in hiding at Athelney. In the novels, Hild herself isn't introduced until later when Uhtred and Alfred emerge from the swamps to spy on the Danes and rescue Steapa (which is also when Brida confronts Uhtred rather than during the sack as in the show).
    • In the show, Abbott Eadred is upgraded to an antagonist by taking on the roles of Father Hrothweard as the main religious zealot in Northumbria, the monks Ida and Jaenberht as the one who convinces Guthred to betray Uhtred, and Brother Jaenberht again for being killed by Uhtred for trying to forcibly marry Gisela to Aelfric.
    • The normally gentle Good Shepherd Father Beocca rather abruptly takes on the role of Badass Preacher Father Pyrlig in helping Uhtred in the battle of Ethandun. Like Steapa, the actual Father Pyrlig is belatedly introduced in Season 2, but Beocca retains his Adaptational Badass trait.
    • The brothers Erik and Siegfried are given Ivar Ivarsson's role as secondary antagonists during the first half of Season 2, before fulfilling their own role as prime antagonists in the second half.
    • The series combines Uhtred's two surviving sons—the Christian priest Uhtred (forcibly renamed "Father Judas") and the warrior Osbert (renamed Uhtred after his brother's disowning)—into a single character.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The first episode condenses most of Uhtred's life among the Danes through a Time Skip, but not before Ragnar adopts him.
  • Conflicting Loyalties: Uhtred is too unruly to be a Saxon and too ambitious to be a Dane. His current preference in usually determined by which side has offended him most recently.
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: Alfred mainly sees Uhtred as a valuable source of insight into how the Danes think.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: In the case of Brida since she leaves Uhtred shortly afterwards to rejoin the Danes.
  • Cool Old Guy:
    • Ravn, who is blind with age but not senile, serves as Uhtred's very first mentor among the Danes.
    • Odda the Elder is one of Alfred's most trusted generals and far less hostile to Uhtred than most other Saxons.
  • Cool Sword: Uhtred has one made for himself, though this being the 9th Century, it's still fairly rudimentary.
  • Corrupt Church:
    • Mildrith's father left her a huge debt to the Church and it falls to Uhtred once he marries her. When Odda threatens that her land might fall into the Church's hands, the local bishop tells her not to worry since it's good to give to the Church.
    • Later, the same bishop is quite content to accept a silver crucifix illegally looted from Cornwallum as payment for Uhtred's outstanding debt and as a bribe to absolve him of the need to pay a weregild for murder.
  • Crapsack World: Life in Anglo-Saxon England is harsh at the best of times, and the brutal Viking invasions have thrown everything that was stable into disarray.
  • Crisis of Faith:
    • Ubba tries to provoke one of these in King Edmund before sending him to meet his God, but he remains committed.
    • Later Uhtred tries to provoke Ubba in similar fashion, telling him that Njörd, god of the sea, has wrecked Guthrum's ships since they have let Ragnar the Elder's real killers go unpunished.
    • In Season 5, after a lifetime of unflinching devotion, Aelswith struggles with her faith after learning of her daughter Aethelflaed's sickness and impending death.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • King Ælla of Northumbria, who is spared the blood eagle attributed to him in the sagas but the Danes still toy with him like a baited bear before killing him.
    Ravn: Did he die well?
    Uhtred: No.
    Ravn: Well, then he shouldn't have been king.
    • As per history, King Edmund of East Anglia is turned into a Human Pincushion by Ubba and his men.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The battle at Eoforwic that starts off the series, where the Danes overwhelm the united forces of Osberht, Ælla, and Uhtred the Elder and overrun the kingdom of Northumbria.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Sven attempts ro rape Thyra, which makes Ragnar the Elder take out the eye of Sven. A decade or more later, Sven, together with his father Kjartan attacks and kills Ragnar and most of other household members, and kidnap Thyra. Later on, Ragnar the Younger swears revenge on Kjartan and Sven, finally killing Kjartan by his own hand, while Thyra feeds Sven to her dogs.
  • Damsel in Distress: Sven carries off Ragnar's daughter Thyra after years of lusting after her... but this subplot is Out of Focus in later episodes even though her brother Ragnar the Younger comes to know of it.
  • Dead Guy on Display: During the movie, the body of Aldheim, laid upon a cart, is unveiled in front of Bebbanburg by Æthelstan's men.
  • Death by Childbirth: Lady Gisela dies while giving birth to her second son by Uhtred.
  • Death Seeker: Averted by several Christians who insist that while they look forward to Heaven they are in no hurry to get there.
  • Decapitation Presentation:
    • Ragnar presents Lord Uhtred with the head of his eldest son, who was sent to scout Ragnar's movements.
    • Uhtred returns to Bebbanburg to present Ælfric with the head of the henchman sent to kill him.
    • Skorpa of the White Horse gleefully presents Uhtred with the head of Iseult as a taunt. It, uhh... doesn't end well for him.
  • Decisive Battle: Discussed by Alfred and Uhtred in Episode 1.7.
    Alfred: If I am to fight, it would have to be a single battle and soon before yet more Danes arrive; before Wessex crumbles skirmish by skirmish, raid by raid, piece by piece. Therefore, the first task would be: somehow convince the Danes to hold one great and deciding moment.
    Uhtred: A single, defining battle.
    Alfred: Yes.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: The Northumbrian army falls victim to one at Eoforwic.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • The Danes and Saxons formally exchange hostages during a truce. When that truce is broken, both sides kill their hostages on the spot. While arranging formal hostages used to be done as late as the 19th century, more modern armies might at least have sentenced them to death first, if not still keeping them alive as prisoners of war.
    • Uhtred is within his rights to murder a man for embezzling from his estate, it's refusing to compensate the man's family that's illegal.
  • Demoted to Extra: Haesten was a regular presence and thorn in the side of Uhtred and the Saxons in Seasons 2 and 3, appearing in 7 out of 8 and 9 out of 10 episodes respectively. In Season 4, he is reduced to 5 out of 10 episodes (the first three and last two, being completely absent for the middle part of the season). Then, in Season 5 he appears in just two out of 10 episodes, having settled down into a comfortable life as a trader.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: As each season adapts two books, there are a lot of these:
    • Season 1 has Ubba, but after Uhtred defeats him, Guhtrum takes over Ubba's men and attempts to take over Wessex. He is defeated, but not killed. He converts into Christianity and is given the whole of East Anglia.
