SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not finished Season 5 of “The Last Kingdom.”

“The Last Kingdom” is coming to an end.

Although a two-hour movie followup is currently filming, Season 5 of the Netflix historical drama wraps up the story of its central character, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, played by Alexander Dreymon, in a very satisfying way — as the sins of Uhtred’s past collide head on with his present and the future of England.

Uhtred finds himself in an unusual place at the beginning of the season — unable to be with Aethelflaed (Millie Brady), the woman he loves and the Lady of Merica, he presides over a Mercian border town at her request. But strange things are in the air, as Brida (Emily Cox) is determined to have her vengeance once and for all and the enemies of the House of Wessex are gathering.

Variety spoke with Dreymon about the events of the season, his directorial debut, the impressive growth of several characters — and how Uhtred manages to look so young.

Where do we find Uhtred as this final season begins? 

He is kind of the sheriff of Rumcofa, which is a border town and he is in the service of Aethelflaed, the Lady of Mercia. He’s keeping the border safe for her. It’s kind of like a wild west town. And if you remember at the end of Season 4, he has been put in charge of raising Aethelstan [Caspar Griffiths] away from the intrigues at the court, to keep him safe and to keep him away from his enemies’ sphere of reach. Mainly, that’s — oh what’s his name?


Thank you. I’m so glad that you’re such a fan of the show, because the names right now, they’re so confusing! There’s even more this season. Anyway, he has been raising Aethelstan as his son, and he is with his buddies, Sihtric [Arnas Fedaravicius] and Finan [Mark Rowley]. He is still pining after his relationship with Aethelflaed, which they decided to give up for her to be able to become the Lady of Mercia. I think he’s still very much in love with her and he hasn’t gotten over that. So he’s being more or less as celibate as she is.

More or less? 

More or less.

I loved Emily Cox as Brida this season, as this sort of crazy Dane cult leader. It was so intense, but it seems like a really natural progression for her character oddly enough. 

I just loved the concept of starting out the story [of the series] where Uhtred and Brida are first brother and sister more or less. Let’s not get into too many details, because then they become lovers. And they’re just so, so tight. And then within that first season, that first chasm starts and the seed is sown for what happens in Season 5. We see the progress of that relationship and how often Uhtred is trying to win her heart back, not as a lover but just as a friend because he truly cares for her and he considers her family. And through a series of mainly misunderstandings and misinterpretations of intentions, she just keeps slipping away from him further and further.

And there are moments when they find each other again, when it comes to making sure that Ragnar [Tobias Santelmann] is getting his access to Valhalla, for example, but then they never truly come together again. And despite these few moments, where we see them truly being vulnerable with each other, they never really make it and then it comes to a head in Season 5 and she grows more and more bitter as the years go on. She gets disappointed by mainly the men that she puts her trust in, and Uhtred kind of bears the brunt of that and represents all of these disappointments. She feels like he was the OG so she feels like he needs to take the revenge for all of that.

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You two got to do that really great final fight scene that brings her story to a close back at the home of Ragnar the Fearless from Season 1. What was that like given how long you’ve been working with Emily? 

Working with Emily has been just such a delight, because she is a an extremely spontaneous actor. And it’s so easy to be in the moment with her, because she is open and willing to run with anything that you throw at her and she gives you so much back. And you know that when it comes to an emotional scene like that you’re in great hands working with somebody like Emily, because it is just so alive, it’s so flowing, and we kind of just bounce off of each other. She has such an easy access — well, I shouldn’t say easy, because I know that she goes to pretty dark places when she has to — but she’s so willing to go to those emotional, painful places. And so it’s a true delight. And it’s exhilarating to go on that journey with her. But for me, it was also really important that that scene was directed by a director that I really trusted. And we were very lucky to have Anthony Philipson direct us. He was such a wonderful leader for that sequence, and for the whole two episodes that he directed. I don’t know what you thought of them, but I thought they really stood out, Episodes 7 and 8. It was it was a really great experience. And I hope that the fans will agree that we did that relationship justice.

Speaking of directing, congratulations on making your directorial debut this season with Episode 2. What made you want to do that? 

Well, I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time. Because the the longer I was on the show, the more moments there were where I thought, “Oh, man, I really want to grab this beast by the horns and just do it myself.” Because I found myself just thinking in a directorial way, pretty much from moments in Season 1. So it was just a matter of finding the right time. It’s not easy to find the right moment to do it simply because prepping a directing venture like that takes a few months and then there’s a few months of post. So it’s not easy to work that into a schedule. We already work on a very, very tight schedule. Once I start shooting as Uhtred I’m completely busy. From the moment I leave the house to the moment I get back at night, it’s 15 hours and I work in the car, I work during makeup, etc. So it’s a full-time job, and then fitting a directing venture into that, I just needed to time it right. Gareth [Neame] and Nigel [Marchant], who are the producers on the show, were extremely supportive.

Looking at some other cast members this season, I really felt like Timothy Innes stepped it up in a big way as Edward. 

Hell yeah!

