Why did Netflix cancel The Last Kingdom when there’s more material to adapt? Here’s how the show could continue after the fifth series installment.
Why did Netflix cancel The Last Kingdom, making season 5 its final season? The streaming service renewed the popular series in July 2020 but then announced that season 5 would, unfortunately, be the last franchise installment nine months later. Since The Last Kingdom hasn’t premiered, and because there’s more source material to adapt, fans may be curious about Netflix’s decision.
Based on The Saxon Stories novels by Bernard Cornwell, The Last Kingdom follows the warrior Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), the central character in a story about the birth of England. The series’ first two seasons aired on BBC Two from 2015 to 2017, while season three was exclusively released on Netflix. Each season of The Last Kingdom adapts the storylines from two books, with the fifth installment focusing on Warriors of the Storm and The Flame Bearer. There are more books in the franchise that have yet to be adapted, so many fans were surprised that Netflix decided to cancel the show. Hopes had been high that the series could adapt every entry in Cornwell’s series, and a devoted following was keen to continue watching The Last Kingdom.
Netflix officially canceled The Last Kingdom on April 30, 2021, but didn’t provide a specific reason. Given that the streaming service is notorious for not renewing popular shows after two or three seasons, the decision may not be a huge surprise to subscribers who aren’t fans of the show. In 2021 alone, Netflix has canceled several original productions, including British shows like The Duchess and The Irregulars. In the past, critically-acclaimed series like Tuca & Bertie and The OA were cut short, presumably because of low viewing numbers – though Netflix rarely confirms or denies such things. The Last Kingdom’s cancelation shocked loyal fans and prompted some to petition for a series continuation.
The Last Kingdom’s cancelation is surprising because of its word-of-mouth popularity amongst Netflix viewers and the fact that Cornwell’s source material consists of 13 novels. In theory, The Last Kingdom should have extended to season 6 or even season 7. Netflix may feel like season 5 will provide closure for fans, and it’s possible that the logistics of future productions didn’t make financial sense for the streaming service.
Netflix’s cancelation of The Last Kingdom doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire novel storyline won’t be adapted. The series’ conclusion may set up a movie release, which would presumably cover the last three of Cornwell’s books: War of the Wolf, Sword of Kings, and War Lord. The producers’ master plan may involve an epic fifth series installment, a break for the main cast that has been filming in Hungary since 2014, and a blockbuster Netflix movie that would properly end Uhtred’s character arc. Whatever their plans for The Last Kingdom beyond season 5, fans can start to get excited about the upcoming release of the season – production wrapped up on photography for the show in June 2021, meaning the release date is getting nearer for fans to reunited with Uhtred and the other characters of the series.
The Last Kingdom season 5 may ultimately cover the remaining source material, however, that would significantly alter the structural pacing compared to previous seasons, resulting in season 5 feeling rushed by comparison, and perhaps lead to storytelling issues that would upset franchise fans. Most likely, Netflix will stick with their usual approach and gauge critical reactions/streaming numbers before committing to a new production, whether it’s a shortened series or a feature film.
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