    • Season 2 has Kjartan, but Ragnar defeats him and takes over Dunholm. Later, Sigefrid and his brother Erik pose problems to England, and they successfully kidnap Aethelflaed, but she eventually grows to love her captor Erik, as she treats her kindly, (certainly kinder than Aethelred) and also loves her. They attempt to escape from Beamfleot together, with Erik leaving his brother behind. This escape attempt goes awry. Aethelflaed is saved by Uhtred and his men, but Sigefrid kills Erik. The final battle happens thereafter, as the armies of Sigefrid venture out to face the already waiting armies of Alfred and Odda. Sigefrid is killed unexpectedly by Aethelflaed, whos strikes a blade through his back.
    • Season 3 has Skade, but Uhtred finally learns how to kill a curse, and so drowns her in Epsiode 8. Meanwhile, Aethelwold defects to the Danes in order to retake his rightful throne, and kills Ragnar in the process. Brida and Uhtred want to take revenge on him, but Aethelwold has already returned to Winchester, with orders to kill Uhtred. He isn't welcome by Alfred, and he instead sows divide between the men by spreading Malicious Slander about the royal family and Uhtred. At the final battle of the season he sides with the Danes, but after he notices Uhtred on the battlefield, he flees. Uhtred reaches up to him in a forest, and strikes a blade through his heart.
    • Season 4 has Cnut, but at the Battle Of Tettenhall, he is killed by Brida, upon her finding out he commanded the killing of Ragnar. Brida is captured by the Welsh, who later keep her as a slave, and humiliate and torture her. Sigtryggr and his mean rescue her, and after finding out by Eardwulf that Edward isn't present in Winchester, they march on to take it. The final battle take splace here, but since Brida and Sigtryggr have taken hostage members of the royal family, and Stiorra, people are reluctant to attack. They strike a deal with Sigtryggr. He leaves Winchester and takes over Eoferwic. Brida leaves, although upset by the fact that the other Danes gave up so easily.
    • Season 5 has Brida, who goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after her enslavement by the Welsh, and Uhtred's inaction to help her. After a while, she invites Uhtred on a one-on-one fight. This devolves into her pleading Uhtred to kill her, with him refusing. They reconcile, but she is shot with an arrow by Stiorra. The true Big Bad of Season 5 turns out to be Aethelhelm whose machinations to put his grandson on the throne result in the Murder by Mistake of his own daughter. He later plots with the Scottish King Constantine and Wihtgar, Lord of Bebbanburg to openly rebel against Edward. Aethelhelm commits suicide during the Siege of Bebbanburg.
  • Dissimile: When explaining the Christian heaven to Ubba, Uhtred declares: "Heaven is Valhalla, lord, to the Christians, but without the feasting, fighting, and humping."
  • Doomed Hometown: Subverted by Bebbanburg, but played straight by Ragnar's homestead.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Uhtred leaves his heavily pregnant wife to serve as one of Guthrum's hostages, knowing that Guthrum will likely try to kill him the moment that the truce the hostage exchange was meant to seal is no longer necessary. He then escapes and lights the warning beacons, alerting Wessex to the coming war in time to muster. Then he rides to war on one of the two fronts, comes up with a strategy to stop the Danish advance, and implements the most dangerous part of it personally, including killing Ubba in a Duel to the Death. Then when he returns to Winchester after bringing his wife and heir home, he finds that Odda the Younger has stolen the credit for the victory. And to top it off, when he protests this, Alfred has him go through ritual humiliation for the uncouth manner in which he did so (it involved drawing steel in a King's hall without leave, a serious crime) without ever saying anything about whether or not his grievance would be addressed or even investigated.
  • Duel to the Death:
    • Uhtred is challenged to one by Ubba after he is caught setting fire to his ships.
    • Uhtred is forced into another by the Witan, this time against his friend Leofric.
    • Ragnar and Kjartan have a particularly vicious one in Season 2.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • Uhtred ensures Ubba dies with his axe in his hand and insists he be buried with it. Unfortunately, Odda the Younger takes the axe as a symbol of victory instead and later plans to discard the bones as well in order to build a church on the site. Alfred insists the bones be reburied properly, but it's unknown if this was actually done.
    • After Odda the Younger is killed, his father begs that he be buried as befitting his rank, but Alfred refuses since he committed treason right in front of him.
    • Uhtred places Leofric's sword in his hand after he falls in battle, and insists he be buried as an ealdorman.
    • Beocca goes out of his way to restore Isuelt's mutilated body after Skorpa kills her so she can be given a proper burial. When Uhtred remarks that she would want a funeral pyre, Beocca assures him it will be done. It's especially heartwarming considering that Beocca, a Catholic Priest, is going out of his way to ensure that she receives Pagan burial rites.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Ragnar the Elder charges out the door of a burning longhall, the inrush of oxygen immediately lighting his whole body on fire, and proceeds to hack and slash his way through his enemies even while the flames are consuming him.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted. When Uhtred realizes that the Danes are going to start their next campaign ahead of schedule, he concludes that their first move in the coming winter campaign will be to secure a food supply. He then recommends to the Saxons that they take up a blocking position on the road from the Danish crossing point to the nearest town with a large supply of edible livestock.
  • Elective Monarchy: Wessex. While the previous king's choice has great influence, it is the council of nobles, the Witan, that ultimately chooses the next king. Aethelwold likes to remind people of this when they talk about Edward succeeding Alfred.
  • Entitled to Have You: Sven has this attitude towards poor Thyra.
    • Young Odda also shows shades of this towards Mildrith
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Kjartan loves his son Sven and plots murder and destruction in retribution for his disfigurement.
    • Ubba briefly leaves Guthrum exposed and undermanned in Wessex so he can avenge his brother Ivar in Ireland.
  • Evil Uncle: Ælfric, who deprives Uhtred of his rightful inheritance.
  • Evolving Credits: For most of the series, the credits feature a map of England consumed by a fire that spreads from Northumbria into Mercia and East Anglia, momentarily stopped at the borders of Wessex, representing the Danish invaders who threaten to overwhelm England entirely. By the final season, the fire has reversed and is shown spreading from Wessex northwards, representing the ebbing of the Danish threat and King Edward's ruthless expansion into formerly independent Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
  • Exact Words:
    • Father Beocca says Skorpa will die by his spear. He tosses it to Uhtred.