Not only was his performance great, but his whole look this time out was different, and added to the character. 

I am so glad you say that, because I agree with you, 100%. And I actually told him that right after I finished watching the season — I wrote him an email and said, “Dude, you really kill it.” He grew that character in such an interesting way. He incorporated so many Alfred characteristics into his Edward without being a caricature or without just copying what David Dawson did. He really made it his own. And I thought he brought a maturity to the character this season that would have been completely misplaced in the previous season. And of course, we had a brilliant makeup department led by Sjaan Gillings, who was also doing our makeup this season. So yeah, I agree with you. The look was awesome, and really underlining what he was doing with the character.

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And Millie Brady as Aethelfaed this season, with her character’s illness, really had to change things up as well.  

Well, again, Millie Brady is another one who really, really blew my mind. In Season 5, there’s this awesome scene that I was lucky enough to have in the episode I directed, where she finds out what’s going on, and that she has breast cancer and that her days are numbered. And I thought she played that scene so brilliantly because she managed to vacillate between moments of vulnerability caused by this realization that it’s going to be over for her soon and the responsibility that she bears by her position. And I thought she nailed all of those moments completely. I could not have wished for a better actress to work with and to play that part, because I think she — just like Tim — grew that character so well. She took it from this innocent young girl who gets abducted and discovers first love and who has this terrible experience with her husband to somebody who is a head of state, and who knows what that means and can carry that.

Eliza Butterworth had some great moments as Aelswith too. In particular, I loved the moment near the end of the season when she finally, at long last, sides with Uhtred and tells Edward to listen to him. 

Those are the moments in movies that always get me the most. The moment where enemies finally open up to each other and see eye to eye. I love those moments.

What about Ruby Hartley, who plays Uhtred’s daughter Stiorra? She has a real roller coaster of a season as well. 

I mean, I’m sounding like a broken record, but I feel like a lot of the actors that that were on the show for a while have really stepped it up this season. You never know when you cast somebody how they’re going to grow up or mature in the years that you work with them, and I thought all of them really brought the characters what they needed. Ruby was such a delight to direct, because like Emily, she has such ready access to her emotions, and all of these scenes like when she’s in the cellar, and she’s looking through this grate which could have been comical easily. She just brings such a truth to it. I think she served the story wonderfully, and she really managed to bring across this state of being torn between between her honor and needing to fight Brida but at the same time trying to keep these women that she was responsible for safe.

She also eventually has to deal with the death of her husband, Sigtryggr [Eysteinn Sigurðarson], and the fact that he chooses Uhtred to be his executioner. 

Oh my God, yeah. That was actually an idea that was added by our stunt coordinator, Levente Lezsák, that Uhtred was going to be the one to execute him and I thought it was so fitting. Doing that scene with was really heart-wrenching because, like pretty much every actor on the show, we’ve become very good friends. He’s also somebody that I just deeply trust as a friend and fellow actor, and when we were doing that scene, I had to put the sword onto his heart and then get ready to thrust and he puts his hand on my hand just before I do it. And while we’re doing that scene, I just crumbled inside every time he did that, because it was such a loving act of somebody saying, “It’s OK. This is the way it should be.” So it was a scene that was difficult because what was happening in the story, but as an actor there are always several levels to what you’re doing. You’re going through the story that is heart-wrenching, but at the same time, your actor brain is going, “Oh my God, this is such good material.” And it feels so good to be able to go through these emotions with somebody that you respect and trust that much.

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We’re running a little short on time so I have to ask about the last moment of the series, with Uhtred at Bebbanburg looking out over the sea reliving major moments from his life. It felt like such a fitting end to the show. 

I’m so glad that you like that moment. I really liked it as well. It’s so hard to get it right, the ending. That scene was an idea by Jon East, who is the director of the final two episodes. He worked with us several times before and he’s a very, very dear friend of mine. He had that idea of having like a little best of reel at the end. But in order to get the right emotional tone for me during that time, basically what we did, it was just one take, and we set up the camera. And I went up to the battlements and he just talked me through all of the moments. We had sat down before and we looked at which moments we wanted to incorporate into it. And then he just talked to me throughout the take, and I relived all those moments that we went through and again, because he’s somebody that I feel so close to and that I feel so comfortable being vulnerable with, it was a very, very easy organic process. It was a wonderful experience. Actually. I was so exhausted at that point, because it was very close to the end of the shoot. It was kind of cathartic, actually, to relive those moments.

Well sadly we’re out of time, but before I go I just want to say I was so glad they finally revealed what happened to Uhtred’s other son!

So many times I thought “Where the hell is my son? I don’t know!” There’s two things we don’t talk about in “TLK.” It used to be Uhtred’s last son. Now we can. And the other is age. We don’t talk about age. That’s the first rule. Never mention age.

My girlfriend and I did discuss that as I was watching the season. I said, “I don’t think Uhtred ages like everyone else.”

It’s the sea air at Bebbanburg. Or maybe he sleeps in an oxygen tent.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Chad Meyer