The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 4 recap – the line of succession

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: March 9, 2022
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The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 4 recap - the line of succession


A slower, melancholier episode says farewell to an important character and shows the bloody side of politics. Then again, is there any other?

This recap of The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 4 contains spoilers.

The thing about using rather arbitrary tests of physical endurance or faith or whatever to determine one’s innocence or guilt is that… well, it doesn’t make any sense. Rognvaldr’s task, explained at the end of the previous episode, was to walk nine steps while carrying a red-hot metal bar. In the cold open of this episode, he does that and is then told that his hands need to heal in three days or it’ll be obvious that the gods have forsaken him. If you ask me, it’s a lot of steps to reach a totally inconclusive verdict, but perhaps this is why I’m not a believer.

The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 4 recap

The fact that Rognvaldr has a better episode than almost anyone else is a testament to how utterly morbid this hour is. After racing to see Aethelflaed, Uhtred arrives to find her on death’s door, but suddenly well enough to fulfill some duties, which Eadith explains to him is what happens right before the end. Aethelflaed’s duties include parceling off her land to the Ealdormen to ensure that they retain their responsibilities during Aelfwynn’s rule, which is the royal equivalent of making sure you’d paid off the mortgage before you die I suppose. Aethelflaed suspects she’s not long for the world, and she’s right – she and Uhtred take a walk, share a lovely little farewell scene and a cuddle, and she dies in his arms.

This is expected, but it still stings. Out in the wilds of Yorkshire, though, The Last Kingdom takes a direction that isn’t entirely expected. Brida, seemingly on the brink of madness, tortures Father Pyrlig, demanding to know why his Christian god didn’t save Vibeke, despite Brida having implored her to jump under the protection of her gods. There’s an interesting religious debate going on here, mostly revolving around the go-to secular argument of why any all-seeing, all-knowing, benevolent God would allow such tragedy to befall those we love, but the real surprise is that Brida begins to be swayed by Pyrlig’s evangelism. In a way, she’s probably rejecting her own faith; after all, she cried out to her gods to save Vibeke and they didn’t. In the tenets of Christianity, she sees a kinder fate for the soul of her daughter, whose death she must, on some level, know is her doing.

Aethelflaed’s death brings the vast majority of the show’s key characters together and causes all kinds of problems, most of them related to the matter of succession. We know that Aethelflaed wanted Aelfwynn to inherit her throne, but we also know that Aethelhelm is determined to install his own grandson in that position. But we also know that Eadgifu tipped Edward off to Aethelhelm’s scheming, which included paying off the Ealdormen to oust Aelfwynn. But Edward is a step ahead. He makes the bold decision of having all the Ealdormen killed – and almost having Aethelstan killed with them! – and taking the throne for himself. He’s to be the king of both the Angles and the Saxons. Who says men can’t multitask?

You can stream The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 4 exclusively on Netflix.

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