    • An inversion. Aelfric stating that he wanted Uhtred dead was the literal part. Guthred believed Uhtred being as good as dead as a slave would be good enough. It wasn't. Aelfric and his men went right back to Bebbanburg upon discovering that Guthred had not followed his words exactly.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Ragnar puts out Sven's eye as punishment for molesting his daughter.
    • Iseult inflicts a more lethal version on a Dane raping a nun in Episode 1.7.
    • And Æthelwold had one of his eyes put out for conspiring with the Danes.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Odda the Younger rides to tell Afred of Ubba's defeat - and takes credit for Uhtred killing him.
  • Family Theme Naming:
    • Uhtred shares his name with his father, older brother, and son.
    • Earl Ragnar the Fearless has a son named Ragnar.
    • Alfred's brother King Æthelred, his nephew Æthelwold, and his daughter Æthelflæd. ("Æthel" means "noble", and was very popular in the Wessex dynasty).
  • Fate Worse than Death: To die without a weapon in your hands is this to the Danes. It's one thing to die in glorious combat, but to die without a weapon in your hands means you are weak or a coward and arecondemned to Hel and ice-ridden torture for all eternity. This comes into play in Season 3 as Ragnar the Younger dies without his weapon and Uhtred has to kill the murderer in a specific way to save his brother from Hel.
  • The Fettered: Uhtred takes oaths very seriously. The one he swears to Alfred early in the series is generally the only thing holding him to Wessex.
  • Fisticuff-Provoking Comment: In Episode 3.2, Father Godwin calls Gisela a whore in front of Uhtred. Uhtred punches and accidentally kills him.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Like all Historical Fiction. Wessex will survive and push out the Danes to make a united England. The real drama comes from fictional characters like Uhtred.
  • Forging Scene: The show intercuts the forging of Uhtred's new sword with him and Brida in bed together.
  • For the Evulz: Skorpa likes doing this. Examples include taunting Uhtred with the knowledge his adopted sister is alive as a sex slave of Sven, and presenting him with Iseult's severed head.
  • Gilligan Cut: In the second episode, Uhtred informs Brida that he's thinking about having sex with her. She tells him quite sharply that it's not happening. Shortly afterwards...
  • The Good Kingdom: With all the other Anglo-Saxon realms overrun, Wessex must stand alone against the Danes.
  • Good Shepherd: Father Beocca, Uhtred's family priest and later Alfred's confessor, looks out for Uhtred as much as he's able to - like telling him his uncle wants him dead, and vouching for him to Alfred despite misgivings about his pagan life among the Danes.
  • Go Out with a Smile: When Ubba dies with a smile because he dies a warrior's death. Before killing him, Uhtred places his axe in his hand in order to make sure he goes to Valhalla after his death.
  • Going Native: Uhtred's upbringing among the Danes, most notably turning him from a Christian into a pagan.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: The Vikings are the invaders and generally more violent, but the Saxons are far from saints themselves. Even Uhtred is not above murdering a man for felling timber without his permission and keeping the money from its sale,note  and then refusing to compensate his family.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Brida gets her kills with a throwing axe. Later averted when Iseult kills a Dane with a knife in Episode 1.7, and when Brida and Sister Hild fight in the shield-walls in Episode 1.8.
  • Happily Adopted: Uhtred and Brida among the Danes. They're considered their slaves at the beginning but they are treated decently, and later Uhtred becomes one of their own. They are both taught how to fight, too.
  • Happiness in Slavery: As children, Uhtred and Brida are taken as slaves by Ragnar the Elder, but they are generally treated well and seem content with their lives. They are eventually accepted as members of Ragnar's household and family.
  • Headbutt of Love: Hild gives one to Uhtred after he is rescued from slavery
  • Heel–Face Turn: Aldehelm, after basically being The Dragon to Aethelred, switches allegiance after Aethelred wishes to murder his wife, Aethelflaed. Aldhelm warns Aethelflaed and later stays by her side as a staunch ally, ready to die for her.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Uhtred has yet to wear a helmet except during his childhood attempt to fight at Eoforwic. However, supporting characters do sometimes wear them such as Leofric while raiding Cornwallum and Guthrum when he sacks Wintanceaster.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Truth in Television for Saxons and Danes alike. Uhtred pays 10 silver pieces to have one made for him. Actually, if anything there are too many mooks carrying swords rather than spears or axes.
  • Hidden Depths: After only being presented as a drunken weakling, Prince Æthelwold does Uhtred a favour by making a mockery of the proceedings as they're both being publicly shamed. Later, he aspires to be a proper warrior and eventually acquits himself well. And though his loyalty is shown to waver to the point where Guthrum orders him to assassinate Alfred, he ultimately sides with him.
  • Historical Domain Character: As is expected of Historical Fiction.
    • Members of the royal House of Wessex such as Alfred, his elder brother Æthelred, his wife Ealhswith, his nephew Æthelwold, and his children Edward and Æthelflæd are all based on real people, as are the Danish leaders Ubba and Guthrum.
    • Uhtred may be fictional but there was an Uhtred who flourished in Derbyshire in the early 10th century and another who did lord over Bebbanburg in the early 11th century. Bernard Cornwell claims descent from them through his father, whose last name is "Oughtred".
    • The British cleric Asser wrote Alfred's biography in real life.
  • Historical Relationship Overhaul: There is no evidence to suggest that Aethelred was ever abusive towards Aethelflaed, or that they lived apart due to their cold marriage.
  • Hollywood Old: This becomes ridiculous in later seasons and the film, considering how much time the series encapsulates:
    • Uhtred is supposed to be in his 60s during Seven Kings Must Die. Alexander Dreymon was 40 during filming, and doesn't look a day over that.
    • Brida is supposed to be in her 50s in Season 5. Emily Cox was 37 during filming.
    • Aethelflaed is supposed to be in her 40s in Season 5. Millie Brady was 28 during filming.
    • Aelswith is supposed to be in her 60s in Season 5. Eliza Buttersworth was 29 during filming. Downplayed, since she has a few grey hairs, but only in some scenes.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Averted for the most part. The importance of maintaining formation and an unbreakable shield wall is heavily stressed by both sides. Armies on each side of a field also don't simply run wildly forward into each other, as well. The two sides simply slowly march into each other, pushing with their shields and sticking swords and spears through any crack they can find, until a weak spot in a shield wall can be found and driven into.
    • The Battle of Farnham in Season 3 is even depicted somewhat like a re-enactment of the Battle of Cannae, as the Saxons lure the Danes into a depression below a hill and then use their shield-wall to create a double-envelopment.
