The fifth and final season of The Last Kingdom is upon us. For years, this series has quietly been one of the best historical sagas out there, telling the tale of Uhtred of Bebbanburg as he fights to regain control of his home, enters the service of a Christian king (and later the son of that Christian king), falls in love, battles his former best friend, and tries to fulfill his destiny.
Barring the upcoming movie Seven Kings Must Die, this is the last time we’ll be hanging out with Uhtred and the gang. Do they get a worthy sendoff? Let’s walk through each and every episode of the new season and decide.
We pick up a few years after the end of season 4, as Brida (Emily Cox) gathers together her new followers to lead them in a creepy Viking ritual that involves her daughter by Cnut picking a dude out of the crowd at random. And then the random guy willingly jumps into a flaming fissure in the earth, thus signifying that it’s time to invade (what will one day become) England and expunge those nasty Christians.
It’s an eerie scene that basically paints Brida as a charismatic cult leader, complete with an army of face-painted drones. After years of serving this or that Vikings lord — Ragnar, Cnut, etc — Brida is finally in charge of her own flock; she should make an intimidating final boss for Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon).
And it’s great for viewers because this promises the kind of intensely personal conflict you can only have between characters who know each other very well, and who we know well. That said, I hope they don’t lose too much of Brida’s character to her newfound fanaticism. At least in this episode, she’s painted more as a force of nature than a person. For instance, there’s an unsettling scene later where Uhtred’s own son Oswald staggers into a festival wearing a long smock with a splotch of running red at the crotch; all he can say is “Brida.” She’s going around castrating Uhtred’s kids; that’s hardcore.
And Brida continues her I’m-the-Joker-of-medieval-England routine when she and her followers trick their way into the mixed religious community where Sigtryggr (Eysteinn Sigurðarson) and Stiorra (Ruby Hartley) rule and immediately start hacking at people. Let it not be said that the premiere episode doesn’t start right in on the action: Uhtred’s daughter is already in mortal danger by the end of it.
That said, most of the episode is dedicated to the kind of catch up you’d expect from a season premiere. Uhtred has kept to his word and has been raising King Edward’s son Aethelstan (now played by Harry Gilby) in the hopes that he’ll become kingly material one day. And the kid does seem a decent sort; he’s an affable teenager who fits in with the soldiers at Uhtred’s home base of Rumcofa and who’s been taught to fight well enough that he single-handedly defeats three assassins sent by the vile Aethelhelm (Adrian Schiller), who is still working to make sure that his grandson by King Edward (Timothy Innes) takes the thrones over Aethelstan.
Uhtred is impressed — maybe even disbelieving — that Aethelstan took on those dudes alone. He’s having one of those TV-ready parental crisis where he’s done a good job raising Aethelstan but is having problems seeing him as an adult, which by the standards of this accursed time period he is. On another TV show Uhtred’s wife would advise him that it’s time to let the boy spread his wings and fly, but because Uhtred is still holding a candle for the unavailable Aethelflaed (Mille Brady), that job falls to Finan (Mark Rowley).
Speaking of Finan, he’s gone and gotten himself hitched, as has Sihtric (Arnas Fedaravicius). The only member of Uhtred’s old crew not married is Osferth (Ewan Mitchell), who it’s implied is…spreading VD around the town? Okay, sure. Apart from that bit, checking in with these guys is another nice way to show how much time has passed.
Even more of the old crew gets back together when Eadith (Stefanie Martini) rolls into town ahead of Aethelflaed, who’s coming for that festival I mentioned above, the one that Brida ruins by castrating Uhtred’s son. There’s an intriguing romantic comedy bit between Eadith and Uhtred where she accidentally stumbles upon him naked in bed, and then they laugh awkwardly for a minute before he leaves and she watches him go and just what is going on here? Are they setting up a romance?
At the same time, Uhtred advises Finan to be wary of Eadith, since they’ve been apart for years now and her loyalties could have changed. I thought Eadith was a good addition to the cast last season, so if this means we see more of her, I’m all for it.
So all in all, this episode does its job well, although that last shot of Uhtred screaming Brida’s name into the dark on the edge of a dock is a little anticlimactic. She’s not there, dude.
The Last Bullet Points
- The biggest disappointment of the episode is that after Aethelhelm’s attempt to poison her at the end of season 4, Aelswith (Eliza Butterworth) is just…fine. Not that I wanted Aelswith to die, but I felt jerked around that they would set up that cliffhanger and do nothing with it. Aelswith is living with Aethelflaed now, making overbearing mother noises.
- Things between King Edward and his wife Aelflaed (Amelia Clarkson) are very bad; he’s cheating on her and she’s fully in on her dad’s plans to assassinate Aethelstan. At least her son Aelfweard (Ewan Horrocks), the one she and Aethelhelm want on the throne over Aethelstan, seems alright.
- We also catch up with Aethelflaed’s daughter Aelfwynn (Phia Saban), now a teenager and flirting a bit too much for her mother’s liking. (Oh my god, I forgot how many “ae” names there are on this show.)
- Stiorra has a deaf maid named Hela. They talk in ye olde sign language. A cool detail.
The Last Kingdom Episode Grade: B-