The Last Kingdom and Vikings have both been criticized for their historical accuracy. Some fans have picked apart each show for everything from plastic helmets to inaccurate footwear. Even with those complaints each show still has a following of faithful fans. Not everyone is such a stickler for accuracy. A fun story and rich characters are more than enough for most. Both shows are about the same cultures and even have characters loosely based on the same historical figures. With all those similarities it’s only natural to compare the two. Compared side by side, here’s how the two stack up.
10 Battle Scenes
You can’t produce a show about Scandinavian history without a lot of intense battles. The Vikings remain largely known for their brutality in war. In fact, much of Viking culture outside of fighting takes a back seat in the public mind. This is one area where the fans have spoken, and they prefer The Last Kingdom. Lovers of the show can thank Author Bernard Cornwell for the great fighting scenes. His novels went out of their way to accurately portray many battles that really took place. This is one of the most historically accurate aspects of the show.
Neither of these productions will be mislabeled as a documentary any time soon. Both are works of historical fiction and take plenty of liberties with accuracy. That doesn’t detract from the story for most. Fans of both shows seem to think The Last Kingdom gets one thing right more often than Vikings. The costumes on The Last Kingdom aren’t perfect reproductions of period pieces but they are more accurate than many historical shows. Not to mention, they’re gorgeous. If you simply appreciate them as they are you’ll notice a lot of attention to detail and artistry.
When it comes to really selling a character, the burden falls on the actor. There’s a wide margin between great acting and bad acting that’s pretty subjective. On the whole, fans seem to feel that the actors on The Last Kingdom shine brighter than their Vikings counterparts. It’s hard to gauge which show is truly full of better actors. Each has won awards on the merit of their casts’ performances. The Last Kingdom moves at a breakneck pace which certainly puts a higher burden on its cast.
7 Plot Structure
Vikings just can’t compete when it comes to a tight plot. The show definitely has distinct story arcs but it isn’t as well mapped out as The Last Kingdom. This isn’t the fault of the writers or even a flaw. The Last Kingdom has the advantage because if its source material.
Vikings is an original work but The Last Kingdom is based on 'The Saxon Stories' novels by Bernard Cornwell. The writers had so much of the work already laid out for them. They simply had to adapt it for the screen and cut it for time.
The Last Kingdom explodes through two novels worth of plot in its first season alone. If you like stories that get straight to the point, this is the series for you. Vikings, on the other hand, has a tendency to meander its way through a story and take its time. This provides more opportunities for character development but it can make the story feel like it’s moving extremely slowly. This factor truly comes down to personal preference. Lovers of a quick paced story will prefer The Last Kingdom over Vikings. Those who want to take their time may not be as impressed.
The score underlying The Last Kingdom is breathtaking. The music sounds like it was taken directly from the time period the show is set in. This is, in large part, thanks to the talent of Eivør Pálsdóttir. Known professionally as Eivor, this singer and composer has deep connections to Scandinavian history and musical traditions. Her artistry spans many genres but the ancient music of Europe is one she is widely known for. Getting her involved was a brilliant move on behalf of the production team. She lends an authenticity few other musicians could.
4 Source Material
The Last Kingdom has an impressive depth of source material to pull from. 'The Saxon Stories' spans five novels with more to come. Vikings, however, has a much larger production budget. When you consider that major difference, it’s impressive how well The Last Kingdom holds up.
Many credit that to the writing skills of Bernard Cornwell. The research and passion he poured into his books comes through in the TV series. Vikings doesn’t have that amazing resource at its disposal.
Fans of both shows seem to find The Last Kingdom drew them in more. Many have said Vikings is easier to pick up but also easier to forget. The Last Kingdom nags at viewers and beckons them to come back for another taste. The battle scenes, in particular, seem to have a strong pull on viewers. These scenes include smaller armies than many period pieces and produce a more realistic and intimate mood. “Easy to forget” isn’t a phrase anyone wants to be associated with their show.
Having a hero your audience can get behind is important. Creating a villain your viewers can enjoy rooting against is everything. The more vile, frightening and awful your antagonists are, the more your show will pull people in. The bad guys in The Last Kingdom are incredible. Skorpa, in particular, seems to have captured the viewers’ imaginations. This bloodthirsty character will double cross anyone to serve his ambitions. He’s ruthless and cruel and fans can’t get enough of him.
1 Danish Culture
Where many shows about ancient Scandinavians fall short is in accurately capturing Danish culture. The entertainment industry has painted a portrait of vikings as dirty, unsophisticated barbarians. The Danes were incredibly fierce in battle but their culture was more than that. The Last Kingdom does a good job of portraying Danish culture. The stark contrast between the rigid and pious Anglo culture and the more playful and emotional Danish culture demonstrates all the nuance many pieces leave out, including Vikings.