    • The final battle in Season 3 doesn't contain shield-walls, but it's justifiable as the Saxons attack the Danes in the middle of a forest while their line is thinly spread along a narrow trail.
    • Season 4 plays this trope straight and then makes up for lost time as shield-walls are disregarded in favour of the typical Hollywood melees. Realistic tactics in general seem to be thrown out the window, with scenarios like Uhtred's men bum-rushing into the middle of Bebbanburg's courtyard (where they are easily surrounded), Sigtryggr's men using oil and flaming arrows to trap the Welsh inside a ring of fire, and Edward leading a cavalry charge against the stone walls of Winchester.
      • In the last two seasons, the Saxon warriors of Wessex and Mercia notably become the only army to wear full armor with helmets and mail shirts (the Danes, Scots, and rebel Northumbrians are still equally matched with them in combat though).
    • Season 5 dials back the outlandishness a bit, as the Saxons use shield-walls again to stabilize their formations; and while neither the Danes or Scots use shield-walls, it's somewhat justified in-context as Sigtryggr leads the Danes in a night raid on a Saxon camp, and the Scots pull a pincer-attack on Edward's army outside of Bebbanburg (which is then counter-charged by Stiorra and the last of the Jorvik Danes.)
    • Seven Kings Must Die averts this trope (mostly), as both sides rely on their shield-walls during the Battle of Brunanburh, with the Norse only creating openings in their shield-wall to attack with "boar's head" wedge formation.
  • Honour Before Reason: Ubba challenges Uhtred to single combat when he could have just as easily swarmed him with his men, especially because while everyone watches them fight the Saxon army sneaks up on the camp.
  • Horny Vikings: The Danes. But there are no horned helmets and the word "Viking" is rarely used since it means "raider", as in this exchange:
    Lord Uhtred: (sighting ships) Danes... The Devil's turds.
    Osbert: Are they traders?
    Lord Uhtred: No! They come as Vikings!
  • Hot Witch:
    • Queen Iseult is one of Cornish King Peredur’s two wives. She's a 'shadow queen' and a beautiful sorceress who keeps her virginity because she believes it maintains her powers of prophecy. She is also a healer. Iseult captivates Uhtred from the first moment they meet, and teases him with visions of his future. She's mysterious, slightly aloof and breathtakingly beautiful.
    • Skade, a seeress of Danes, is a gorgeous, pouty blonde who uses her sexuality as a weapon and will readily offer both her prophetic vision and her body to whomever she deems the strongest warrior.
  • Hourglass Plot: Rhodri captures Brida at the Battle of Tettenhall and imprisons her in his castle, throwing her down a pit, and constantly taunting her. After Sigtryggr frees her, Brida throws Rhodri down the same pit. Later, Brida taunt him the same way, and treats him like a dog.
  • Human Pincushion: Truth in Television for Edmund of East Anglia.
  • Humble Pie: After Uhtred draws a sword in the presence of the king during mass, his life is forfeit by law. Instead Alfred decides to make him walk on his knees up to his feet while wearing a penitent's robe and to throw himself at his and the Church's mercy, all while people laugh and throw mud.
  • Hypocrite: When Alfred is critical of the pagan preoccupation with omens, Uhtred notes their similarity to miracles. When Alfred insists miracles are sent by God, Uhtred declares God must have sent one to the Danes.
  • I Gave My Word: Why Uhtred doesn't leave with Ragnar the Younger. Ragnar understands, but Brida pretty much throws her hands up in disgust.
    • Also, the Danes in general. Even if it would benefit them to not keep their words, they do for the most part mean it when they say they'll give their words not to do something.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Skorpa's signature attack is to bite people's throats out.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice:
    • Skorpa is on the receiving end of this at Uhtred's hands, thanks to a spear from Beocca.
    • Wihtgar falls on a spear after being thrown down by Uhtred at the Battle of Bebbanburg.
  • Insult of Endearment: Leofric calls Uhtred an "arseling", i.e. something that comes out of an arse, i.e. "turd".
  • Interfaith Smoothie: Despite being Christian, King Peredur maintains a Celtic pagan tradition of relying on a gwrach or sorceress, in his case a second queen.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Uhtred. It's not that he doesn't recognize that other people have aims and desires; he's just much more interested in achieving his own.
    • Æthelwold, the hard-drinking prince of Wessex who is passed over in favour of his uncle Alfred. He wants to be king, but fails even at carrying out his plotting and is shuttled off into a monastery. Later he shows up in jail after bailing on the monastery.
    • Odda the Younger, who plots against Alfred with Æthelwold in return for the latter's favour once he's king. (Æthelwold tells on him when he's found out, but he's ignored.) Later Odda steals the credit for a Viking defeat from Uhtred to get Alfred's favour.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Uhtred and Alfred's first meeting is rather cold, but Alfred has good grounds for this. Despite being able to deduce that there's a good chance that Uhtred is innocent of the crimes attributed to him by the Danes, that doesn't necessarily make him a Saxon or a friend of the Saxons, just a Dane who has no friends among his own people and nowhere else to go.
    • Alfred repeatedly points out during the course of the first season that Father Beocca tends to be blinded by affection for Uhtred, and thus always assumes the best of Uhtred and his motivations, even though Beocca doesn't even know Uhtred anymore. (Or later, when they're reacquainted, Beocca barely knows Uhtred.) In most of these cases, Alfred is absolutely correct.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: When Ragnar the Younger first encounters Uhtred after his father's death, he demands to know if the stories of Uhtred being responsible are true. Uhtred responds by tossing his blade at Ragnar's feet and saying that if he believes that he was capable of killing their father, he should take his revenge. Ragnar embraces Uhtred like the (adoptive) brother he was.
  • Large and in Charge: Ubba is quite big even for a Dane.
  • Large Ham: During his and Uhtred's public humiliation, Æthelwold turns the crowd in their favour by loudly confessing his love of women and tits, and even gets in a Take That! at Alfred who's struggled with this himself.
  • The Last Title: The Last Kingdom.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: After Odda the Elder marches on Beamfleot without Alfred's knowing, the King imprisons him for treachery, knowing he will be tried and later killed. Before this happens, Aethelwold gives a blade to Odda, who stabs himself in the guts.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Uhtred's duel with Ubba carries shades of this. Since Ubba has no armor (he had been awakened in the middle of the night to fight the fires Uhtred had set right before running into him), Uhtred discards his armor. When Ubba's men bring him his axe and shield, they also provide Uhtred with a shield, as he hadn't brought one. Thus both parties are equally armed and armored before they start trying to kill each other.
