Game Of Thrones undeniably changed TV forever, leaving what was, at the time, a revolutionary imprint and lasting legacy. Indeed George R.R. Martin’s books, by marrying fictional historical drama with dark fantasy in a more adult fashion, including graphic violence, language, nudity, and sex, seemingly revolutionized genre storytelling in a manner that had previously not been done for TV or in movies before.
Predictably, producers across the business scrambled to create something similar, hoping to cash in the show’s success. Attempts at offering up something similar, if not a blatant rip-off of the series, met with varying degrees of success. Hoping to discover the next big thing and a worthy successor to the GOT ‘throne,’ the results have given us series like TV’s The Outpost, The Witcher, and more. Some attempts settled for pure fictionalized historic dramas loosely based on historical; reality. Series like Vikings and The Last Kingdom did a fine job in this regard. But only one series remained successfully loyal to the original concept of marrying historical drama with the supernatural elements of pure fantasy. That series is Britannia.
Not familiar with this title? Britannia is a historical drama/fantasy/adventure/mystery television series. The show is a creation of Jez Butterworth and Tom Butterworth. The show was the first co-production between Sky and Amazon Prime Video and stars Kelly Reilly, David Morrissey, Zoë Wanamaker, Mackenzie Crook, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and Eleanor Worthington Cox. It first aired on Sky Atlantic in the UK beginning 18 January 2018 and on Amazon Prime Video in the US beginning 26 January 2018. The first series aired on Epix starting 2 August 2020. The theme song is Donovan’s eerie “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”
Although not as sprawling or epic in scale as GOT, this series is every bit as engaging as a narrative set in very early and perpetually grimy Britain. It’s the Celtics and druids vs. the invading Romans this time around. The show’s narrative is another discussion of the ages-old conversation about free will and destiny, with destiny at least so far holding all the cards. It’s no secret the British have mastered the period piece better than anyone else. Like the BBC period pieces that went before it, the series is an excellent example of the genre. Britannia’s creators spared no expense in creating a remarkably believable and brutal setting for its narrative to play out against and is another overall excellent production from Amazon Studios.
True to the Brish thespian DNA, the cast does an excellent job creating fascinating characters that make a lasting impression. This cast is impressive all around, but the series spends most of its time on the show’s main characters. David Morrissey is very impressive and sinister as the show’s sociopathic chief villain, who, unknown to the men he commands, has a hidden agenda of his own as Aulus Plautius, a Roman General in charge of the invasion, along with Mackenzie Crook as Veran and Harka the Druid leaders who are equally sinister as his opposite.
My favorite two characters in the series are the odd couple of Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Divis / The Outcast and Eleanor Worthington Cox as Cait, a young peasant woman that fate has big plans in store. Britannia owes a great deal of its appeal, and most amusing moments, to the back and forth between these two, and despite her young age, the actress does an outstanding job in the role and never gets upstaged by her older castmate. These two are priceless and contribute a great deal to this series.
Only two of the show’s seasons have aired. It remains uncertain how this compelling and entertaining story that, at its core, is a mystery will play out in the end. One thing is for sure, this series is addictive, and I eagerly await season 3 of this genuinely captivating series and more if that is the case. This production is excellent stuff, full of humor, mystery, action, and adventure. It is highly recommended.