The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 3 recap – mothers and daughters

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: March 9, 2022
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The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 3 recap - mothers and daughters


Tragic developments define an episode that focuses heavily on mothers and their daughters.

This recap of The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 3 contains spoilers.

As The Last Kingdom continues to rocket through its plot, the focus in this episode begins to settle on some essential relationships, largely between mothers and their daughters. In this show, as throughout history, being a woman or a girl isn’t easy, and this episode does a phenomenal job of showing the weight of responsibility that leaders – particularly female ones – must endure. There’s a human cost to pay for power.

The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 3 recap

And power comes in different forms. Brida has positioned herself as a kind of messiah of the old gods, so her power is rooted in belief, even if she herself is motivated by vengeance. Aethelflaed has political power, determined by bloodline, an inherited responsibility that she knows she must soon pass on to a daughter who isn’t ready for it. These are the two key dynamics in this episode, and by the end of it, both women have suffered greatly, thanks to their hubris and simple circumstance.

We begin in York, with an extended sequence in which Uhtred, Sigtryggr, and their men sneak into the keep and set about Brida’s forces while she is engaged in one-on-one combat with Stiorra. It’s a brutal battle, with many deaths on both sides, and Brida and Uhtred in the middle. But it’s interrupted when Vibeke wanders right into it. It’s hard to sympathize with Brida here – her insistence that Vibeke is a Seer has probably led her to unconsciously associate crowds with death. Whenever she enters one, someone ends up dead, and this time it’s her. After Brida tells her to hide, the little girl interprets that command, rather inexplicably, as climbing to the very top of the tallest nearby building. Uhtred tries to save her, but Brida encourages her to jump, claiming the gods will protect her. And, well, they don’t.

In the aftermath of Vibeke’s needless death, Brida retreats with the remnants of her army, and Uhtred politely gives her enough of a head start that he can’t catch her when he realizes what a terrible idea it was to let her go. Sigtryggr survives the skirmish, but has to grapple with his brother having turned on him, and what he perceives to be betrayal from both Aethelflaed and Edward. Now more than ever he feels isolated, and that isn’t a good thing for someone with a fighting force behind him to feel.

Anyway, most of the rest of the episode concerns Aethelflaed’s impending demise. She has rapidly worsened, and with seemingly little time left, she has to deal with the matter of succession. With Aethelhelm scheming after being fed information from Father Benedict about her condition, it’s more pressing than ever that she appoints Aelfwynn as her official successor so that the position can protect her. As she points out to the girl – much to the dismay of Aelswith, who has been no help whatsoever throughout this process – she would be the first target if a political rival was allowed to claim the throne. As we know, Aelfwynn absolutely isn’t ready to hear this information, much less to take on the responsibilities of leadership, but Aethelflaed is making the right decision. Besides, Aldhelm is there to help (and props to him for really snapping at Aelfwynn and shutting down her childish nonsense – that’s what she needed to hear.)

And while Aethelhelm continues to try and finesse his grandson’s path to the throne, at least Edward has an ally in Eadgifu, who overhears Aethelhelm scheming with Aelflaed and immediately reports back to Edward, giving him the chance to slyly counterattack by visiting his sister personally. I can’t help but like Eadgifu a lot.

This episode ends with Rognvaldr being tested by the gods to determine his fate – he has to carry a boiling-hot metal bar for several steps, to prove his worthiness. This option was given to him in lieu of a straight execution, so there’s no wonder he took it, but it’s hard to imagine the gods would be interested either way. Now that I think about it, that’s probably the point.

You can stream The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 3 exclusively on Netflix.

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