At least seven different nationalities, a cavalcade of breakthrough stars mixing with some truly legendary screen names: even the cast list of The Last Kingdom is epic.
Three episodes in, and it’s clear that not everyone who started out are going to make it all the way to the end of the series.
Here’s our guide to the cast and characters (the ones still alive), to help you cut through this brutal world of Saxon/Danish rivalries.
Axes at the ready. The Last Kingdom continues 9pm BBC2.
Born to Saxon nobility, Uhtred’s father is defeated in battle, and his son is kidnapped by the Danes. Warlord Earl Ragnar captures Uhtred and raises him as his own pagan son: a double life for this conflicted warrior.
When Ragnar himself is killed, Uhtred is left once again without a homeland. He turns to the Saxon Alfred – grudgingly.
“When he goes to the allies of his Danish father he is rejected and considered a Saxon,” says actor Alexander Dreymon, “and when he’s with the Saxons he’s seen as a Dane and so it’s difficult to find his identity within these two worlds.”
Alexander Dreymon, last seen in American Horror Story: Coven, stars as Uhtred. The German-born actor also appeared alongside Doctor Who actor Matt Smith in BBC2 one-off Christopher and His Kind.
The polar opposite of Uhtred, the man who will become King Alfred the Great is a pious Christian who thinks his way through the bloody politics of Saxon Britain.
Uhtred is dubious of this man’s capacity to rule and his Christian fervour, but is slowly drawn to this Saxon king who reminds him of his heritage.
Author Bernard Cornwell explains: “For Alfred, certainly, and to a lesser extent for his children, this is not just a battle to reclaim territory and to make a country, to make England; it’s also a religious crusade. This is a crusade on behalf of Christianity.
“I deliberately made Uhtred a Pagan in order to create some tension with Alfred. In a sense he rather admires Alfred but at the same time he can’t stand him.”
Actor David Dawson is probably best remembered as sensation-seeking hack Fred Best in Ripper Street, but has been popping up in a string of BBC2 dramas including Banished and Peaky Blinders. The Hollow Crown and Luther are also in his BBC back catalogue – pretty good hit rate, don’t you think?
Uhtred’s soulmate, in more ways than one. Like him, Brida is a Saxon captured by Vikings. Unlike Uhtred, she stays true to her adopted countrymen, and struggles to understand her lover Uhtred’s move back towards the Saxon king Alfred.
“I won’t become a Saxon woman,” she shouts in episode three. “I won’t wash, work the fields till I drop and cook… That won’t be my life.” In short, don’t mess.
Emily Cox is an Austrian actress who’s set to appear in the latest series of Homeland, after featuring this year in Tatort, Germany’s longest-running TV drama.
Producer Neame explained that the spread of European actors was important to the production. “We’ve got around seven different nationalities in the show,” he said, pointing out that both Emily and Alexander have European accents: “The fact that they have that accent adds another aspect to show that they are in neither camp particularly, but have a connection to both.”
One of Uhtred’s closest allies from his Saxon childhood, Beocca was Lord Uhtred’s priest, and goes on to become Alfred’s advisor. Uhtred has been converted to a pagan, but Beocca is always hoping to turn him back on to the Christian path.
Actor Ian Hart appeared in the very first Harry Potter film as the duplicitous Professor Quirrell. He has also featured in Boardwalk Empire and the BBC’s 2002 film of Sherlock Holmes’s The Hound of the Baskervilles as Dr Watson.
The big cheese in the Danish kingdom, Ubba is as ferocious as they come, and counted the dead Ragnar as his right-hand man. Uhtred can’t help crossing paths with the invader.
Ubba is played by Norwegian actor Rune Temte, recently seen in Netflix cross cultural crime series Lilyhammer. He’s also going to be in the upcoming Eddie The Eagle biopic alongside Hugh Jackman and Christopher Walken.
Ubba’s second in command Guthrum is not as openly forceful as the great Dane, but just as cold-blooded. He’s played by Swedish actor Thomas W. Gabrielsson, best known here for appearing in Oscar-nominated foreign language film A Royal Affair.
Ragnar the Younger
Mini Ragnar is very much his father’s son – except he’s still alive. He grew up alongside Uhtred, and the pair are bound to each other, no matter how much Uhtred’s Saxon heritage pulls him away.
Ragnar’s played by Tobias Santelmann, a German-born actor brought up in Norway. He co-starred in 2014’s Hercules alongside Dwayne Johnson, and you can also spot him in the latest series of Homeland.
Odda the Elder
One of Alfred’s most trusted advisors, Odda is highly suspicious of Uhtred. His son shares his suspicion – but not his steadfastness.
British actor Simon Kunz has an extensive TV CV, from Waking the Dead, The Bill and Coronation Street to 2013 religious epic The Bible.
Odda the Younger
The ambitious son lives in the shadow of his father, but dreams of attaining power of his own. Another enemy of Uhtred in Alfred’s court, he will find his presence increasingly intolerable.
Young actor Brian Vernel appeared in fugitive drama Prey alongside John Simm, and has appeared in Grantchester and JK Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy.
Alfred’s bodyguard and Odder The Elder’s straight-talking military man Leofric first sees Uhtred as a threat, but the pair quickly find a common warrior bond.
Actor Adrian Bower plays Leofric – you might recognise him from C4 comedy Teachers where he played PE teacher Brian. He’s also recently featured in Sky Living’s Mount Pleasant and guest starred in Rev.
Bower explains how Leofric has no love for his Viking foe: “He firmly believes they are the enemy but he learns more about their way of life the more time he spends with Uhtred. Given the chance I’m sure Leofric would rather be on their side because they seem to have a lot more fun and the Saxon way of life is rather harsh. However, I think ultimately Leofric regards the Vikings as savages that need to be destroyed. “
Uhtred’s father is played by Ripper Street actor Matthew Macfadyen. A hard man to please, Uhtred is ruler of the Saxon lands of Bebbanburg. “Lord Uhtred is a very hard man and not in the least bit sophisticated,” Macfadyen explained. “He is however a leader, a father and a toughened warrior. Like a lot of lives lived in that time his was short, brutish and hard.”
Anything the former Pride and Prejudice heartthrob regrets about the new series? “I was slightly upset because the Vikings look a lot cooler than the Saxons,” he joked. “So much so that the other Saxon actors and I feel a bit hard done by. They’ve got cool hair with shaved sides and long sections with cool tattoos and a kind of Nordic chic and we’re just boring Saxons.”
Uhtred’s adopted father becomes almost as devoted to the Saxon as his own son, Ragnar the Younger. Played by Danish actor Peter Gantzler, Ragnar schools Uhtred in the Viking way of life.
The father to Earl Ragnar, blind Ravn is able to take the long view of Viking and Saxon relations. He takes the young Uhtred under his wing.
Playing opposite young Tom Taylor is the most experienced actor in the cast: Rutger Hauer, aka Blade Runner’s Roy Batty. Where have you seen the Dutch actor since? Well, Batman Begins, True Blood, Sin City, George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind all spring to recent mind. And Hobo With A Shotgun. We’ll leave it there.
Hauer even had a tactic to keep his young co-star on his toes: “I had planned to take him out for a surprise trip on my motorbike, just to try and take his mind away from the set, but the team decided it probably wasn’t the most sensible idea and so I had to give up on my plan,” he revealed. “It’s hard work for kids to work these schedules, not that Tom seemed in any way phased by it.”
The Last Kingdom continues at 9pm on BBC2