The Last Kingdom - political plotting amid the Brian Blessed bellowing

At a time when the United Kingdom seems intent on ripping itself apart, it's a good time for a drama which shows how the kingdoms became united in the first place.

Friday, 17th March 2017, 12:09 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:54 am
Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) is on the warpath in The Last Kingdom

The Last Kingdom (BBC2, Thursdays, 9pm) returned this week with an opening episode short on broadsword action and long on political intriguing.

In Wessex, the pale and floppy-haired King Alfred, who looks like he would be more at home wandering a student hall of residence in a My Chemical Romance T-shirt, is planning on backing a bid to drive the Danes from Northumbria, and cementing his Christian Saxon powerbase.

In Cumbraland, devious bishops are installing puppet kings and rallying against their Viking overlords, justified by a PR campaign claiming divine intervention.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Meanwhile, our hero Uhtred is drinking, waving his sword around and attaching himself to any cause that looks like to might bring him revenge on those who have wronged him.

It’s all a good excuse for some spittle-flecked, actorly bellowing, flagon-swilling and backslapping, yet it’s also a bit clunky, a bit sanitised, even if Uhtred does “find a goat in a skirt pretty”.

It can get a bit confusing, working out your Ragnars from your Kjartans, your Guthreds from your Guthrems, but a good rule of thumb seems to be the Vikings wear eyeliner.

However, the plot is the thing, and this episode set up everything nicely for the series, with several new villains, and if the new ‘divine’ king of Cumbraland, Guthred, doesn’t turn out to be a cad of the first order, I’ll be amazed.

We have yet to see the Scots, but my guess is there will be no referendums, as the kingdoms are forged in fire and steel.

The Replacement (BBC1, Mondays, 9pm) had you wondering whether heroine Ellen really was paranoid. However, the finale – which turned into Scrapheap Challenge – was a dismal failure.

Watching daytime TV is an eye-opener, especially the ads you never see on primetime. Can you anyone tell me, however, if VIPoo – a scent to disguise embarrassing toilet odours – is real or a very funny parody?