  • Like a Son to Me: Earl Ragnar eventually calls Uhtred this despite his initial status as a thrall.
  • Little Stowaway: Twelve-year-old Uhtred follows his father to battle at Eoforwic without his knowledge.
  • The Low Middle Ages: An adaptation of The Saxon Stories
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The importance of the shield wall is touched upon and while only Mooks actually carry shields around with them, Uhtred will make use of one if he can get it.
  • Made a Slave: Uhtred is captured by the Danish earl Ragnar and kept as a thrall, but this turns out to be preferable to being ransomed by his Evil Uncle.
    • This happens to Uhtred again after he and Halig are sold into slavery by Guthred
  • Malicious Misnaming: Uhtred calls Odda the Younger "Odda the Boy".
  • Mama's Boy: Guthrum wears one of his late mother's rib bones in his hair.
  • Man Bites Man: Skorpa, who tears out peoples' throats with his teeth.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Alfred is a sympathetic example, since he's working to save his kingdom and his tribe.
  • Man on Fire: This is how Ragnar the Elder dies after enemies set fire to his hall.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": When Uhtred draws his sword in anger... in the presence of the king... in a church.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Seers, curses and magic rituals appear regularly, with Uhtred and other pagan characters very much believing they have genuine power and there being some evidence to support their belief. Nothing is shown which defies a more mundane explanation, however.
  • Meaningful Rename:
    • The protagonist Uhtred was born Osbert but his father renamed him after his elder brother Uhtred was killed.
    • Uhtred himself flip-flops between calling himself Uhtred Ragnarsson and Uhtred Uhtredsson depending on his current preference between the English and the Danes.
  • Medieval European Fantasy: Defied. Religion (whether Norse mythology or Christian theology) is portrayed as human-made and incorrect. Brida's dream of the future comes right after consuming potentially hallucinogenic mushrooms. Iseult is believed to be a sorceress, but her vision of victory for the Britons is utterly, tremendously wrong. She later believes that saving Alfred's son requires another child to die somewhere else, and takes responsibility for Uhtred's son's death. However, the infant mortality rate at the time was extremely high, and, as Mildreth says, "children are frail," so it was very likely a coincidence.
  • Mother Makes You King:
    • Aethelhelm would do everything in order for his daughter to become co-rulers with King Edward, and not just his consort.
    • Aethelhelm and Aelflaed also want to ensure that no matter what, Aelfweard (the son of Aelflaed, therefore the grandson of Aethelhelm) must succeed Edward. They would even resort to murder.
  • Mythology Gag: Alfred "burns the cakes", but not in the same King Incognito situation as in legend (which the books more or less followed).
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Ragnar the Fearless and Kjartan the Cruel.
  • Naytheist: Uhtred never disputes the power or existence of the Christian God, he just doesn't particularly care for Him.
  • Never Learned to Read: Uhtred was all set to begin learning when he was Made a Slave.
  • Never Say That Again: In Season 3, when Haesten tries to goad Aethelflaed into surrendering by asking how many people died protecting her, Aethelflaed angsts that Haesten is right until Uhtred angrily says this to talk her out of surrendering.
    Aethelflaed: He's right-
    Uhtred: Haesten has never spoken a true word in his life! Do not say that, do not even think it! Or your men will have died for nothing.
  • Non-Action Guy: While Alfred is implied to fight in Battle Discretion Shots, his Tranquil Fury and poor health certainly paint him as this.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Old: Between the historical events shown in the first season and those shown in the fifth, approximately 47 years should have gone by. While children and teenagers grow into adulthood and even have children of their own who in turn grow into adulthood, Uhtred, Brida, Finan and and many others seem to remain perpetually the same age.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Uhtred doesn't particularly care about the fate of Wessex. He cares about wealth, revenge, and reclaiming his birthright.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • Aethelwold claims to be this to Uhtred, citing the idea that both were wrongfully robbed of their rightful inheritance. Uhtred himself takes a dim view to this.
    • Eadith uses this trope outright when Aethelflaed asks Eadith why she's helping the former escape Mercia, telling Aethelflaed they're both women of Mercia who've been mistreated by Aethelred and whose brothers have turned on them.
  • Offing the Offspring: Odda the Elder kills his son for being a traitor to King Alfred and attempting to pact with the Danes.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • During the battle of Eoforwic, Uhtred's father is in the thick of fighting when he sees that his king has committed their reserves too early and that there is a second Danish force about to outflank them. He realizes that the Saxon army is doomed and this is fully reflected in his expression.
    • Odda the Elder once he realizes his son has been and is currently committing treason.
  • One-Man Army: Episode 8 cements Uhtred as this when he charges a shield wall, makes it behind their lines, slaughters their men and kills their leader for good measure.
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • Defied, as there are four Uhtreds, two Ragnars, and two Oddas, all fathers and sons. When necessary, they are distinguished as "the Elder" and "the Younger". In Uhtred's family the eldest son and heir is always called Uhtred, so the protagonist was originally called Osbert but is renamed when his brother dies.
    • Ubba generally has Only One Name in the show to avoid another "Ragnarsson" since his father was the famed Ragnar Lothbrok. The books solve this by taking the artistic licence of calling him "Lothbroksson"note , but in the show this only happens once (in Episode 1.6) and Ragnar Lothbrok himself is never mentioned.
    • The raider Skorpa is named Sveinn in the books. Presumably, this was changed to avoid confusion with Sven Kjartansson.
  • One-Woman Wail: The opening and closing credits and much of the soundtrack uses this, all sung by Faroese singer Eivør Pálsdóttir.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You:
    • Ragnar Ragnarson has sworn revenge on Kjartan for killing his father, and thus when he and his company arrive in Dunholm, Uhtred allows him to be the one to kill him.
    • After Aethelwold kills Ragnar in his sleep, the latter's wife, Brida hears the cries of her late husband, who is stuck in Niflheim, and cannot get into Valhalla as he didn't die a warrior's death. The sorcerer Storri tells her that the only way Ragnar can get into Valhalla is by killing his murderer with Ragnar's sword and blood. After investigating into the murder of her husband, Brida realizes who did it, and tells her new husband, Cnut that she must be the only who can kill Aethelwold. She says that whenever they (with the Danes) get into battle against Aethelwold, he must be protected no matter what, so that she can be the only one who defeats him.
