The Last Kingdom out Game of Thrones-es Game of Thrones in bloody first episode

If you thought Oberyn Martell’s fate was tough, wait until you see what happens to the characters in the BBC’s new historical drama – contains spoilers

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Game of Thrones’ disregard for its characters’ lives (and the audience’s poor, battered hearts) is legendary, with the HBO fantasy drama having cheerfully massacred fan-favourite characters throughout its five-series run.

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But the George RR Martin-based series might just have met its match when it comes to callous cast deaths in new drama The Last Kingdom, which kicked off on BBC1 by killing off about half its cast.

In the shocking final scenes of this week’s episode, the adopted Viking family of lead character Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) were murdered by their former comrade Kjartan (Alexandre Willaume), with grandfather Ravn (Rutger Hauer) and mother Sigrid burned alive in their hall while patriarch Earl Ragnar (Peter Gantzler) attempted to take revenge on his enemies before succumbing to his injuries.

Uhtred and Earl Ragnar in happier times

Sure, lead character Uhtred and his lover Brida (Emily Cox) managed to avoid the massacre (with adopted sister Thyra captured), but we’re still in a state of shock at the bloody conclusion. Even Game of Thrones took nine weeks to off Sean Bean’s Ned Stark – Uhtred’s adopted family didn’t even last a full episode.

That said, Matthew Macfayden as Uhtred’s Saxon father barely made it through the opening credits, so Hauer et al should probably be thankful – at least they made it to the half-hour mark. At this rate, the only character left in episode three will be the monk who baptises Uhtred at the start of this episode, and he’ll probably be missing a few limbs.

Clearly, when you play the Game of Thrones you win or you die – but when you visit the Last Kingdom, you just die.

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The Last Kingdom will return (with its surviving cast) next Thursday on BBC2