Previously on Vikings, “Moment of Vision”
Welcome, Vikings fans! It’s been the longest year since Season 5A ended in January, but we are back with the final 10 episodes to close out 2018. As a reminder, Ragnar is still dead, and so are Athelstan, Ecbert, and Aethelwulf. I know, right? The worst! With that horrible reality check out of the way, here’s a refresher on what happened last time we saw our Vikings crew:
The Battle of Scar Mountain dividing Ragnar’s heirs forever made casualties of Astrid, Halfdan, Guthrum, and Snaefried, Bjorn’s wife of a half minute. Team Kattegat and Heahmund flee their city as Ivar prepares to claim his birthright thanks to surprise backer Rollo. In the stress of battle, Lagertha’s hair turned white. In Iceland, Floki attempts to assuage Eyvind’s mourning with a leadership position, but he avenges his son’s death anyway. To make things right with the gods and get his people in line, Floki offers to be a human sacrifice. Through Judith’s machinations, Alfred is installed as king over Aethelred’s birthright.
Celebrating their victory over Kattegat, Ivar pisses on Lagertha’s throne and crowns a goat, but Harald is a little more subdued after the loss of his wife and child. Kattegat’s people are surprisingly welcoming for their supposed loyalty to Lagertha but maybe this is just the armies. Barely tolerant of Ivar and Harald, Rollo makes sure everyone knows his price for helping: trade and backup. In private, Rollo laments being too valuable to fight, and they all bond over their brother issues. By “bond” I mean the excessive swaggering and sneering typical for Ivar. Moments like these could use more depth to keep viewers invested in the Ragnarssons.
Team Lagertha recons in a little shepherd shack and debates heading to England. I’ve complained before about Bjorn’s Ragnar Mugging, but at this point, Alexander Ludwig seems so comfortable in his performance, it’s starting to really work for me. Although he’s doubtful, Lagertha likes the idea; gratefully, her infirmity has been rebooted to simply white hair. Heahmund tells Lagertha if he goes back, he wouldn’t be able to resume his position and acknowledge her as a lover, but he rationalizes that God wanted them to meet, even claiming his previous lack of desire for women led him to the church. Either Michael Hirst is rewriting his introduction to the series which involved him banging a newly bereft widow or Heahmund’s a damn liar. So far I’ve found Heahmund’s character theoretically impressive but narratively inconsistent; I don’t know if that’s because Heahmund is a shifty person or if Hirst is using him as a MacGuffin, so, put a pin in that. With Crazy Margrethe yelling curses from the pig pen, Ubbe and Torvi debate what to do with her in the long run, and their nonverbal argument speaks to their increased intimacy–these two are definitely together now.
Remember that thing I’ve been harping about for two years, namely the scene cut from American airings of Season 3 Episode 4 where Lagertha implies Bjorn is Rollo’s son? IT FINALLY PAYS OFF. In the middle of the night, Rollo sneaks out to offer Lagertha and Bjorn safe passage to Frankia, because he still loves her and Bjorn is his son. [pause for screaming] Lagertha refuses to directly acknowledge it and leaves him to Bjorn, because even though Lagertha is only 47, Bjorn is 45 and can handle his own business (I don’t understand that either, but that’s just how it is.). Bjorn is not impressed with Rollo’s emotional pleas because Ragnar raised him, and furthermore the idea doesn’t bother him because Rollo has made himself irrelevant.
As usual, Rollo cries because he is a messy toddler, and even after betraying his loved ones approximately three infinity times, he fails to see how undermining their authority affects their feelings for him. Challenging his loved ones for the throne is just how he shows them he loves them, ok? It’s for their own good! He has economic anxiety, ok?! They make Rollo wait outside with Heahmund while Bjorn mugs and rages and reminds them of the many, many ways Rollo sucks. Heahmund knows better than to get involved in grown Vikings’ business, but he does have the authority of the church, so he dresses Rollo down for being a terrible Christian. Rollo then kneels at his feet for forgiveness, and I’ve never heard someone do the in nomine patri with more disgust. Bjorn finally stomps out with his ax, throws Rollo to the ground, and waits til everyone is holding him back to say:
“You’re not worth the time it takes to clean the blood off my ax.”
HAHAHAHAHA! Oh, the theatrics in these genes. Once he’s gone, Bjorn and Ubbe turn Harald’s Frat Town guards into Swiss cheese—the shink shink shink sound editing is glorious—and steal a boat.