  • Opening Narration: Each episode opens with Uhtred narrating the Previously on… segment in this style.
  • Outliving One's Offspring:
    • Iseult's magic treatment of Baby Edward's illness causes the death of a random child somewhere. This child is the son of Mildrith and Uhtred.
    • The daughter of Brida, Vibeke, dies after falling down a roof. Brida is heartbroken.
    • Aethelflaed dies due to cancer before her mother, Aelswith does.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Ragnar the Elder after Thyra is sexually assaulted by Sven.
    • Father Beocca following Uhtred to battle is a combination of this and Undying Loyalty.
  • Pelts of the Barbarian: Nearly ubiquitous among the Danes.
  • Post-Mortem Conversion: Prince Æthelwold tries to claim that his father named him, not Alfred, as heir on his deathbed. Unfortunately, he tries this with nobles who were at the king's deathbed and knew that not only had he done no such thing, Prince Æthelwold wasn't even there.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • Due to The Saxon Stories featuring a lot of characters throughout the series over differing points in time, the inclusion of composite characters and time skips were likely employed to keep the cast down to a reasonable level.
    • Many set piece battles in the series are also scaled down to open field battles, as opposed to the sieges and fleet battles presented in the first two books. Again this was likely done to keep the show within budget.
  • Previously on…: Uhtred provides an Opening Narration for each episode.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Danes, just as they were in the novels and in history, and Uhtred impresses them with his fierceness even as a twelve-year-old Saxon boy which leads them to question whether he's actually a Saxon at all.
    Ragnar the Younger: You sure he's a Saxon? He fights like a Dane!
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: Both the Danes and Anglo-Saxons run on this, but it's subverted with Alfred who is a solid and respected leader even though he's not a physically imposing badass. Before taking the crown, he is well aware of how he doesn't fit expectations.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil:
    • As very young teens, Sven corners Thyra, strips her topless, and would have done more but for Uhtred. Understandably outraged, her father Ragnar threatens to duel Sven's father Kjartan unless he surrenders his son, but only puts out one of Sven's eyes, since he only stripped Thyra half-naked.
    • Uhtred, Leofric, and Iseult are content to hide in a loft while the Danes Rape, Pillage, and Burn outside, but when some Danes choose that particular building for raping a nun, Iseult and the others spring into action. Later the nun, Sister Hild, is eager to kill Danes in battle herself.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The Danes are present as Vikings, not traders, and it shows. Kjartan's attack on Ragnar's homestead and Guthrum's sack of Witanceaster are prime examples.
  • Rated M for Manly: It's a Bernard Cornwell series about a Barbarian Hero involved in the war between Saxons and Vikings; what else could you expect?
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin:
    • Iseult is a British shadow queen from Cornwall who is married to a minor king Peredur. She's a mysterious. aloof woman who keeps her virginity because she believes it maintains her seer powers. She's also a healer. Iseult is a great beauty with fair skin, dark eyes and black hair. She's very much admired and hero Uhtred falls in love with her.
    • Princess Aethelflaed, a beloved daughter of King Alfred and Queen Aelswith. Aethelflaed is strong, brave, intelligent and beautiful. She has dark hair and fair skin with pink undertones. She's married to Lord Aethelred of Mercia and Mercians respect her more than her husband. Erik, a Dane warrior, falls in love with her when she's kidnapped by Danes.
  • "Reading Is Cool" Aesop: Guthrum is fascinated by Alfred's library of records and correspondence.
    Guthrum: This is... this is words without sound. This is voices without people. I'm going to learn how to use this magic.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer:
    • The Danes believe this. Uhtred is spared specifically because he keeps trying to kill Ragnar.
    Ravn: I see now why my son spared you, Uhtred of Bebbanburg. You are a warrior.
    • The Saxons believe this too, so Æthelwold is bummed over not being allowed to fight. Uhtred obliges him.
  • Redshirt Army: Naturally, in a show that features so much warfare, but special mention goes to any of Uhtred's followers who are not named Sihtric, Osferth, Finan, Halig or Clapa. They fight with Uhtred, and often die for Uhtred, but they aren't named, never say anything, and no one mourns them when they die.
  • Religion is Magic: Averted. Whenever the Christians pray or the Pagans attempt some form of magic, nothing happens.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Alfred, who is first presented as The Wise Prince (he's the king's brother), in contrast to his nephew Prince Æthelwold.
    • Odda the Elder, in contrast with his son.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Stiorra gives a rather brutal one to Uhtred over his constant You Cannot Fight Fate attitude that has led to him driving off those whom he loves.
    Stiorra: You have always spoken as though every action is part of some plan. Everything you have done has been excused because it was not your choice.
    Uhtred: That is not true. I have not walked blindly.
    Stiorra: All your battles, all those you have killed. You chose them over your family and called it fate. What your destiny has brought me is pain and grief. So now my choice is to turn my back on you.
  • Redemption Equals Death:
    • Æthelred spends his moments futilely trying to derail Eardwulf's designs on his daughter, who for all he knows isn't even his.
    • Lord Sigebriht of Kent spends the latter half of Season 3 plotting with Aethelwold to ally with the Danes and overthrow Edward after Alfred's death, but at the Battle of Bedford, he chooses, despite his grudge against Edward, to remain loyal to Wessex and leads his men to attack the Danes when they were expecting him to reinforce them. Sigebriht's actions help claim victory for the Saxons, but he's killed in the ensuing battle.
    • Shockingly, Haesten of all people gets this treatment near the end of Season 5. After their ruse to infiltrate Bebbanburg is uncovered and he is apprehended, Haesten chooses to stick with his cover story of being a merchant rather than sell out Uhtred and company, knowing full well that his captors won't believe him and will kill him. After learning of his death, Uhtred remarks that Haesten finally did something honourable, and will be welcomed into Valhalla. This is a bit of Adaptational Heroism in comparison to the books, where he is shown to be a treacherous coward to the end.
  • The Resenter: Odda the Younger and Alfred's queen Ealswith have it out for Uhtred because he is a staunch pagan and was raised by Danes.
    • Odda is also jealous of Uhtred for marrying his childhood friend Mildrith, who was his father's ward.
