BRITTANIA – Review by Susan Granger
If you’re still suffering Game of Thrones withdrawal, let me recommend this nine-part series from Europe’s Sky Atlantic, owned by Comcast. There’s war, family intrigue and witchcraft – aplenty.
In 55 BC, Julius Caesar invaded Britannia to exploit the island’s legendary tin deposits. But – after facing the wrath of barbaric Druids – he soon departed, noting: “Druids conduct public and private sacrifices and interpret all matters of religion…sacrificing fellow Gauls by burning them alive inside giant wicker cages.”
(That brutal ritual was vividly depicted in Robin Hardy’s folk horror film The Wicker Man.)
Some 90 years later – in 43 AD – Roman legions returned and discovered warring Celtic tribes. There are the Regni, ruled by Queen Antidia (Zoe Wanamaker), and the Canti, governed by King Pellenor (Ian McDiarmid) – plus ruthless Druids, led by shaman-like Veran (Mackenzie Crook).
The marching Roman invaders with “SPQR” on their banners are led by Gen. Aulus Plautius (David Morrissey), who proclaims “Behold, gods of Britannia! I am Rome! And where I walk is Rome!”
Amid the blood feuds, treacherous decapitations and secret alliances, there’s 16 year-old Cait (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), introduced in an interrupted Celtic girlhood-to-womanhood ritual on the Summer Solstice, along with a wandering Druid outcast Divis (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) who exerts strange mind-control over those he encounters.
There’s Antida’s eunuch son Gildas (Joe Armstrong) and regal Amena (Annabel Scholey), a manipulative Canti who plays her two husbands against each other. Perhaps the most compelling character is King Pellenor’s rebellious, red-haired daughter Kerra (Kelly Reilly, familiar as Kevin Costner’s daughter on “Yellowstone”).
Writers Jez Butterworth, Tom Butterworth and James Richardson use the Druids’ murky, nature-worshipping, pagan history as a launching point for this fictional fantasy.
The language the Druids speak is ancient Welsh, which is still used in Wales. And the song during the introductory credits is “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” released in 1968 by singer/songwriter Donovan Leitch.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Britannia” is a blood-soaked, sword ‘n’ sorcery 7 – available on Amazon Prime.