Back in Kattegat, Rollo holds out on Lagertha’s location until they agree to a substantial annual tribute, which includes 500 warriors and primarily personal protection. How much trouble is this guy in back home? Apparently they agree, but it’s too late. Lagertha et al are gone and Rollo is already back on his ships for Ivar’s tantrum at finding only Crazy Margrethe in the pig pen. The great part is that they all knew Rollo would betray them AGAIN, so it was perfectly safe leaving Margrethe there; of course, Rollo also knew his negotiation would give them plenty of time to escape and this familiarity between characters will be missed. Sure enough, Captain Save a Ho/Plus One/Hvitserk takes her in. Freydis (Alicia Agneson), the beautiful slave Ivar freed last season, lurks into the great hall once Ivar’s alone. She makes it clear she’s up for whatever and he needs a mommy who believes he is a special, special boy, so he trusts her immediately.
Alfred hosts his first Witten and announces defense plans along with religious ones, directing the priests to begin teaching in English. A bishop mockingly tells him he has no religious power, but Alfred says the gift of knowledge belongs to all. But they don’t have time to argue about all of that because random groups of Northmen are popping up everywhere, so Alfred sends Aethelred out to defend the lands. Fortunately these Vikings did not raid with Ragnar, so they’re easy pickings and Aethelred is kind of a badass, which is both good and bad for Alfred’s seat of power. Therefore Judith counsels Alfred to consolidate his power by marrying; he’s not interested, but too bad. He sounds annoyed with her meddling, making him grating and pompous; he better watch his mouth, because Judith outlived her terrible father, Ecbert, Kwenthrith, Ragnar, and Aethelwulf. Aethelred’s army is waiting when Lagertha’s boat makes its way up the waterway. Heahmund appeals for an audience, which is granted, but the Vikings are transported in a cage and the crowd’s heckling does nothing for their mood.
Floki is furious with his people’s bloodletting ways, reiterating his promise to sacrifice himself. …But… he puts the ultimate decision in their hands. Aud the Thinker immediately refuses and takes that half of the debate. Eyvind of course disagrees because he’s been after Floki since Day 1. Eyvind’s son holds out to grandstand and casts his tie-breaking vote for Floki’s life.
Overall Thoughts & Production Notes
After 11 months away, Vikings could have used a bit more pizzazz in its mid-season premiere. Yes, we needed to rest and reset after the Battle of Scar Mountain and it was great to see everyone in fine form, but this felt more like an episode 3 or 4 once we’ve re-familiarized with the crew. Clearly the reason Rollo came in person was not to negotiate his settlement with Ivar, but to make one last play for Lagertha and Bjorn’s affections as “The Revelation” is the cornerstone of the episode. But, if you’d seen the cut scenes on the Season 3 DVD or watched Vikings anywhere else in the world, it was no surprise. In truth, this was the ultimate Rollo move, as he was always unable understand how compartmentalizing his feelings from his actions affected those around him and self-sabotage is the legendary berserker’s greatest skill, so if is the last we see of him, it was a fine send off. One wonders if he had told Bjorn this during the Paris raids when Ragnar was practicing tough love, how all of their lives might have changed, but, again, timing was never Rollo’s thing.
Although I was never here for Lagertha’s sudden frailness in the finale and was happy to see them roll that back to a stylish white hue, her and Heahmund’s attachment to each other is quite sudden and inexplicable if you consider actual timelines—they barely knew each other before the battle. I’m having a hard time investing despite the solid work between Katheryn Winnick and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, especially considering this is the third (fourth?) time Heahmund has changed sides. Meanwhile, the Wessex storyline is starting to feel like a Green Day reunion and will need some serious oomph this season to keep Vikings viewers, who are primarily old enough to be these kids’ parents, on the hook. Lastly, Floki’s founding of Iceland needs to pick up the pace. We’ve debated long enough about whether they should be there and whether Floki is a liar. Put some plants in the ground, catch some fish, and move on, you guys!
Historically Vikings directors manage a block of 2-3 episodes per season to maintain tone across a single arc. Season 5B is divided into 511-513, directed by Ciaran Donnelly, returning to “The Revelation” after S5E6 “The Message;” 514-516, directed by long-time second unit director Steve Saint Leger; 517-518, directed by veteran actress and “Yol” director Helen Shaver; and, 519-520, directed by David Wellington who handled “The Departed” parts 1 and 2. Michael Hirst is the sole writer as always, and the producer for this season is Liz Gill, previously a first assistant director in Season 2 with credits including The Omen and Bloody Sunday.
Vikings S5E11 Review Score
Starring: Katheryn Winnick, Gustaf Skarsgård, Clive Standen, Georgia Hirst, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Alexander Ludwig, Alex Høgh Andersen, Jordan Patrick Smith, Peter Franzén, Marco Ilsø, Adam Copeland, Kris Holden-Ried, Ida Nielsen, Leah McNamara, Jack McEvoy