    • Queen Ealswith is pretty much just bigoted against pagans. Uhtred has hardly even interacted with her, yet she counsels Mildrith to pray for his death. Later she urges Alfred to execute him after the church incident, to which he dryly replies "Peace be with you, my dear".
  • Revenge Before Reason: Uhtred sneaks through the ashes of Ragnar's homestead to kill a henchman, then rides to the very gates of Bebbanburg to present the head to those who sent him, prompting the garrison to ride out in pursuit of him.
    • Subverted with Lord Sigebriht. He initially plots with Aethelwold to help overthrow Edward out of jealousy at the fact Edward impregnated the girl Sigebriht wished to marry, but ultimately chooses to put the survival of Wessex first when he has the perfect chance to betray Edward.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: After Odda the Younger allies with Skorpa and openly insults Alfred as a coward (unaware the King is there in disguise listening to every word), he is killed by his disgusted and still loyal father, and denied burial in consecrated ground on Alfred's orders.
    Skorpa: I am expected by the Lord Odda...
    Uhtred: The Lord Odda is in the ground, buried as a traitor.
  • Right Behind Me:
    • Having allied with the Danes after believing Alfred to be dead, Odda the Younger insults and renounces him at length when Uhtred and Leofric bring news of his survival and his summons to battle. Only Odda the Elder sees that Alfred is also there in disguise.
    • When Uhtred fights Cnut during the Battle of Tettenhall, the latter confesses to having plotted Ragnar's murder in order to usurp his command and take Brida for himself, unaware that she is standing behind him. Unsurprisingly, she kills him in retaliation.
  • Rite of Passage: Osbert is re-baptized as Uhtred in the premiere.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Uhtred goes on one of these after Skorpa presents him with Iseult's severed head, singlehandedly shattering the Danish shieldwall and taking out Skorpa with a spear courtesy of Beocca.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: In the ninth century, royalty was open to any warlord with the military clout to claim the title.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Halig is introduced at the very end of season 1 with clear shades of being a Sacrificial Lamb. It's a ruse, as the real sacrificial lions in Leofric and Iseult. Halig get's to have several episodes to endear him to the audience. He is later dies on Sverri's ship in a heartbreaking sequence. It's especially jarring since it's a original creation of the show.
  • Screaming Warrior: Ubba positively bellows in battle.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Uhtred and his men cross into Mercia to attack Danish slavers, even though the people they're preying on aren't Alfred's subjects.
    Odda the Elder: How many raiders did you kill?
    Uhtred: About thirty. They'd sacked a village.
    Odda the Elder: A village in Mercia.
    Uhtred: Lord, we could hear the screams at night. Mercia is weak and its people have no protection from the Danes.
    • Uhtred also challenges Aelswith trying to getting him exiled from Wessex via Miscarriage of Justice because he refuses to abandon Wessex's people to the mercy of an approaching Dane army.
    Aelswith: We are gifting you your life! You shall be grateful and you shall leave this land in peace!
    Uhtred: There will be no peace, Lady! War is coming! There is a Dane army marching this very moment, and I will not abandon the people of Wessex!
  • Sexposition: Parodied when, to Uhtred's bafflement, Brida comes (no pun intended) up with a plan to safely meet with Ubba whilst she and Uhtred are in the midst of intercourse.
  • Shoot the Messenger:
    • Cnut kills one of his men after he informs him that Uhtred killed one of Cnut's sons. (Which is not not true), even though Cnut promised he wouldn't hurt him.
      Cnut: I won't hurt you, just give me the news.
    • Eardwulf kills a messenger of Edward as he brings the news that Cnut has attacked Mercia, even though Aethelred was informed by Eardwulf that Cnut has left for Ireland, which made Aethelred safely leave Mercia to fight other Danes in East Anglia, thinking his homeland was secure from Cnut.
    • Aethelred kills the servant who delivers him the news that Aethelflaed is safe and sound, and hasn't been murdered. Doubles with Black Comedy, as the servant doesn't die instantly, and just bleeds out on the ground, while Aethelred orders him to die.
      Aethelred: Why won't you die?
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Uhtred and Odda the Younger, at least before it gets really personal. They don't like each other though they're on the same side. Odda distrusts him for his Danish background, resents that he married his childhood friend, and tries to shortchange him with her dowry. Uhtred is all too eager to return the feeling so he insults his manhood and taunts him about having sex with her.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Beocca delivers one to Skorpa while he is taunting Uhtred at a parley.
    Skorpa: [at Uhtred] Did your witch tell you that your sister is being humped in the arse each and every night by One-Eyed Sven?!
    Beocca: Did your mother tell you she should have kept her legs closed?!
    Skorpa: [giving Beocca a Death Glare]] I will look for you first across the battlefield!
    Beocca: I will be there and I will not be hard to find!
  • Slasher Smile: Every time Skorpa smiles, it's one of these.
  • Slain in Their Sleep: Ragnar the Younger and his lover are killed in their tent while sleeping by Æthelwold who would never have stood a chance in a battle or an honest fight. It's a major source of angst and mourning for his wife and his brother, because he did not die fighting and his stiff body cannot even grasp a weapon and, as such, cannot enter Valhalla.
  • So Proud of You: Father Beocca tells this to Uhtred, speaking for both himself and Lord Uhtred, after Uhtred has become a leader of men.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Since this is live-action not books, it's very easy to misspell "Uhtred" as "Uthred". (It has survived into modern times as the surname "Oughtred".)
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Brida finds this attitude among the West Saxons thoroughly grating after living with the Danes. This is actually Truth in Television, since Scandinavian women had a good deal more rights than their Saxon counterparts (who in turn had a good deal more rights than in the High Middle Ages).
  • Stealth Insult: Aethelwold's hammy, overwrought "penance" where he simultaneously brags about and laments how many women he's slept with is clearly at least in part a jab at Alfred's own issues with infidelity.
  • A Storm Is Coming: The Danes are coming.
  • Succession Crisis:
    • Subverted in Wessex, where Alfred and the Witan quickly trundle Prince Æthelwold off to a monastery because Wessex cannot afford incompetence or division.
    • Aethelwold tries to manufacture one in season 3 when Alfred's health is failing, attempting to convince others that Edward should not become king after Alfred's death.
    • Much of the latter half of Season 4 is centred around a succession crisis in Mercia after Aethelred is mortally wounded in the Battle of Tettenhall. Edward intends to install Uhtred as a Puppet King to bring Mercia under his control, but Uhtred declines and the Witan ultimately chooses Aethelflaed as their new ruler.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Skorpa shows up soon after Ubba's death to refill the role of a huge, blond, psychotic, Danish warlord.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Uhtred and Alfred will work together to save England, but that sure as Hell doesn't mean they like each other.
