Last Kingdom explained: What is the sickness in The Last Kingdom?

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The Last Kingdom is an Anglo-Saxon series on Netflix based on The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell and features real-life historical figures. The historical drama series is in its fourth season and the most recent instalment saw Uhtred of Bebbanburg (played by Alexander Dreymon) narrowly avoid a contagious sickness. Fans are keen to find out what the sickness was, and has investigated.

What is the sickness in The Last Kingdom?

The most recent series of The Last Kingdom followed Uhtred and his friends as they tried to help Uhtred and Aethelflaed’s (Millie Brady) children outrun the Danes.

The season introduced Uhtred’s children Stiorra (Ruby Hartley) and Young Uthred (Finn Elliot), as well as Aethelflaed’s daughter Aelfwynn (Helena Albright).

While Uhtred, Eadith (Stefanie Martini) and his other friends were on the road, they came across a number of dead bodies, and some villagers warned them to turn back.

They said a fast-spreading sickness was on its way, and Uhtred’s friend Finan (Mark Rowley) showed signs of genuine fear that no-one had seen before.

Sihtric (Arnas Fedaravicius) also grabbed hold of his Thor hammer pendant, praying to be kept safe from the epidemic.

Some fans believe the sickness is similar to the Black Death of the 14th century, however The Last Kingdom is set in the 10th century, so this conclusion is unlikely.

The relentless plague appeared in episode six of season four, but very little is known about what may have caused it, as there is no real historical pandemic known to have taken place around that time.

Villagers from all over Wessex felt forced to leave their homes to avoid the ‘bad air’ coming their way, and there were fears Aelfywnn would die after she came down with the disease, too.

She started growing tired and coughing, and came down with a fever, which Eadith and Osferth (Ewan Mitchell) attempted to break with herbs.

The people of Mercia had hoped to find refuge at King Edward’s (Timothy Innes) kingdom, and he ordered for the gates to be opened so they could be kept away from harm.

The sickness is never named in the episode, but it is most likely spread in a way that is similar to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Thankfully Aelfwynn survived, presumably due to her young age, which suggests the sickness was not as much of a threat to some groups than others.

Still, the sickness remained a threat for Uhtred and his friends as they came across a bog full of diseased bodies and were forced to take the long route to safety.

Nigel Marchant spoke to Variety about some of the deaths in the latest season and the publication had raised the fact the series included a sickness, which was “basically a pandemic”.

Marchant laughed and responded “art imitating life”, which suggests the sickness was in fact a very similar virus to the coronavirus.

The sickness only lasted for one episode which left fans surprised, as they had presumed it would be a major storyline, causing a huge obstacle for Uhtred.

Mcmanus2099 said on Reddit: “Did they cut sickness scenes? The sickness in Mercia struck me a little strange, it’s build up as this great & terrible plague. There is the choice of shutting the gates, there’s Father Pyrlig sneaking people in, there’s a notion of outside the walls being death. When Aefelflaed’s daughter is rushed in things are tense, get every doctor make sure no one hears of this. All suggest a coming epidemic with a possible panic in Aylesbury.” [sic]

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Some viewers said it was disappointing to see the storyline dropped after such a short time, and they are wondering if it will reappear in the upcoming season five.

Mumbojumbotwhack said: “If it’s a plague-like disease with exponential growth then it is reasonable for them to start the next season with it pretty rampant.

“I just think it would be so weird if they introduced it only for this season, and I think it’s a subtle enough plotline (mostly travelling villagers affected) they can write it back in easily.”

Viewers have pointed out that during the time period, villagers presumed viruses were spread through the air, like some “unseen fog” they had to keep away from.

However, most viruses are spread through droplets when someone coughs or sneezes, meaning the characters would have only caught the disease if they came into close contact with someone.

One viewer shared a chronicle extract which suggested it was the Danes who brought the sickness to England in the year 897.

There was another plague about 50 years after the time period of season four of The Last Kingdom, known as ‘the great fever in London’.

Fans were hoping the sickness would open up subplots for some of the main characters, including Finan, whom fans hope to see more of in season five.

QuestioningCapricorn said: “I thought that the sickness storyline had the potential to be really interesting, but yeah I feel like it just dropped off with little impact on the characters.

“I was hoping that they would use that plot to dive a bit more into Finan’s backstory. He was clearly really freaked out, and there are so many things they could have done with that (eg. A story about a loved one dying, making him have severe hypochondriac or germaphobic) [sic].”

The Last Kingdom is on Netflix now

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