The Puppet Master
Episode 5 of The Last Kingdom Season 5 begins in Aylesbury with news of the Ealdormen dying spreading across town. Lord Aldhelm decides to leave, as civil war teases on the horizon. Eadgifu encourages Edward to resolve this by making peace with everyone in Mercia. He’s going to break bread with the people to show he’s merciful. After all, ruling in fear is never the way.
Aethelhelm is reduced to the shadows for now but remains determined to try and get his grandson on the throne no matter what. His plan is to set up a war between the Christians and the Danes, with the hope that Edward will die in battle, allowing Aelfweard to ascend.
In York, news of Edward’s coup reaches Stiorra and Sigtryggr as they symbolically remove the installed cross and prepare to fight if it comes to it. Out in the woods though, Lord Haesten finds numerous nuns killed, with Aalys sobbing for her life. She’s been spared to pass on word that Sigtryggr is coming… and part of that message includes Edward’s queen hung from a tree.
Over in Buxton, Aelfwynn and her grandmother show up to offer the former life. And that comes in the form of Cynlaef being married to her. The news is passed on by Father Benedict but unfortunately everything is put on hold when Haesten shows up. He’s not there to fight though, and he takes Uhtred aside, gravely speaking of the attack on the road and of the Queen’s death.
Uhtred is not so sure Sigtryggr is responsible, but realizes that if word of this reaches Mercia, it would cause a huge battle between the Danes and Christians – just like Aethelhelm wants. Sigtryggr is actually pretty disgusted when Uhtred rides out and quizzes him over this, pointing out that he’d do a lot more than strangle the queen if he was the one fighting.
While this is going on, Brida encourages Father Pyrlig to lead her to Uhtred. After all, if she’s to make peace with herself, the only want to do that is to go straight to the source.
When Aethelhelm fails to convince Edward to recklessly march into battle, he undermines the King by spurring on the people, spouting that Danes are responsible for the deaths and they should get revenge.
Aethelhelm’s coup works and the angry soldiers show up en-mass looking for the Danes. Finan urges that Uhtred and the others be informed but in the ensuing fight, Osferth is stabbed and killed before the soldiers are pushed back.
When Edward finds out about the losses sustained from the attack, alongside his wife’s death, he decides to prep the army to strike back. Edward blames himself and the vengeance of God for this occurring. Eadgifu tries to help the King by kissing him and making love. “Be a good King, not a good man.” She says.
This conflict continues to escalate though, guided by Aethelhelm’s scheming. Unfortunately, it also means that war is coming and with Edward sending his combined Saxon forces north, Sigtryggr also readies his army too.
In the middle of all this, Uhtred realizes that Aethelhelm is the one responsible. Just as he finds out, Finan rides up and tells him about Osferth’s death. With Aethelhelm’s influence growing (despite his momentary lapse in faith), and war on the horizon, everything is left on a precarious knife edge.
The Episode Review
The Last Kingdom marks the midway point with an important chapter that lurches ever-nearer to war on the horizon. It’s clear that things have escalated beyond salvation now and halfway through this story it’s obvious we’re prepping for a big fight between the two sides, thanks to Aethelhelm’s influence and scheming.
With Osferth dead and Mercia now united under Edward’s banner, the Saxons look set to wage war against the Danes and that is likely to cause one heck of a conflict when it comes to pass.
The Last Kingdom has been really good this year so far, with the balance of power wavering and threatening to tip at any moment. Who will come out on top?