TV review: Britannia, Sky Atlantic
- Henry Northmore
- 12 January 2018
Romans vs druids in this big budget hokum starring David Morrissey, Zoë Wanamaker and Mackenzie Crook
Sometimes you can see the workings. You can imagine TV execs across the world all sitting round desperately trying to come up with the new Game of Thrones. And you can almost hear the elevator pitch for Britannia: 'Romans vs druids'.
If you are looking for historical accuracy turn back now, Britannia isn't interested in realism. This is a mythic depiction of ancient Britain a 'cursed land' of demons, devils, witches and cannibals. Aulus Plautius (David Morrissey) is the Roman General charged with bringing civilisation to the wilderness. Understandably the locals are pissed, however the clans are plagued by infighting, including tribal leader Queen Antedia (Zoë Wanamaker), warrior woman Kerra (Kelly Reilly), arch mage Veran (Mackenzie Crook) and King Pellenor (Ian McDiarmid).
You can't fault the production values, the locations and special effects look fantastic on screen. Morrissey is a gruff and brutal leader; Crook cuts a suitably creepy figure buried under layers of prosthetics while grubby seer Divis (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and feisty Cait (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) make for a fun mismatched double act on the run after the Romans massacre their tribe (even if much of their shtick is lifted from The Hound and Arya's trek across Westeros). Unfortunately some actors struggle with Tom and Jez Butterworth's hokey dialogue. Julian Rhind-Tutt, for example, feels incongruous with his clipped poshboy tones among the mud and squalor while Wannamaker looks like she's barely supressing the giggles through every line.
HBO can breathe easy, Britannia doesn't deposit realistic, complex characters in a fantasy setting, it has more in common with Spartacus or ITV's short lived Beowulf than GoT. But if you crave swords, sorcery and sweary heathens Britannia offers big bonkers entertainment by the bucketload.
All episodes of Britannia will be available from Thu 18 Jan on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV.