GORE IN THE STORE
BRITANNIA SEASON 3 ****
Starring David Morrissey, Zoe Wanamaker, Eleanor Worthington Cox, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Sophie Okonedo, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Mackenzie Crook.
Historical Drama/Fantasy, UK, Certificate 15.
Out now on DVD from Acorn Media International. RRP £24.99.
Sinister druids, brutal romans and David Morrissey beating up a raven are all key ingredients in S3 of BRITANNIA, the refreshingly offbeat and darkly comedic historical fantasy drama from acclaimed playwright Jez Butterworth, originally airing earlier this year on Sky in the UK and now available to own on DVD from Acorn Media International.
BRITANNIA is an intriguingly quirky mix of (very loose) historical fact, trippy fantasy and charmingly daft British humour. The original series, that first aired in 2018, began in 43 AD when roman general Aulus Plautius (David Morrissey) arrived in ancient Britain determined to finally conquer the land that Julius Caesar lost 90 years earlier. He exploited the rivalries of the native Celtic tribes whilst an ancient druid leader Veran (Mackenzie Crook) went about his business summoning spirits and being all mysterious and a young girl from the Cantii tribe, Cait (Eleanor Worthington Cox), found out that she is the prophesised “chosen one” and was assisted on her path by a crazed wandering druid called Divis (Nikolaj Lie Kaas).
Kicking off with child sacrifice and cannibalism, S3 starts as it means to go on. Favourites from previous series return and team up to entertaining effect such as in Cait and Queen Antedia’s (Zoe Wanamaker) side plot hustling villagers for coin. Mackenzie Crook, all scars and raspy grunts, takes somewhat of a back seat this season but he still does get one visually striking moment of horror when he’s strutting about with a scythe. There’s also a fantastic new addition to the cast with Sophie Okonedo as Hemple, the mystical menacing wife of Aulus who arrives to shake up the status quo and eat a few of the minor supporting characters. Okonedo really chews the scenery, and some of the cast, and is a tremendously fun pantomime villain but she also provides moments of genuine menace alongside the high camp.
BRITANNIA has an excellent cast all round, with everyone’s tone pitched exactly right. Special mention should go to David Morrissey who plays his role completely straight even when delivering lines such as; “You can’t just march in here and eat my right-hand man”. He garners pathos, threat and deadpan humour from his stellar performance as the villainous general.
My favourite character was Julian Rhind-Tutt, the series’ main source of comic relief, as the former Prince Phelan who is now living amongst the druids and has been re-christened as the delightfully immature “Kwunt” and is being mentored in the way of the druids by the very impatient and unhelpful Divis.
Over the 8 episodes it mostly keeps up its pace, although this does slacken slightly in the mid-point around episodes 5 and 6, but I was engaged and entertained throughout. There are more than enough twists and turns to hook you in.
Overall, BRITANNIA isn’t quite strong or unique enough to be an all time classic. It doesn’t have the sheer spectacle and scale of GAME OF THRONES, and feels more parochial, and the quirky and sweary anachronistic dialogue isn’t quite as sharp as another recent drama series that takes a lot of historical liberties, THE GREAT. However, BRITANNIA certainly has a lot of charm and personality. I had a really good time throughout the series, and hope that they make more, and would certainly recommend you check it out.