A dynamite finale is teed up by this excellent penultimate episode, as Uhtred’s birthright becomes the site of a final conflict.
This recap of The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 9 contains spoilers.
As the penultimate episode of The Last Kingdom Season 5 opens, there is still a stalemate. Uhtred is still determined to leave, and Edward is still determined not to let him. You know how men are. Luckily, there are enough smart women around to cut through the hostilities. Aelswith, flanked by Eadgifu, lays out to Edward that now is not the time for fear. And while he claims to be unafraid, she, as his mother, knows he is — not of Aethelhelm or Constantin’s armies, but of Alfred’s legacy, and his ability to live up to it. Sometimes, all you need is your mother to tell you she’s proud, to tell you that God favors you. The next morning, Uhtred and his men set out for Bebbanburg, and Edward and the entire Mercian army go with them.
The Last Kingdom season 5, episode 9 recap
Despite everyone being on the same page, a problem quickly emerges. Edward and Aldhelm assume that Constantin would travel by road with the bulk of his army, as a kind should, but he instead arrives in a humble rowboat with a household guard right on the front doorstep of Bebbanburg. His presence in the castle threatens Aelfwynn, since in a direct attack she would be endangered. The only option is to sneak into the fortress, rescue Aelfwynn, and then signal a full-frontal assault. Uhtred knows a way, but it’s especially perilous, fit only for four men — he takes Finan, Pyrlig, and Sihtric — and requiring the unreliable help of Haesten.
The plan is for Heasten to lure the guards down to the beach, where Father Pyrlig will be posing as a pilgrim, so that Uhtred, Finan, and Sihtric can infiltrate the castle via the guards’ room. However, back at camp, Edward is getting increasingly antsy and looks primed to attack either way, potentially sacrificing Uhtred, Aelfwynn, and Aelfweard in the slaughter. It seems like Aeslwith’s pep talk about his divine legacy has given him a little too much gusto, and he now believes he walks with the lord and that any move he makes is subsequently righteous. Aelswith, recognizing the danger, takes Eadith south to meet with and enlist the help of Stiorra.
As it turns out, Constantin doesn’t seem that much of a threat to Aelfwynn. He visits her privately in her chambers and explains, basically, that he’s in love with another woman and has no real interest in her. If they’re to be married, she’ll be able to reside in whatever fortress she chooses, she’ll be rich and well cared for, and he’ll visit occasionally — but never her chamber. Aelfwynn is happy for their marriage to be proposed in such barren terms and respects Constantin for his honesty. Surrounded by so many manipulators, Constantin seems refreshingly straight-up.
Meanwhile, the plan begins. Haesten arrives on the beach with Hild claiming to be awaiting the tide to recover the contents of a trading boat that the guards will be allowed the spoils of should they allow him to linger, while Uhtred, Finan, and Sihtric scale the craggy cliffs around Babbenburg. They’re able to make it inside and disguise themselves, but things begin to go wrong immediately. Haesten and Hild are invited inside by Wihtgar, while Finan and Sihtric are discovered and taken away to be tortured. When Haesten tries to grab Aelfwynn, she makes a giant scene and tells Constantin, who confronts Haesten. For once, the unreliable trader puts others above himself and claims to be part of no plan, and he dies for it — Constantin unceremoniously skewers him while Hild watches helplessly from the rafters.
Uhtred remains free to roam, but he only has time to see Edward’s forces arrive outside. Aethelstan lays out the terms — either they surrender Aethelhelm and Aelfwynn, or the fortress will be besieged and none will survive. Folks, I think we have a finale on our hands.