Netflix’s latest war drama film “Seven Kings Must Die” is a follow-up to the popular series titled “The Last Kingdom.” Also adapted from the historical novels by Bernard Cornwell, just like the series, this sequel film follows Uhtred of Bebbanburg as he tries to help the new King Aethelstan amidst political turmoil following the death of King Edward. The narrative, execution, and decision to adhere to history as much as possible make “Seven Kings Must Die” a thrilling entertainer for fans of the show as well as the genre.
‘Seven Kings Must Die’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
The film begins with turmoil brewing in Saxon Britain as the death of the present ruler, King Edward, seems imminent, which would surely turn all Saxon lords against each other in a bid to sit on the throne. The Danish King Anlaf plans on capitalizing on this situation, and he sends his daughter to spy on a settlement in West Northumbria, where he soon raids silently in the middle of the night. King Edward eventually dies, resulting in chaos all over the kingdom, with his own son Aelfward now sending his troops to Winchester in order to capture Queen Eadgifu and her son Edmund. Such a step would ascertain Aelfward’s position on the throne and ensure that no other heirs of his father could challenge his claim. Eadgifu and Edmund manage to flee Wessex, though, with the help of their close aides, and they take shelter at Bebbanburg under the protection of Lord Uhtred, who had once worked with the late King Edward. Uhtred agrees to shelter the queen and her son, and he also agrees to support the other heir to the throne, Aethelstan. However, Aethelstan had been away on a Christian pilgrimage for all this time in order to pray for his father’s recovery, and he was accompanied by his close associate, Ingilmundr.
When Uhtred finally arrives in Mercia, where Aelfward has built his camp, he bears witness to a grand betrayal when the two brothers, Aelfward and Aethelstan, face each other. While Aelfward agrees to give up his chase after the throne and surrender to the rule of his brother, Aethelstan coldly stabs him to death and attacks his men, ensuring that his rule over the kingdom is truly established. But as the veteran Uhtred knows too well, such an imbalanced rulership is sure to attract the attention of foreign rulers who have always wanted to rule over the lands. Along with this threat is also a sinister prophecy dreamt by Uhtred’s close associate Finan’s wife, in which she claims that seven kings will die and the woman he loves the most. While Uhtred is not too worried by this predicament since he admits that he is no king and has no wife, the man is sure of a war that is soon to come.
How Does Aethelstan Fall Prey To A Grand Conspiracy?
The fact that Aethelstan mercilessly kills his brother and attacks his men even after they surrender does not sit well with Uhtred. The man had already been told by Eadgifu about how Aethelstan’s demeanor had changed after he had grown more dedicated to his Catholic religion, and Uhtred suspects a deeper scheme behind it. He had noticed that it was the boy’s close commander, Ingilmundr, who had encouraged him to carry on the attacks, saying that such a step was necessary for his religion. Wherever Aethelstan went at the time, he was always accompanied by Ingilmundr, who was also giving the young prince, and now King, training and advice on religion. Furthermore, it is soon revealed that Aethelstan and Ingilmundr are having a homosexual affair in their private lives. However, what Aethelstan does not realize is the fact that Ingilmundr is actually using this situation to hatch a grand conspiracy against the King.
When Uhtred is first introduced to Ingilmundr, he is curious about the man’s Danish name, to which the latter replies that he had been born to Danes but had been raised by Saxons. While this explained the man’s presence as a close commander and friend of the Saxon king, he was actually still very much in touch with his Danish roots. His devotion to the Catholic religion and also his personal interest in Aethelstan were all just a political ruse to get close to the young King. Ingilmundr was actually working with the Danish King Anlaf to not just keep track of Aethelstan’s movements but also ensure that he made decisions that would favor the Danes. On the other side, Anlaf was busy rallying the kings of the neighboring kingdoms to join his fight against Aethelstan and invade his lands. Ingilmundr was working on this same purpose by pretending to be on King Aethelstan’s side. In one instance, the man convinces Aethlestan to lead an invasion into the Scottish lands, which immediately turns the King of Scotland against the young ruler, making him join Anlaf’s council of kings even though he had no intentions initially to get involved in such a conflict. The way in which Ingilmundr mostly uses this ploy is by getting physically intimate with Aethelstan and then reminding him how such acts were grave sins according to their Catholic religion. Ingilmundr would then convince the King that the most effective way to repent for these sins would be to lead wars against kingdoms that still followed pagan religions.
Uhtred gets to know of this intimate relationship between Ingilmundr and King Aethelstan quite early on. He accordingly tries to make Aethelstan understand that getting so close to a Danish-born commander might just be part of some ploy and also advises the young King to be careful of his situation. But Aethelstan does not care about any of these suggestions, and he is just too fearful of the fact that Uhtred knows of his secret homosexuality. Even though the man is accepting of his King’s choices and poses no threat, Aethelstan drives Uhtred away on the advice of Ingilmundr, who then secretly plans an attack on Northumbria. But Uhtred gets wind of this attack and reaches his lands in time to protect them from Ingilmundr’s attack, and he then imprisons the suspicious Ingilmundr. However, the man once again makes use of his religion to carve out an escape from his situation, as he convinces one of the Catholic workers at the place to free him or else face the wrath of their common God. As Ingilmundr manages to escape and reach out to Aethelstan for help, Uhtred is captured and sentenced to be killed by the King. However, Aethelstan is unable to see Uhtred killed and instead orders the man to be banished from his kingdom.
