Slashing onto our small screens earlier this year Britannia is a brilliant blend of Game of Thrones and Rome via some dark and downright trippy druidic dealings. With its release on download and DVD at last everyone can enjoy this homegrown historical horror TV show be they British or not.
Opening with an ominous title card stating that Britannia has been untouched since Julius Caesar himself gave up attacking it after being driven away by barbaric forces and strange magic’s we learn the Roman Empire are set to return under a new leader Aulus Plautius (Walking Dead’s David Morrissey) determined to take the land this time from its restless natives.
Although driven by steel will and ruling his men with an iron fist Aulus commands a legion of troops scared to death of the wild woman warriors, powerful druids and mysterious forces that seems to dominate the landscape alongside the terrible weather.
Although all these forces still rage and rule the untamed country the residents are blissfully unaware of the upcoming invasion all except Divis (Nikolaj Lie Kaas from The Killing) a druid outcast who has been having powerful premonitions of the evil army who are soon to come ashore.
No one believes this mad man’s prophecies unfortunately as they are too busy fighting each other and themselves with arch Celtic rivals King Pellenor (played by The Emperor himself from Star Wars Ian McDiarmid) and Antedia (Zoë Wanamaker from Harry Potter) waring constantly over land and past grievances too busy to take on Rome.
Using politics, conspiracies and his well-trained army Aulus hopes to divide and conquer Britannia and bring it under the ever reaching all-encompassing banner of Rome however the one element he is not prepared for is the unnatural abilities of the Druids and their mysterious leader Veran (Pirates of the Caribbean’s Mackenzie Crook) who deal in ancient sorcery more primal and powerful than the Romans could ever be.
Set in 43AD this vaguely factual and extremely entertaining series conjures up comparison to many other more famous action drama’s however Britannia retains its own identity by injecting in a healthy dose of insanity and extremely fearsome female characters.
As mentioned when it comes to running Britannia it is most definitely gutsy go getting girls and strong women soldiers from Eleanor Worthington-Cox as revenge driven Cait whose family are killed during her coming of age ceremony to Kelly Reilly as Kerra an accomplished fighter and daughter to King Pellenor who is desperate to assist her Dad in the upcoming fight for her home.
The craziness comes from the ancient culture and druidic rituals followed by Veran and his disciples as well as Divis who we watch ingest a large amount of magic mushrooms in the first episode before seeing the fate of his homeland and the approaching incursion.
From clouding men’s minds, becoming invisible and bringing people back from the dead the surreal supernatural elements loom large and the ordered and logical Aulus’s obsession with them is an interesting and vital element to the story which could lead to his undoing.
Created by multi-award winning writer Jez Butterworth who wrote screenplays for Edge of Tomorrow and Spectre the series balances epic drama with deep emotion with plenty of humor and lots and lots of gory violence keeping the complex plotlines bubbling along in between some brutal battles and fantastic fight scenes.
A tale of tribal tribulations there is a pagan poetry to Britannia that sets it out from the pack of programs of a similar ilk and will have you on the edge of your seat every episode. Rule Britannia I say!