The Last Kingdom Season 5 review – another dose of high-quality historical action

March 9, 2022
Jonathon Wilson 0
Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
4

Summary

More sneaky politicking, grand battles, and historical drama make the fifth season of The Last Kingdom worth the wait.

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4

Summary

More sneaky politicking, grand battles, and historical drama make the fifth season of The Last Kingdom worth the wait.

This review of The Last Kingdom Season 5 is spoiler-free.


High-quality historical epics are few and far between, but ever since 2015, The Last Kingdom — an adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s dense historical-fiction series The Saxon Stories — has been a reliable entry in the genre. Blessed with stellar production values, a strong, game cast, enough real-world influence for you to be able to say, “Hey, I recognize him from history class,” and enough artistic license to make the retelling of that history as nail-biting as possible, the whole thing’s a good time and has amassed a sizeable following who have all been eagerly anticipating the fifth and perhaps final season.

Well, the wait is over, as all ten episodes of The Last Kingdom Season 5 debuted on Netflix on March 9, 2022. Though it’s a show with enough fans and enough complex politicking to probably benefit from a weekly release, there’s no way that would have been tolerated by the ardent fanbase, and so the binge-drop model blessed up with the whole lot in one go. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s good!

In the interest of not giving anything major away, I’ll only detail the general plot setup and some events in the first couple of episodes. Uhtred is in Runcorn, the border between Mercia and Northumbria, fretting about Brida’s potential return but otherwise making a go of raising Aethelstan on his own. But trouble is brewing. Brida is indeed setting sail from Iceland to York, with her supposedly magical “Seer” daughter Vibeke and an army of Danes behind her, and her first stop is the keep of King Sigtryygr and Uhtred’s daughter Stiorra, for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, Aethelhelm continues to plot against King Edward to ensure that his meek grandson Aelfweard takes the throne.

The political and personal storylines are distinct but unavoidably interweave pretty early since everyone who is important in one is also important in the other. But since these conflicts are building on four seasons of character and plot development, the drama unfolds naturalistically, managing to keep a large cast and a lot of complex history and motivations under control. While there’s always a lot going on, nothing ever feels overwhelming or overstuffed, and the episodes are paced remarkably well, building to riveting cliffhanger conclusions that don’t feel like cheap gotchas to keep you watching. A good deal of thought has evidently gone into the plotting and pacing of this show, and it’s to be commended for how broadly palatable it is without sacrificing any of its depth or complexity.

When it comes to the action, both large-scale and more personal, The Last Kingdom Season 5 delivers there too, though it occasionally runs the risk of being a little underlit or overedited. For the most part, though, it swerves those problems and is careful to ground its action in real human terms thanks to strong plot and character development that is always sustained even in the most high-octane moments. The ups and downs of this season take these characters to some interesting places and ask them to shoulder a lot of emotional baggage, and the cast rises to the task admirably, delivering a grand historical epic that is also an affecting drama, an intriguing political thriller, and a crowd-pleasing action-adventure. If this is the last of The Last Kingdom, it went out on a high.

You can stream The Last Kingdom Season 5 exclusively on Netflix.

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