Vikings has been trying me basically ever since Ragnar died in episode 4.15 (for perspective, we are now on 5.18), so I just.kinda.stopped.caring. And kinda stopped recapping. Also: WHY ARE YOU ALL NOT BREAKING FOR THE HOLIDAYS? WE HAVE SHIT TO DO!
But a funny thing happened over the past few episodes: the show started to get good again! To the point that I am genuinely excited to watch, instead of having to bribe myself with wine and chocolate to sit my ass down and tune in!
I’m not exactly sure what to credit for this turnaround, but here are a few of my guesses:
Breaking [the] Bad [battle cycle]
For a good solid season, the show rhythm has been:
The perpetual battle preparations and staging (while getting more complex and compelling) just feel so tired. In their little break from the constant struggle for domination of Kattegatt and Wessex, the characters have actually gotten to, you know, character.
Bjorn, whose season 4 & 5 persona can be summed up as “hulking surly dude serially engaging in vacuous sexual encounters,” has taken control of his destiny to return to Kattegatt victorious, showing canny negotiation skills. And he and Thora have become one of the most compelling romances since, well, Bjorn and Halfdan.
Ube and Hvitserk seem like actual people with complex ideas and motives, not just “Ivar’s future fratricide victims.” Ube’s relationship with Alfred not only harkens back to the brotherly (as opposed to the smexy) nature of Ragnar’s and Athelstan’s kinship, but also helped push both characters, and the plot, (mercifully) forward. Hvitserk, who previously felt like an empty space in the scenery, has become one of my favorites in his transformation from snarky malcontent, to Buddhist mutineer. And PS: his eyerolling in response to Ivar’s god-complex deserves all the awards.
Speaking of god complexes,
Ivar the lone-mess
I have never liked Ivar. There, I said it. He has been such a one-note psycho since he hit puberty that I just could not give one damn about him. Strangely enough, now that Ivar thinks he’s a god, we’ve finally gotten a glimpse at his vulnerability (irony alert!). Yeah, he’s still a fucking monster (see: burning Hvitserk’s lady friend and her family to death), but he is truly agonizing behind the scenes as he grapples with the isolating nature of power and what kind of leader he wants to be to Kattegatt and his family. And Alex Hogh Anderson’s performance explaining to his newborn son why he is leaving him to die in the woods was among the most moving of the entire series.
He’s still the worst, just a more nuanced and interesting the worst.
Spacious Uterus Energy
I realized several episodes in that the female characters were just not here for this show this season. All the stories have been Alfred’s or Ivar’s or Bjorn’s or Harald’s, and that energy started to drag on me. Sure, Lagertha technically was onscreen sometimes, but she basically acted as a prop to Heahmund’s arc.
But (FINALLY) in these past few episodes the ladies have come roaring back!
Judith, who could have been competently played by a overstuffed brocade settee until 3 episodes ago, took matters of the Wessex crown into her own hands by killing Aethelred, and viciously schooled Alfred in doing what needs to be done to stay in power.
And, as previously mentioned, Bjorn has been redeemed by the appearance of Thora, who is a totally bad-ass warrior who has her eyes on the prize. She reminds me of a young Lagertha and Porunn (Bjorn’s first wife), and would looooooove to see the ass-kicking she could hand down to Ivar. Not sure if I’m thrilled about the King Incel plotline going on with Harald, but baby steps, people, baby steps.
Speaking of Lagertha, I’m glad she’s back, and her flashbacky closure sequence with Ragnar at his death pulled all of my heartstrings.
But vacant-eyed and lovelorn is not a good look for her. Here’s hoping her alliance with Judith will produce some devious meddling and throw a well-deserved wrench in all the boys’ plans!
Flokistan can still go to Hel
My remaining beef with the show: the Floki plotline, which is soooooooooo boooooooooringgggggg!
Here’s a quick summary: A guy kills a guy. There’s a revenge murder. Then an opposite revenge murder. And another revenge murder. Then a flash mob dance to “Oops, I did it again” – JK! It’s actually another revenge murder! Then, to mix it up, a revenge suicide! I literally can’t wait for everyone to finish killing each other so we can stop having to watch this madness unfold!
Fortunately, as of last night’s episode, Floki has washed his hands of the whole business, and may, with the discovery of the gates of Hel, (finally) be on the verge of actually crashing the home of the gods. Which I fully support because maybe he’ll see Ragnar, and maybe Athelstan will finally get that chance to be all of us and kick Floki in the nuts for murdering him.
The title of this week’s episode – Baldur – refers to a Norse god whose mother attempted to inoculate him against death, only to be thwarted by Loki – think “Achilles,” except the fatal weapon was mistletoe (I shit you not). Next week promises a heap of trouble for the sons of Vikings – from Ube’s mortal combat for Wessex, to Bjorn’s to take Kattegatt, to Alfred’s fight to keep the Wessex throne. Who will be immune to death? Who will Loki take out? Toss out your bribery wine and chocolate, grab your celebratory wine and chocolate, and tune in next week for another great episode of Vikings!