p12079367_b_v9_acBy John Ruberry

Without the phenomenal box office success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, HBO’s Game of Thrones series may not have ever launched. And without GoT’s ongoing critical and audience raves, The Last Kingdom would almost certainly never have been giving the green light by the BBC.

I just finished binge-watching the first season of The Last Kingdom, which like Game of Thrones is a television version of a series of books, in this case Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories. I might not have ever heard of the BBC series had not the ninth season of the Doctor Who reboot had been bombarded with Last Kingdom trailers. I guess that’s the point of promos.

Season two of The Last Kingdom is currently in production.

So how is it? Well, in a few words, LK is pretty good. After all, I kept watching, didn’t I?

Here’s how the series is set up–with spoilers for the most part that cover only the first half of the first episode:

The action begins in the late ninth century as Danish invaders–the word “vikings” is never used–have transformed themselves from coastal raiders into a disciplined army who have conquered each English kingdom save Wessex. The lead character is Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), the son of a Northumberland noblemen who as a child witnesses his father fall in a battle against the invaders. After he humorously attacks a Dane, Uhtred is taken as a slave. Losing his Christian faith, Uhtred the Godless, much in the matter of white characters captured by Indians in Old West movies, seems unsure of his loyalties, but he’s determined to reclaim his family castle from his duplicitous uncle.

An adult Uhtred, after his Danish family is killed by other Danes, makes his way to Wessex where he pledges loyalty to King Alfred and joins the Saxon cause.

Attractive in a Jon Snow sort of way, Uhtred doesn’t have a vow of chastity to hamper his romantic pursuits.

Religion greatly drives the plot, The priest who baptizes the young Uhtred–twice–has also made his way to Wessex, where he serves as a counselor to Alfred. Refreshingly, the Christians in The Last Kingdom are pious, but not portrayed as foolishly pious. The only religious character treated with disdain is a Danish sorcerer.

Alfred (David Dawson), the devout king, doesn’t let his sickliness damper his resolve to save his realm and drive the Danes out of England.

Besides Alfred, other historical characters who appear in The Last Kingdom are the Danish chieftains Ubba and Guthrum, Saxons Odda the Elder, King Edmund of East Anglia, Alfred’s nephew Aethelwold, and Welsh monk Asser, the biographer of the Wessex ruler. A glaring oversight is the omission of Ivor the Boneless, the Dane whose name still perplexes historians. Ivor was the half-brother of Ubba.

The show plays homage to the legend that Alfred, asked by a woman to keep an eye on loaves of bread being baked, allows them to burn as his mind wanders to pressing matters of kingship.

The cinematography is superb although the filming of the series in Hungary, rather than England, might be the catalyst of one of LK’s noticeable shortcomings, cheap-looking wardrobes and crowns that appear to be plastic. If the series was shot in Britain, or even Northern Ireland where some of Game of Thrones is filmed, I’m sure the costume department of The Last Kingdom could have scrounged up more convincing crowns some better period clothes from a regional Shakespeare company.

John "Lee" Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven
John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

If you are looking for one more Game of Thrones comparison, then I won’t let you down. While gratuitous nudity is absent from The Last Kingdom, the brief glimpses of bare flesh amid the armor and swords appear forced as if someone is screaming at the directors, “We need naked bums for better ratings!”

I’ll be back for season two, hoping for more. (More meaning better shows, not bare buttocks.) After all, the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood didn’t hit its stride until season two and it didn’t achieve consistent greatness until The Children of Earth in season three.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit
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Attacks in New Jersey, New York, and Minnesota on Saturday were, by definition, terrorism. Websters’ Dictionary says that terrorism is “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” Today, we can add “religious goals” into the definition as well since nearly all acts of terrorism are done in the name of Islam.

I’m old enough to remember when the dystopian vision of George Orwell’s 1984 was as impossible to see in America as communism or anarchy. Now, it seems to be a race between the three most destructive societal establishments to see which one can take hold first. At this point, the most likely winner would be the totalitarian police state of 1984 creeping quickly into the thoughts of Americans because media’s and politicians’ mastery of doublespeak is polluting the cultural awareness.

Most non-conservatives don’t even think twice when the media questions Donald Trump about why he called the explosion in New York City a “bombing.” They want us to ignore the fact that dumpsters do not blow up by themselves. They definitely want us to pretend that Trump was evil for calling it a bombing while Hillary Clinton was righteous for calling it a bombing moments later.

Even this morning after it was revealed that there was a second bomb in the form of a pressure cooker rigged with a cellular detonator, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said that it wasn’t terrorism. Keep in mind that he acknowledged it was an “intentional act” but wouldn’t say terrorism. What other motives can there for intentionally blowing up a dumpster on a busy street in the busiest city in America?

Even when Governor Andrew Cuomo comes out and admits it was terrorism, he has to add a qualifier to it by saying that it wasn’t “international” terrorism. Does that make you feel better?

Folks, that’s doublespeak. Just as Ft. Hood wasn’t “workplace violence,” the Chelsea bombing wasn’t a “waste management mishap,” though today it wouldn’t shock me to hear it called that by the press or the White House.

Pipe bombs in New Jersey are terrorism. Men asking people if they’re Muslims and referring to Allah before stabbing them is terrorism, but somehow the motives are still being questioned. It’s as if we’re so scared as a society to jump to conclusions that we won’t come to conclusions at all. This is a dangerous mentality for any nation that’s specifically targeted by multiple terrorist groups who have inserted or indoctrinated their agents into the population.