  • This Means Warpaint: When Uhtred and his band disguise themselves as Danes to go raiding in Cornwallum.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Brida kills several mooks by throwing an axe into their back.
  • Time Skip: In the first episode as part of Uhtred's Age Cut.
  • Title Drop: Alfred refers to Wessex as 'the last kingdom'.
    • This happens again in the Season 4 finale, where after consolidating control over nearly all of the Saxon kingdoms, Alfred's children refer to Northumbria as the last kingdom.
  • Token Enemy Minority: Uhtred's paganism and Danish upbringing make him this in Alfred's court.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • On a scouting mission, Uhtred's elder brother challenges the Danes to a fight despite explicit orders from his father not to do this. Of course, this gets him killed.
    • While completely at their mercy, King Edmund insists that Ubba and his men must accept Christianity, and points to the story of St. Sebastian to show God's power. They decide to reenact it with him.
    • Abbot Eadred in Series 2: Having already earned Uhtred's enmity by conspiring with Uhtred's Evil Uncle Aelfric to sell him into slavery, when Uhtred comes back and finds Eadred in the middle of trying to wed Gisela (the woman Uhtred's eye has fallen on) to Aelfric by proxy, it would probably be a good idea to keep his mouth shut. Eadred instead insists on repeatedly pressing Uhtred's Berserk Button about the matter until Uhtred finally has enough and Eadred comes down with a fatal case of knife-through-bowels.
  • Translation Convention:
    • The books make a big deal of Uhtred being fluent in both English and Danish, but the show averts this as Old English and Norse were close enough that a Saxon could speak to a Dane without the needs of a translator much like how a modern day Spaniard and Portuguese person would converse with little effort.
    • Period-appropriate place names are used in dialogue, with each period name morphing into the familiar one (ex. Eoforwic is York, Loidis is Leeds, Dunholm is Durham) in the setting label. In one instance this becomes kind of a spoiler: Beodericsworth is Bury St. Edmunds, where the future St. Edmund meets his fate. London is spelled as "Lunden", but the pronunciation is so similar any notable difference is minor at best. Winchester, however, is referred to in dialogue by its modern name, rather than its period-appropriate name "Wintanceaster", which is how it appears in the setting label.
    • Though the Saxon title ealdorman ("elder-man") is retained, the modern title earl is used in place of the Norse equivalent jarl, unlike the books. The word earl was derived from jarl and eventually replaced ealdorman (which survives today as alderman, a rather different rank).
    • In the books, "arseling" is spelled the Old English way, earsling, but it's pronounced the modern English way in the show (compare the shift from ealdorman, pronounced "elder-man", to "alderman"). The proper Old English pronunciation might be "ear-sling" or "ears-ling", not "arse-ling".
  • Trojan Prisoner: This is how Uthred and Brida capture Ubba's sorcerer, Storri. Uthred leads Brida inside the castle of King Edmund (where Ubba also resides) and leads Brida on chains who is disguised as a Sex Slave, as a "gift" to Storri. Once Storri takes a good look at her, she uses those same chains to detain him.
  • Virgin Power: The minor Briton king Peredur has a "shadow queen" named Iseult who serves as a seer. They believe her powers are linked to her virginity. She later begs Uhtred to take her virginity to free her of her powers, claiming to be tired of bearing what she views as a curse.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Uhtred and Leofric.
  • Warrior Heaven: The Danes believe in the Trope Codifier, Valhalla.
  • We Have Reserves: Alfred alludes to this in the negotiations with Guthrum and Ubba, informing them that Wessex has a great numerical advantage.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Zig-Zagged. At the battle in the Season 1 finale, Uthred and his former lover Brida and her new partner and adoptive brother of Uhtred, Ragnar the Younger fight on opposing sides, with Ragnar claiming that if it comes to that, he would kill Uthred. At Brida's and Uthred's prior interaction, Brida is not very warm either. They later become friends again, but their animosity towards each other renews in Season 3, but after Ragnar's death, Brida and Uhtred become friends again, but Brida turns on Uhtred again, when she is captured by the Welsh at the Battle of Tettenhall, due to Uhtred's inaction. She is enslaved by the Welsh and endures total humilitation. Since he didn't help her, Brida returns with a vengeance specifically targetting Uhtred.
  • Wham Shot: In the season 2 finale, a sword erupts from Sigefrid's chest and, as he collapses, it's revealed Aethelflaed is the one who struck the fatal blow.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Several minor characters aren't present in Seven Kings Must Die:
    • The wife and children of Sihtric simply vanish.
    • So do the children of Finan.
  • Where It All Began: In Season 5, Uhtred and Brida's final confrontation takes place in the ruins of Earl Ragnar's estate, where they grew up and fell in love as teenagers.
    Uhtred: You dug your own grave?
    Brida: Mine or yours. I'm prepared. Either way, it ends where it began.
  • World of Badass: It's a Crapsack World of Vikings and Saxons. Some level of badassery is basically a requisite for survival... unless you're Prince Æthelwold.
  • Worthy Opponent: Uhtred rightly regards Ubba Lothbroksson as the greatest warrior he's ever seen, and affords him the respect due that title.
    Uhtred: He is Ubba! As close to a king as the Danes shall ever have.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Guthrum kills his hostages the moment he learns that Ubba is returning to England, removing the need for the truce the hostages were supposed to ensure.
  • You Killed My Father:
    • Played Straight, then subverted by Uhtred, who initially attacks Ragnar the Elder for killing his father but soon accepts him as his adoptive father and even supports Ragnar the Younger's quest for vengeance against his murderers.
    • If the 13th century sagas of Ragnar Lothbrok And His Sons are to be believed, the great Danish invasion of the 9th century started as a massive Roaring Rampage of Revenge by the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok against King Ælla of Northumbria for the killing of their father.
  • Young Future Famous People:
    • Alfred's children Edward and Æthelflæd, who grow into more straightforward Historical Domain Characters in later novels.
    • Edward's firstborn would seemingly just be an ordinary young boy were it not for the subtitle that introduces him: Aethelstan first king of the English.
  • Young Gun: Uhtred knows more than his share about combat and, as per the books, is looking to make a name for himself.