Netflix’s The Letter for the King is just what we need when we’re all hunkered down at home: a bingeable show for the entire family.
Set in medieval times, the new series follows a novice knight from Eviellan, the kingdom of the south, named Tiuri (Amir Wilson). An outcast by nature, he’s not the most skillful fighter, “but he has the heart and courage,” Wilson says. “Whether it's for the people against him or the people with him, he’ll always do the right things for the right reasons.”
In the middle of knighthood qualifications, Tiuri is tapped by a dying knight to deliver an urgent letter to the king. His task isn’t a simple mail run. In the midst of a war between Eviellan and the kingdom of the north, Unauwen, there are people who don’t want him to succeed in his quest, and they’ll use whatever powers they have — physical, mental, or mystical — to ensure his failure.
It’s somewhat reminiscent of Game of Thrones, with a series of interlocking characters and storylines all geared around a prophecy predicting the downfall of a prince, along with sweeping landscapes, epic battles, and free-flowing fantasy.
“The more the show progresses, the more fantasy it gets,” Gijs Blom tells MTV News. “The more you just let go of your expectations and your beliefs and everything, the more you can enjoy it. It doesn't matter if you're a 12-year-old child or a 60-year-old.”
Blom plays Prince Viridian, the aforementioned royal from the north who is destined for defeat. But, he cautions, try to think of his character “not in terms of good and bad, but in terms of intentions.” For Viridian, the ends justify the means, and Blom adds, “he really wants what is good for the world.”
Because these two major forces both truly believe they’re working toward the greater good, the inevitable battles they fight are less intense than those bloody, gory scenes Game of Thrones became known for. They’re tense, but not traumatizing. “You can root for both sides,” Thaddea Graham, who plays aspiring knight Iona, says. “I think that’s what’s so exciting to watch. You kind of want both of them to win.” Every battle is character driven, Graham adds, helping to drive plot forward rather than completely cut off one character’s plot at a time.
Graham’s Iona is, like Tiuri, a novice, in training toward full knighthood. Their youth adds a coming-of-age element to the story, grounding this fantasy in relatable themes about self-discovery. “Regardless of the time period, teenagers trying to find out who they are is always going to be a thing,” she says.
But for Iona, the stakes are a bit higher. Not coming from the same privilege as the other novices, Iona is a fierce and determined competitor. She has to be — if knighthood doesn’t work out, she has nothing and no one else to fall back on. So, after Tiuri sets off on his mission, when Iona and the other novices are instructed to go after him and thwart his efforts, she listens, meaning during this north-versus-south war, forces from both the north and the south are working against Tiuri.
Fortunately, Tiuri finds one ally early on in Lavinia (Ruby Ashbourne Serkis). Though their partnership is characterized by reluctance, both need each other, and both can benefit from what the other offers. Lavinia gives Tiuri an escape route from the captors closing in on him, while Tiuri offers Lavinia the freedom and adventure she’s been craving.
Action-packed from the very beginning, the cast thinks the best way to prepare for The Letter for the King is to not prepare at all. There will be intense moments, but as far as they’re concerned, the less you know, the better. “All those emotions in life are so unpredictable and just hit you at random times and I think that's what makes it so impactful, when you don't expect it and it comes without knowing,” Graham says.
But, Ashbourne Serkis adds, do make sure to gather the entire family around the TV to enjoy the series together. Not only was The Letter for the King shot in CinemaScope (essentially making it theater-ready), but the show also “works on so many levels that people of all ages will be able to watch it,” she says. “You forget how nice being able to watch something as a collective experience is.”
The Letter for the King is available to stream on Netflix now.