Everybody Loves Uhtred – An Uht-Head’s Elevator Pitch For Watching The Last Kingdom

I can’t say for sure that I created the term “Uht-Head” but I haven’t heard it before, so I’ll stake a claim to it until proven otherwise. It’s what I call fans of Netflix’s The Last Kingdom, which just wrapped up its five season run a few weeks ago.

Spoiler Warning For The Last Kingdom

Trying to summarize the events that occur through five seasons, and nearly fifty episodes, of The Last Kingdom would be a fool’s errand. The show ran at an accelerated pace that would put the final two seasons of Game Of Thrones to shame for its entire run. There were advantages to this – as every scene mattered just as much as every other scene. But there were also disadvantages to this – it repeated some plots points more than it needed to as it plowed through storylines, and thorough character development was awful hard to come by.

To be honest, Game Of Thrones is not the best comparison for The Last Kingdom. Despite its ancient realm setting, political gamesmanship, and large scale battles, the truth is that The Last Kingdom has more in common with Netflix’s other series Narcos. Both are based on true stories, though are not dogmatic to the actual events as they essentially take the Wikipedia version of history and use it as their setting. Another good comp would be something like Justified or Reacher, where one single character is the center of all things. This character is smarter than all the others, a better fighter than all the others, and well-liked by everyone other than the villains.

One might find that to be eye-rolling, but The Last Kingdom takes place in a time and place where horrific events regularly occur and – when they do – you’ll be happy to have Uhtred Son Of Uhtred as your guide through these troubling times. What you need to know about Uhtred is that he was born a nobleman in what will someday be known as Northern England. His ancestral home, and fortress, of Bebbanburg is raided by Danes (proto-vikings) when he is a child. Uhtred is taken by the Danes, who take a liking to him, and decide to raise him as one of their own.

When he reaches adulthood, he goes on a raid, but ends up getting sidetracked for about thirty years or so due to some promises he makes to King Alfred who offers him an eventual shot at re-taking Bebbanburg in-return. Despite a bit of an love / hate thing with Alfred, Uhtred becomes an essential member of the king’s conquest to unite all the kingdoms of the land under the banner of Wessex. Knowing how Danes think, and fight, allow Uhtred to provide advantages on the battle field. It also provides the gateway to Uhtred simply being more badass than everyone else residing on the planet at the time.

Of course, Uhtred is also a super-likable dude and all-around great hang. Which is how he ends up working to unite the kingdoms with Alfred, Alfred’s eventual son and heir Edward, and Edward’s eventual bastard son (therefore not his heir) Aethelstan. In fact, King Edward so trusts Uhtred that when he has a second son born from a more desirable marriage (at least according to Edward’s mother) putting Aethelstan’s life in-danger, he sends the boy to be raised by Uhtred away from Wessex.

By the end of the final season, we see Aethelstan as a teenager who is nearly as good in a fight, smart in a strategy session, and beloved by his peers as his adopted father figure himself. In the series finale, Uhtred and his squad retake Bebbanburg, and Aethelstan chooses to stick with him rather than returning to Wessex with his biological father. Chalk up two another win for Uhtred.

To touch on the aforementioned Uhtred’s Squad briefly – They are men and women that Uhtred encounters in a variety of ways. Some had engaged him in a battle of wits. Some had fought against him on the battlefield. His best friend, Finan, met him when they were both sold into slavery for an episode or two. In the end, they all realized how awesome Uhtred was, and decided to dedicate their lives to living – and fighting – alongside him. It’s a fun group, too. If you’re a fan of found family narratives, this whole aspect should hit your sweet spot.

It’s not all fun and games, mind you. As I mentioned earlier, there are some truly horrific acts of violence against men, women, and children. Uhtred, himself, loses more than one wife and more than one child through the run of the series. If he, as a character and actor (shout out to Alexander Dreymon), were not as capable and charismatic as he is, The Last Kingdom would be a truly bleak viewing experience.

One thing that began as pet peeve for me, before I said “hell with it” and just committed to the ride, is the passage of time. By extension, the aging (or lack thereof) of the characters would be a bit disconcerting. This is mainly because, while the story takes place over the course of three-ish decades, characters do not visibly age once they reach adulthood. Uhtred and his squad are good examples of this, as is Alfred’s wife Aelswith. But, once you accept that characters like Edward and his sister Aethelflaed starting as children and aging into adulthood over the course of the series, while Uhtred and Aelswith appear to remain the same age, you’ll be able to settle in for an entertaining experience.

I have left so much out of this post because, frankly, there’s just no way I could even remember all the events and fit them into anything smaller than an encyclopedia. Bottom Line is that there is a lot more to The Last Kingdom, and a great many more characters who are important to the storylines. But all of that will come in good time as long as you sit back and accept that the most important thing of all is that everybody loves Uhtred, and damned if he’s not out there earning that love.

Despite season five being the last season of the show, there is a movie coming to Netflix in the near-future called Seven Kings Must Die that is intended to truly wrap everything up. You’d better believe I’ll be there streaming that sucker the day it drops. After all, an Uht-Head’s gonna Uht-Head.

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