How Was Ingilmundr’s Betrayal Finally Found Out?
After Uhtred is banished from the kingdom, he travels all by himself before being found by some Vikings, who then take him to the Shetland Isles. Here, the man is welcomed by Anlaf himself, who is about to meet with the seven different kings he has gathered to assist him in his fight against Aethelstan. Anlaf now offers Uhtred a position on his side, too, asking the man to fight along with him. However, Uhtred has already been established as a level-headed lord with a touch of kindness, too, meaning that he would not take part in this betrayal against young Aethelstan. But Anlaf is unwilling to let Uhtred go so easily either, and he instead convinces the man to carry out an even more heinous act—to directly kill King Aethelstan and avoid the war altogether. As Uhtred agrees and leaves the place, he finds Ingilmundr inside the camp. His presence makes Uhtred realize that the man was actually working for Anlaf.
Returning to Winchester, Uhtred again tries to convince Aethelstan of Ingilmundr’s evil plan, but the young King again refuses to believe such a possibility. In this while, Bebbanburg is attacked by Anlaf’s men, and most of the people are treacherously killed off. As Eadgifu manages to hide and survive, she and Uhtred then immediately ride towards Wirral, the place where both their sons had been taken away by Ingilmundr earlier on. Reaching the place, they find it devastated, too, as the evil Ingilmundr had launched an attack here as well, but both Edmund, and Uhtred’s son had managed to survive. At this time, King Aethelstan also arrives at Wirral, fully expecting his trusted commander and lover Ingilmundr to be there, and his absence now makes it clear to him that he had only been played by the conniving Dane.
‘Seven Kings Must Die’ Ending Explained: Did Ingrith’s Prophecy Come True? What Finally Happens To Uhtred?
The events at Wirral are followed by a final confrontation at the historic Battle of Brunanbarh, where Anlaf and his council of Kings wage war against Uhtred and Aethelstan’s armies. Initially, it seems like the Danes are able to push their opponents towards an imminent surrender as the latter keeps falling back, but in time this is revealed to be just a clever tactic employed by Uhtred. When the Danes engage all of their armies in pushing back the Saxons, more of Uhtred’s men, who had been hiding in the tree line behind the Danes, are alerted, and they charge out of the position. With the Saxons now attacking from both sides, the Danes are pressed in, and a bloodbath follows. Ultimately, Anlaf loses all his supporters as all the kings decide to accept defeat in the war and flee the scene. The Saxons win the battle, but with a severe setback, too, for Uhtred is gravely injured in the fight.
The prophecy that Finian’s wife Ingrith had made earlier in the film based on what she had seen in her dreams does seem to come true, though. The latter part of it, which had said about the death of the woman one loves, comes true earlier when Ingrith herself is killed by Anlaf’s men during their attack at Bebbanburg. Although this part of the prophecy seemed to be for Uhtred when it was first made, it was actually for Finian. The woman Finian had loved, his wife Ingrith, had been killed by the Danes, which was then followed by the Battle of Brunanbarh. The sons of five kings who had teamed up with Anlaf had been killed in the battle, meaning that five kings had been killed since the sons would have become kings, too, in the future. Uhtred reminds us that the death of King Edward should also be counted, making six dead kings in total. A severely injured and hurt Uhtred then wonders whether he is to be the seventh king to die.
In the end, Uhtred does seem to die as well, even though the record of his death was never kept in history. As Uhtred gets up to return to his private chamber, he seems to look into a long hall with all the fallen warriors of his kind feasting together, through the open doors, easily reminding us of the mythological hall of the fallen Viking warriors, Valhalla. This scene also suggests that Uhtred’s death is close by, and therefore he is the seventh king to die. On the other side, King Aethelstan’s army captures Ingilmundr, and the man is executed. Aethelstan also agrees to Uhtred’s last condition that he should not marry and bear children so that his younger brother Edmund would become the next King after his death. Aethelstan is then announced as the ruler of Mercia, East Anglia, Wessex, and Northumbria. The command of these kingdoms makes him the first-ever King of a united England.
“Seven Kings Must Die” finally ends with statements of actual history which inspired the film’s plot. King Aethelstan, the same man we watched strive to sit on the throne, had a reign that lasted for fifteen years, and the kingdom flourished under his rule. Aethelstan was an able administrator and had an innate ability to lead by example, and that’s why he is now considered as the greatest King to have ruled in Medieval England. Despite the Danes’ continued efforts at invading the lands for many years after the events of the film, they could never succeed. As a reminder of this immense victory of the Saxons, the castle of Bebbanburg still stands to this very day in England’s Northumberland.