A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Letter for the King is a book-inspired fantasy series about a young knight named Tiuri (Amir Wilson). He's a misfit whose compassionate character and strong principles earn disdain from those around him but prove invaluable in fulfilling his destiny. The story raises issues like racial, ethnic, and class prejudice, but the characters' actions ultimately work against bias in positive ways. Characters' true loyalties can be difficult to figure out, making it hard to decide who's a hero and who's a villain. While the show minimizes the violence that's common in this genre, you can still expect to see plenty of weapons (swords, knives, crossbows, etc.), as well as intense death scenes -- but little blood. There's some romance between characters; expect kissing and the like. Language is infrequent and typically involves name-calling ("scum," "idiot," and "brats," for instance), as well as "ass" and "dammit."
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What's the story?
THE LETTER FOR THE KING centers on 15-year-old Tiuri (Amir Wilson), the stepson of a Dagonaut knight whose high hopes for his adopted son following in his footsteps go mostly unfulfilled. Despite all the best training, Tiuri's destiny as a knight isn't promising, and his gentle nature doesn't ingratiate him to his peers competing to earn the title, either. But when fate steps in and sweeps Tiuri off on a dangerous quest to deliver a secret letter given to him by a dying knight in the hopes of saving the kingdoms from a looming darkness wrought by the bloodthirsty Prince Viridian (Gijs Blom), this unlikely hero's true destiny begins to take shape. As he races across the land on the magnificent and intuitive steed Ardanwen, he makes allies and enemies along the way and slowly confronts the truth about who he is and where his destiny will take him.
Is it any good?
Billed by Netflix as a Game of Thrones for a younger crowd, this fantasy series has some pitfalls, but its choice of a hero makes up for most of what bogs down the story. Tiuri is instantly likable, a clear underdog who's pressured by his stepfather's position to be more than he is. He's not terribly strong, not great with a sword, and only serviceable in a jousting contest, which puts him at a severe disadvantage in the knight games that provide our first good look at him. His competitors laugh at him, and his stepfather seems ashamed. As the story wears on and Tiuri comes into his own, though, we see that despite what society tells him, it's not those qualities that determine his success.
The Letter for the King tries so hard to make its story a sweeping, engrossing saga that it sometimes loses itself in the magnitude it's attempting to convey. Viewers are inundated with characters and kingdoms (all with unfamiliar names, of course), prophecies and social constructs, stereotypes and mysticism right from the start, and it's a little too much to grasp at first. It takes several episodes for the series to really gain traction and the pieces to fall into place, at which point more interesting characters are introduced and factor into Tiuri's quest, either as allies or as those who hope to keep him from fulfilling it. One thing the series does very well is make the young characters far more interesting than the adults, and viewers will especially appreciate the complexities of Tiuri's and Lavinia's relationship and the dynamics that play out among the teens tasked with tracking down and capturing the young hero. The bottom line? This series can be laborious to watch, especially in the beginning, but it's beautifully adapted and it minimizes the violence and language that can permeate the fantasy genre.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how and why The Letter for the King avoids graphic violence. Does doing so help it draw a younger audience? Would the story have been more or less compelling if more extensive or realistic violence were shown?
This story raises the idea of prejudice in subtle ways as we learn bits about Tiuri's heritage. In what ways does he face bigotry from others around him? What judgments do they make about him that seem unfair? How can we help minimize prejudice in our own encounters with people?
Tiuri's courage is a notable characteristic that factors into his success. Where else do you see courage at work among the characters? Can villains demonstrate positive traits? Is that the case in this series?
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