Although Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) became king of Denmark last season, he would rather be a farmer. At first, it looks like the Vikings will get their little colony in Wessex and settle down to be happy farmers, shovelling pig poo and gushing over the newfangled plow. First, they have to kill some people, including the rival to Princess Kwenthrith (Amy Bailey).
The season is filled with discord between the various couples. The male characters are in a hurry to go to Wessex to get away from their wives or complicated emotional entanglements, and this is particularly true for Ragnar. With four children, the pressure of running a kingdom and overseeing the expansion into Wessex, the flaming passion between Ragnar and Auslagg (Alyssa Sutherland) has begun to cool. Maybe, they would be happier if they just agreed to have an open relationship and see other people, which seems increasingly common today, at least according to OkCupid. Instead, when Ragnar returns from Wessex, he squabbles with his wife, plays a little with his children, and reluctantly becomes involved in matters related to his ex-wife’s earldom. Rapidly worn down by the lack of domestic harmony, Ragnar organizes a raid on Paris. The suggestion that the Viking raids were fuelled by the warriors’ need to escape the drudgery of married life is plausible, especially since the Vikings themselves left few records.
I am not sure which is weirder, Siggy’s (Jessalyn Gilsig) departure or the exit of Thorunn (Gaia Weiss) but both are weird.
Showrunner Michael Hirst never seemed to know what to do with Siggy, so he finally got rid of her. It is too bad, she was the only one who seemed rational. After receiving a nasty wound on her face during a battle, Thorunn leaves Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) and abandons their child, after first selecting a replacement mate for Bjorn. That…that is love. Or crappy writing.
In both cases, the women were sent packing in order to free up their mates for romances that will help move the story forward.
Although this time it is Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) who is betrayed. Determined to ensure the success of the colony in Wessex, she accompanies Ragnar, leaving her earldom of Hedeby in the capable hands of Kalf (Ben Robson), her right-hand man. To what should be no one’s surprise at this point, he seizes power, pointing out that he is a local with the support of the major families, while Lagertha had gained her earldom by simply marrying and killing the former earl. Displaying a remarkable ability for plotting, Kalf manages to hold on to the earldom. So far.
Speaking of betrayals, Rollo (Clive Standen) needs to join AA or something. Until he learns to love himself, Rollo will never be able to love anybody, he will just try to drown his pain in alcohol. And betray his brother. Again.
The intense connection between them seems odd since they first met when Ragnar sacked Athelstan’s (George Blagden) monastery and took him away as a slave. At one point, Ragnar even wanted to sacrifice him to the gods. A possible explanation for Ragnar’s fixation is that Athelstan is the one person who does not simply accept that the world is what people told him. Ragnar always respected Athelstan’s religious nature, but his confused attempts to understand Christianity were entertaining.
Although Athelstan finally gets some much-deserved loving, he is more excited about rediscovering his faith. Despite his claim to love both Jesus Christ and Odin, Athelstan had struggled with the conflicting religions, until he receives a sign and returns to Christianity.
However, the fervour of his faith is matched by that of Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard). A zealous defender of the Norse gods, Floki is the only one to foresee that the spread of Christianity will end the worship of the old gods. When he has a vision, he decides that it is telling him to kill Athelstan, who welcomes the opportunity to become a martyr, which is a touching example of religious cooperation.
Up until now, there was no direct evidence of gods, just people’s interpretation of events, usually traumatic, that made them believe in divine intervention. However, the ambiguity disappears this season after a wanderer named Harbard (Kevin Durand) arrives in Kattegat when all of the warriors are gone. Harbard is clearly supernatural, especially since three women have the exact same dream about him. And his hand produces fire.
Moreover, the Seer’s (John Kavanagh) predictions generally come true. Officially, people see the seer to learn their future and receive advice, even though they never understand anything he says. I think the real reason they visit him is to unload their problems, as if he is the community’s therapist, despite a clear desire to be left alone.
Ragnar is the worst tourist ever.
Hearing from Athelstan that Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, he naturally wants to visit it, along with several thousand friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately, Ragnar’s idea of a visit means rape, loot and conquer.
It is true that Ragnar Lothbrok led thousands of Vikings against Paris, but they never made a direct assault on the city because it had walls, high walls. Instead, they crushed the Frankish army outside. Hoping to trap Ragnar, the real Emperor Charles divided his army in two and placed each half on one side of a river, but Ragnar destroyed one half of the army, while Charles watched impotently from the other side. Ragnar then sacrificed over a hundred prisoners to Odin, which terrified the remaining troops, who fled when he attacked. Aware that Charles was gathering reinforcements, Ragnar agreed to leave in exchange for a ransom, the first recorded example of the Danegold.
The battle early in the series where the Mercian army is divided along two banks of a river was probably based on the Vikings’ first raid on Paris.
Still, the battles for Paris are superb, and Ragnar’s trick to gain entry at the end was brilliant.
King Ecbert (Linus Roache) comes across as a charmer, drooling over Lagertha and working to get her into his pool. Later, he and Ragnar share a moment of honesty, where they admit their true natures, but Ecbert proves that he is even more ruthless than Ragnar.
After manipulating Ragnar into helping to place his puppet Princess Kwenthrith on the throne of Mercia in exchange for permitting the Danes to establish a colony in Wessex, Ecbert arranges to have the colonists massacred. At one point, he confides to his son Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford) that he has no friends, it makes plotting easier. Despite his cold ruthlessness, Ecbert does have a close relationship with Athelstan. In fact, both Ecbert and Ragnar are drawn to Athelstan, possibly because they can trust him since he does not threaten their power. However, Ecbert’s connection to Athelstan seems genuine. When Aethelwulf is furious that Athelstan had impregnated his wife, Ecbert calms his son by saying that God had had a hand in the conception, which probably sounds better than two lonely people seeking brief comfort in each other’s arms.
I read a book about the Vikings, apparently no one connected to the show did.
In particular, Hedeby was a major trading center. When Charlemagne defeated the Saxons in northwestern Germany in 804, bringing his northern border to the edge of Denmark, the Danes understandably feared that Charlemagne planned to make them part of his empire. The Vikings presumed that his first target was the Danish port of Hedeby, a thriving Danish trading centre that rivalled the main trading centres in Charlemagne’s empire. Hedeby’s growth was due to Jarl Godfred, a powerful lord who had taken captured Frankish merchants back to Hedeby. Aware of Charlemagne’s interest, Godfred built a huge earthen wall with a wooden stockade across the neck of the peninsula from the North Sea to the Baltic. Frankish attempts to break through the wall failed, and Charlemagne, busy with a large empire, agreed to buy peace.
Instead, Hedeby is an ordinary town, no richer or different from any of the other towns in Denmark, serving essentially as a prize to be fought over by Lagertha and Kalf.
Travis Fimmel makes the show worth watching. Fimmel truly inhabits his character, infusing him with a jester’s nature, as if he is both bored and amused by everyone around him all the time, while acting as if he is posing for a picture every second of the day.
This season has by far the most humor. When Lagertha drags Ragnar with her for a showdown with Kalf, who has usurped her earldom, he basically blackmails Kalf into joining his raid on Paris, and then announces that the issue of the earldom is between Kalf and his ex-wife, muttering “good luck with that” as he exits the room.
Hirst seems to have taken all of the names of historical figures from a couple of centuries and thrown them into a hat. Every season, he draws several and writes a plot around them. It is entertaining, but we left accuracy town a long time ago. In the end, Vikings is not that accurate but it is a brilliant case study of a family of psychotic conquerors.