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The Last Kingdom Season 5 - What We Know So Far

Contains spoilers for The Last Kingdom season 4

Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon) may still be dusting himself off from the season 4 shield wall, but fans of Netflix's historical drama The Last Kingdom are already clamoring for him and the West Saxon army to get back to work.

When the BBC bowed out of The Last Kingdom after season 2, Netflix rode to the rescue, renewing the expensive costume drama for a third and fourth season, the latter of which debuted on April 26, 2020. Fans, of course, had to endure a two-year gap between seasons three and four, but that's a small price to pay to keep the energetic series alive and streaming.

The show is based on The Saxon Stories, a long-running historical fiction book series by the prolific British novelist Bernard Cornwell. Cornwell's epic series rivals even its television adaptation in scope, spanning 12 novels so far with the thirteenth – and final – book set to drop later this year. The first four seasons of The Last Kingdom have burned through the source material at a clipping pace, adapting two books every season. By the end of season 4, the Netflix series reached approximately the same point in time as the finale of the eighth Saxon Stories installment, 2014's The Empty Throne.

Fortunately for Netflix, Cornwell is a real workhorse. Even if the showrunners keep to the same pace of adaptation, they likely have two to three more seasons worth of material with which to work.

Cornwell has said that he intends his book series to end with the Battle of Brunanburh, a decisive 10th Century battle that marked the end of meaningful Danish occupation in England. With the Netflix series' season 4 introduction of critical characters like Edward's (Timothy Innes) son Aethelstan (Caspar Griffiths), the Danish Jarl Sigtryggr (Eysteinn Sigurðarson) and Uhtred's brazen daughter, Stiorra (Ruby Hartley), it seems likely that the TV series is headed in the same direction as the books. In order to get there, though, Uhtred still has a long way to go. Here's everything we know so far about the next leg of his journey.

When is the release date of The Last Kingdom season 5?

Netflix has not yet ordered up another serving of The Last Kingdom, but given the popularity of the series and all the creative high notes hit by season 4, it would be pretty shocking if a season 5 renewal order wasn't forthcoming. The season 4 finale hardly brings closure to either Uhtred's personal quest to restore his birthright or the overarching tale of England's unification under Aethelstan, the first historical King of England. All the facts seem to point to the need for Uhtred to ride on behalf of the Saxons at least once more.

Crunching the numbers may give us an educated guess about the timing of Netflix's announcement vis-a-vis season 5. Season 3, the first season solely produced by Netflix, hit the streaming service on November 19, 2018. A little over a month after the premiere, Netflix announced the series' season 4 renewal. That instigated 18 months of production, culminating in last month's season 4 bow. If past is prologue, then we can likely expect a decision about season 5 forthcoming in the next few weeks. That decision is likely to be followed by another long production cycle, meaning it's unlikely we'll see new episodes of The Last Kingdom before Fall 2021, at the earliest.

Who is in the cast of The Last Kingdom season 5?

The Last Kingdom introduces and murders characters at an alarming pace, but the show is supported by a core cast of principals, many of whom are sure to return for season 5. First among them is the series' leading man, Alexander Dreymon, who's likely marked himself for life with his pitch-perfect performance as Saxon warlord Uhtred Ragnarsson. We can also expect the return of Uhtred's two right-hand soldiers, Finan (Mark Rowley) and Sihtric (Arnas Fedaravicius).

We should also expect to see Millie Brady reprising her role as the Lady of Mercia, Aethelflaed, as well as a repeat performance from Timothy Innes as her brother, Edward, the King of Wessex. What's more, where would the King of Wessex be without the support of his mother, the dowager king's consort, played by Eliza Butterworth. Edward might actually be better off without the help of his duplicitous ealdorman, Aethelhelm, but we have a sinking suspicion that Adrian Schiller will be back to reprise his role, as well.

As Uhtred gets older – and the story grinds towards Brunanburh – expect the plot to focus more on the young Jarl Sigtryggr, played by Eysteinn Sigurðarson, and Uhtred's progeny, played by Ruby Hartley and Finn Elliot. If the Netflix series proceeds in line with the books, Stefanie Martini's Lady Eadith will also have an important part to play.

One character that will likely have to be recast is Aethelstan, the unacknowledged eldest son of King Edward and future King of England. Although the young and talented Caspar Griffiths did an admirable job with the role in season 4, Aethelstan is going to have to do quite a bit of growing up between seasons if he's going to stand next to Uhtred in the shield wall.

What is the plot of The Last Kingdom season 5?

As The Last Kingdom has advanced through the seasons, it has drifted farther afield from its source material. Several key events and characters have been changed or eliminated altogether, so it's becoming more difficult to hypothesize about where the showrunners may be going. In theory, season 5 will adapt the ninth and tenth novels in Bernard Cornwell's series, 2015's Warriors of the Storm and 2016's The Flamebearer.

Season 4 ends in a place similar to that with which Warriors of the Storm picks up, even if it took a much different route to get there. Uhtred has once again put his life and his men on the line to save Wessex and, in the end, he suffered a massive personal sacrifice for his fidelity. His daughter, Stiorra, is now wedded to the Danish Jarl Sigtryggr, who rules Northumbria from the great hall in Eoferwic (modern day York). As tensions once again begin to flare between the Saxons and the Danes, Uhtred is likely to be caught between his loyalty to Edward and Aethelflaed and the safety of his own daughter in York.

One key change that the Netflix series made has important repercussions for the role of Uhtred's son, also named Uhtred. In the books, Uhtred the Elder has three children instead of two: Uhtred, Stiorra and Osbert. Uhtred the Younger from the Netflix series has much in common with Uhtred the Younger from the books, but it seems like the series' writers have combined Osbert and Uhtred into one character, to some extent. This is important, because Uhtred's two sons enjoy very different fortunes in the events to come. If Uhtred the Younger follows book-Uhtred's course, then he's about to get kidnapped and castrated by Brida. If he follows Osbert's course, then he is likely to become a great warrior, and his father's heir.

In book world, this duology culminates in Uhtred's successful invasion of Bebbanburg (second time's a charm), and the destruction of his sadistic cousin. Should the series not continue beyond season 5, the ending of The Flamebearer certainly offers some degree of closure. Even if we never get to the Battle of Brunanburh and the fulfillment of Alfred's dream of a united English Kingdom, it will be nice to see Uhtred warming his feet by the fire in Bebbanburg.