The key to the government’s success in 1984 was in how they redefined truth. History was whatever the government said it was. People were attacked for speaking the truth and rewarded for agreeing with the government’s lies. Their best weapon was the fear of consequences that they were able to impose on the people. They had to fear everyone they talked to, even family. Their best agents were children. The way that liberalism and doublespeak are spreading through the country, specifically within our education system and media, it’s no longer impossible to imagine a dystopian America within our generation.

I understand that there was a severe backlash against Muslims after 9/11. Only the truly deplorable of the country (by the real definition, not Hillary’s) would want a repeat of that. More recent history has shown us that it’s no longer a major concern. I’m sure that CAIR or a leftist activist organization can produce statistics that show a spike in hate crimes following terrorist attacks, but I would question the validity. We’ve seen enough terrorist attacks in recent years (heck, months) to know that even after confirmed attacks by radical Islamic terrorists, the instant backlash is minimal or nonexistent. The real fear, one that is actually righteous, is that of the hatred that drives people to take action well after the fact. The arson of the mosque attended by Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen didn’t happen in the hours immediately following the attack or even the days when it was hot in the news and confirmed as being a terrorist attack. It happened three months later. In other words, anyone jumping to an early conclusion had zero bearing on the follow-up crime.

People are fond of saying that “words matter” this election cycle. I agree. I just wish the media and politicians would use the right words. These acts were terrorist attacks, period. More may be coming. We must remain diligent without allowing fear to paralyze us. This means calling things by what they are. Terrorism is terrorism. Labeling it otherwise is dangerous and stupid.

Castle San Miguel
Castle San Miguel
We left the abbey heading for Shirine of the most blessed sacrament, picking up our guest house people on the way.

There is a single entrance to the site down a country road filled with farmland horses and cattle grazing calmly nearby giving no clue as to what is to be found at the end of the road.

There were very few members of the group who had been to the shrine and the Castle that sits upon it but even so it remained an imposing sight as you approach it.

When you walk into the medieval style keep this is what you see

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The Conference Room
this is the area used for conferences dining (items are catered and brought in). It also contains the rather large and very catholic gift shop full of coins, prayer cards and medals. As our catholic supply store in the Fitchburg area closed I loaded up on small bottles for holy water to be given out a few of which I filled from the taps connected to huge tanks of holy water kept in the nativity area next to the castle

For those who are not catholic be aware that all such items are just that items that can be bought and sold until blessed by a priest or deacon, once blessed they can NOT be sold either by a gift shop or by the person who had them blessed. No legit catholic gift shop will sell a blessed item.

The Courtyard
The Courtyard

We then filled into the conference room for a talk on the origins of Mother Angelica, her vocation and the Shrine of the most blessed sacrament. I set up a mic for the talk next to her podium so I caught all of her speech but in the Q & A you’ll only hear the “A” not the “Q”

When the talk was over we headed for mass at the lower chapel where Mother Angelica is buried. No photography is allowed there so naturally I have no images to show you. I was struck that not only was the Liturgy of the Eucharist celebrated Ad Orientem but communion was received kneeling at the altar rail with an altar boy holding a salver under a chin, both of which I found very appealing.

Touring the Eucharistic Center
Touring the Eucharistic Center
After mass we had some time before our tour of the John Paul II Eucharistic Center we spent some time at the grave of Mother Angelica. We pressed rosaries against her grave that the station planned to give away and prayed a rosary for the person who would be receiving it.

A bit later we visited the Eucharistic Center. The last time I was there the young knights of the Holy Eucharist were the tour guides, but they had been transferred to Nebraska so a gentleman name Micah gave the tour.

When the Tour was over he took a few minutes to speak to me about his job.

The Vast Collection of Relics of Saints
The Vast Collection of Relics of Saints

When the tour was over and after a quick sandwich we had free time. I spent mine at Mother’s grave with several hundred rosaries saying a Hail Mary over each as I touched them to her grave.

Soon it was time to head back to St. Benedict Abbey where I visited and filmed the famous Grotto.

And interviewed Brother Christopher who gave us the history of brother Joseph

From there we were back to the cafeteria at St. Bernard Abbey where I interviewed one of the students who attended the school.

At St. Bernard Abbey
At St. Bernard Abbey
However at this point things took a turn for the worse. Our bus driver had been a tad under the weather on day one, by that evening he was in horrible pain. we had a pair of nurses on the trip who took a look at him and it was decided he needed to get to the local hospital. We had no way of getting him there. The Taxi services stopped running early, there was no Uber or Lyft and we failed to get ahold of the local parish or Knight of Columbus that we hoped to get a hand from. Eventually our driver drove to the hospital in his bus with our nurses with him while the rest of us took up a Rosary Circle. One of the Nurses takes up the story.

In the end our driver got the treatment he needed while a substitute driver arrived from Atlanta while he waited to be treated. Ironically our substitute had driven for our tour leader Maryann before and while our primary driver would have a day of rest we would be getting ready for our trip to the EWTN studio the next day.


If you like what you see here and want to help cover the costs from my Alabama trip which included the loss of a week’s pay please consider hitting DaTipjar. I promise not to pull a Hillary and keep charging you without your consent.




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