When news broke last summer that The Last Kingdom would be ending with its fifth season, there was an initial outcry from fans who feared they would never see an adaptation of the final three books in the series.
Fortunately, since then we’ve learned that a sequel film titled Seven Kings Must Die is in production, which will serve as a “standalone” epilogue inspired by Bernard Cornwell novels War of the Wolf, Sword of Kings and War Lord.
The Last Kingdom season 5 ending has dropped some hints as to what we can expect from the feature-length special, but still, some fans might be wondering why the story isn’t going out with a full sixth season instead.
Uhtred of Bebbanburg actor Alexander Dreymon and executive producer Nigel Marchant told RadioTimes.com why their current plan came about.
Why is The Last Kingdom ending with season 5?
The decision to end The Last Kingdom with season 5 actually dates back to when the show first went into development and a longterm plan for the overarching narrative was mapped out.
At the time of the series premiere, only nine The Last Kingdom books had been published, with author Bernard Cornwell busy writing the 10th during filming on the television adaptation.
As a result, the creative team had always intended for the show to wrap up after its fifth season, with Dreymon explaining that it certainly wasn’t cancelled as some viewers had feared.
“That press release was slightly misconstrued,” he said. “We had always planned for it to be five seasons only so it came as a surprise to no one really. When we started off there were only 10 books and so that was the arc that we had planned out… I’m quite happy with the way that it went.”
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Executive producer Marchant said that the endpoint was a “joint decision” between production company Carnival and distributor Netflix, which he feels came at the “right time”.
“You always want to keep on top and improving season upon season and 10 hours is… it’s a lot of story you tell within that and you have to be careful not to repeat,” he explained in July 2021.
“It’s always a challenge: how do we do a battle differently? How do we make sure the battles are told through emotion and not just loads of people fighting that you don’t care about? And how long can you keep going with those two themes without ever getting to a climax?”
Marchant added: “What we really wanted to do was finish [in a way] that everyone thought was satisfactory – which I hope we’ve done – and that we had nearly 50 episodes that felt that you had a beginning, middle and end. I think it’s always nicer if you curate that, rather than it just finishes and you don’t finish telling the story.”
Could there ever be The Last Kingdom season 6?
A few months after news broke that The Last Kingdom would be ending with season 5, Carnival announced that a sequel film titled Seven Kings Must Die was in development.
“When we started shooting the show there were 10 books that Bernard Cornwell had written, and we had structured the show in a way that season 5 was always going to be the last season,” said Dreymon at The Last Kingdom’s MCM London Comic-Con panel, hosted by RadioTimes.com writer David Craig.
“However, for a good while now we’ve been in talks about maybe a little extension… because it felt like it couldn’t quite yet be the end. And then we’ve seen such a big appetite from the fans for an encore that we have decided, along with Netflix, to do a special which is going to be a ‘movie version’ of the show and which we are going to be shooting next year .”
At the time of writing, Seven Kings Must Die is midway through filming in Hungary, with a number of cast members from the television series reprising their roles for the project.
However, fans are advised not to get their hopes up for a full 10-episode The Last Kingdom season 6, as Marchant has pitched this sequel special as more like an epilogue to the main story than the start of a whole new era.
“Season 5 does feel like the end of the TV series, and the movie will be much more standalone,” he said. “It’ll be an extra treat for the fans of the TV series, but you could also watch it even if you’ve never seen the TV show.”
The Last Kingdom seasons 1-5 are available to stream on Netflix. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.