An impressive battle results in tragic consequences as crisis can’t quite be averted in time.
This recap of The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 6 contains spoilers.
There’s an impressive battle in this episode of The Last Kingdom; impressively shot, staged, and choreographed. It’s exciting and bloody. And midway through, I suddenly started to feel bad about enjoying it, because I became acutely aware of what it represented for the characters, and began thinking about how many bloody battles in real life have occurred as a result of such misunderstandings and resulted in so much loss of life. That’s when you know a show is doing its job correctly, telling its story well, and depicting battles – impressively rendered though they may be – as terrible, avoidable travesties.
The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 6 recap
The Last Kingdom is smart about all this. It begins by teasing battle – Stiorra and Sigtryggr marching, Edward preparing the sacrifice of his own men to turn the tide of the war before it even begins – and then teasing the possibility of it being averted thanks to Uhtred and Finan, who have figured out Aethelhelm’s involvement and are racing to reveal it. When Uhtred reaches Edward and explains, and Edward believes him, it gives us a moment of hope. And then it tramples over that hope by ensuring that the Danes don’t get the message in time.
That’s when the battle begins. And, as I said, it’s impressive. There are countless extras involved. It descends into chaos when necessary and gives the audience clarity when a key figure needs to emote. Eysteinn Sigurðarson, who plays Sigtryggr, is enthralling here as the human embodiment of fury, while Aethelhelm becomes even more detestable in his cowardice, insisting that his guardsmen let many soldiers die just to ensure he’s protected by a shield wall that he cowers from within. And Aethelstan once again proves himself as the antithesis of the typical teenager, fighting bravely and competently.
As Uhtred rushes into the fray to try and get word to Sigtryggr, Edward arrives and sees the carnage. And while he’s initially willing to give Uhtred time to try and resolve the conflict, he can’t wait any longer and rides into the battle, immediately turning the tide. Sigtryggr and his men are forced to lay down their arms. It’s crazy to think this is all a misunderstanding, but the human cost is nonetheless very high. Uhtred pushes for peace and mercy from Edward, and he even agrees to show it… providing the Danes renounce their gods and are baptized into Christianity. It’s obviously too much to ask, to strip people of who they are, even if Rognvaldr can’t take the knee fast enough. Sigtryggr, though, is a tougher sell. And so he’s to be executed. His final request is that Uhtred himself does it – a noble death at the hands of a true warrior. Alexander Dreymon’s tortured expression during this sequence is extraordinary.
In a couple of scenes, things become even more complex and tragic than they were before. On the road, still looking for Uhtred, Brida and Father Pyrlig happen on a Danish soldier, who tells them what has happened. When Brida realizes that Pyrlig had an incline that conflict had broken out and didn’t tell her, she immediately sees him as hostile, his promises of peace empty. She stabs him in the gut and tells him to pass on a message to Uhtred if he survives. She’s coming for him.
And in the north, the King of Scotia, Constantin, readies himself and his allies for war – including Whitgar of Bebbanburg, Uhtred’s old enemy. It looks like there will be plenty more death and tragedy to come.