WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
In this sweeping fantasy series, a teenage knight-in-training receives a secret letter on which the fate of the kingdom depends. He embarks on an epic quest to deliver it to the king and stop the world from being plunged into darkness.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
I know, I know - we’re all looking for that giant Game of Thrones-sized hole that’s been left behind by one of the biggest TV sensations in history.
So you try your hand at anything that appears slightly magical, kings and queens vying for power and talks of destiny and prophecies. Scrolling through Netflix, you probably have stumbled upon The Letter for the King - tempting you with promises of knights and chosen ones.
If you’ve watched all you can watch on streaming platforms and can’t rewatch another episode of Friends - then maybe this one’s for you. Otherwise - there are better ways to fill your time than a drab excuse of a fantasy epic.
The story starts with a boy, training to be a knight and live up to the expectations of his adopted father. While he seems destined to fail, he becomes embroiled in a plot of a battle-worn prince to take over all the kingdoms, uniting them in darkness - yet prophecy dictates a warrior will rise up and defeat them. Pretty much every fantasy plot ever.
To be fair I didn’t exactly have high hopes for the series. From the beginning, there’s something in the lead character Tiuri that just irritates you from the get-go. His naivety and good-heartedness just don’t strike the right chords, and you start relating to his horse that keeps trying to kill him.
As for his group of knights-in-training, they are just as annoying, the series devoting unnecessary time to their own wayward journey far away from the lead character’s story. There are many strands of plot that they try to weave together, but it ends up looking like a braid done by a 5-year-old.
As for the villain, we are presented with a poor man’s Kylo Ren from Star Wars - a broody prince with dark hair that believes finding peace means destroying everything. Contemplative silence is interjected with sparse explanations for his actions, and nothing is ever concluded in his scenes.
He brings a bird back to life and nothing is ever mentioned again about this power. His most loyal servant tries to kill him, but he’s just shushed away like a naughty child. He turns a queen’s eyes to black - and then nothing - she just continues as she always has. There’s not even a cliffhanger at the end of the series to help you pull these threads together or set up for the next season. It’s like you’ve been baking bread in the oven and then Eskom switches off the power halfway through.
The one shining star was Lavinia - Tiuri’s cynical companion on his quest and the real star of the show. Her character takes on the scoundrel archetype always looking out for a way to enrich herself - a personality normally reserved for male characters. She starts off great - supported with a quick yet amazing guest star from Andy Serkis as her father - and her wit and candour keep your hope alive as you slog through the mediocrity.
Yet as soon as the big reveal comes, her whole personality gets switched off, her screen time cut for a self-pity party from a group of egotistical boys and she just comes and goes for plot convenience without any time spent on her own inner journey. This is cowardly script writing that should be stoned and sacrificed at the altar of the Bechdel Test.
Okay my rant is done now.
The Letter for the King is not exactly terrible - just lazy storytelling as an ode to banality. Fantasy deserves better than these paint-by-number scripts - and it’s not like we don’t have enough inspiration to work with. Game of Thrones proved that the audience is there - they just need something that’s good and worth their time. You’d be better off with a rewatch of The Witcher.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: