Spoilers through Season 5 of ‘Vikings’ follow.
Wednesday night’s episode of Vikings was another bloody one, filled with epic battles, bloody noses and wounded pride.
We learned a few things in ‘Homeland:’
First, Ivar is a far superior tactician than Aethelwulf and a far superior schemer than his older brother, Ubbe.
Second, that Astrid is very seriously considering Harald’s offer to be his queen, though she’s also playing hard to get. That includes punching the drunk viking king right in the face—hard—when he tries to seduce her. We also learn that as vicious as Harald can be, he’s man enough to take the rebuke with a grin. “What can I say?” he bellows out to his great hall upon return. “I have no luck with women!”
Third, we see that Heahmund is indeed a great warrior, if not much better a tactician than his king. Ivar notices also. The two are like Wade Wilson and Vanessa Carlysle from Deadpool—Heahmund’s crazy matches Ivar’s crazy.
Finally, we were given more confirmation that Floki is totally out of his mind crazy. In the “land of the gods” he sees visions and his infected hand is miraculously healed. “I will live here with the gods!” he cries. Of course, this must be Iceland, which was settled by the character Floki is based off of (also named Floki.) So we can surmise that Floki will not live here alone, but will instead bring others to this newfound and uninhabited land.
Saxons and Danes
The big battle in this episode was good, though I’m a little worried that we’ll just continue to see the Saxons outsmarted and out-maneuvered by the Danes over and over again. I understand that the vikings are tremendous fighters who eventually conquer most of England, but I don’t want it to be because they constantly make the English look stupid.
And they do look a little stupid here, marching into the city and into a series of fairly obvious traps. I was expecting Heahmund, at least, to be not just fierce but also smart. But he walks into the same trap as Aethelwulf. Slaughter ensues.
I’m also not certain how to feel about Ivar essentially intimidating an entire mob of Saxon warriors by himself just by sitting on the ground and hollering with crazy eyes. This makes the Saxons look even weaker and more pitiful. I’ll reiterate my fears from last week: Ivar has the potential to be a very interesting character, but he also has the potential to become Vikings’ own Ramsay Snow—essentially an Evil Mary Sue who is always victorious, always right, always one step ahead of his enemies.
Ragnar was none of these things. He was often right, but he was also endlessly wrong, making terrible choices and paying for them throughout his legendary career as a raider and explorer. His son, so far at least, is a combination of pure evil, intense intellect, and that face where he’s looking down kind of but his eyes are up—like a caricature of wickedness. I’m…tepid on the whole thing.
I did really like the scene between Ivar and the slave girl. She is one of the first characters who he finds disarming, who never once bats an eye at his threats but not because she’s arrogant (like his brothers) but because she thinks he’s special, holy even. He frees her, and is left confused and moved by their encounter.
I’m less fond of the entire sequence that leads to Ubbe’s exile back to Kattegat. For no good reason whatsoever, Ubbe and Hvitserk decide to broker a peace between their forces and Aethelwulf. Their men are killed and they’re beaten by Heahmund before being sent running back to York. Upon their return, Ivar justifiably scolds them and positions himself as the leader of the Great Army.
What I dislike about all this is just how easy it is for Ivar. He doesn’t have to do anything other than wait for his stupid brothers to screw up. And how stupid is Ubbe, anyways? Why follow a resounding victory with peace talks? Why do so without the backing of your men? Why sneak off in the night like a thief? I just don’t believe that these are actions Ubbe would actually take, so it makes the entire sequence feel forced. In the end, Hvitserk stays with Ivar and Ubbe sails off with his tail between his legs. Ivar gloats.
So I wonder: Will Ivar just inevitably always win? Is this the season we’re setting up for now? I hope not.
The secondary plots follow Harald and Astrid, Bjorn and Halfdan and Floki. We’ve already discussed the first and third. Harald is wooing Astrid, though I’m not quite certain what the point of that marriage would be. It’s far from strategic, unless her betrayal would distract Lagertha enough to make her do something stupid.
Floki’s adventure in Iceland is pretty entertaining. He’s just so wonderfully nuts that he’s always charming to watch. And the shots of Iceland, in all its raw volcanic splendor, are lovely.
We only get a very brief time with Bjorn and Halfdan who are sailing into the Mediterranean and heading for Sicily. Their guide and translator suggests they send most of their ships back and masquerade as traders rather than invaders. This is a risky plan and I’m not at all sure it’s a good one. After all, weren’t they here to raid? They can’t do that without their ships. It’s all well and good to play at merchants, but if they don’t actually have goods to sell or money to purchase good with, what’s the end-game? I’m a little confused.
Overall, I’m still very much enjoying the show. Vikings even without Ragnar is filled with wonderful characters whose incredibly unpredictable stories we care about a lot. I love that we don’t know where any of this is headed (beyond the broad-strokes historical stuff like Floki and Iceland or Rollo in Normandy or Ivar in Ireland and so forth—basically all the major historical points in vikings history condensed into one abbreviated timeline where all the great heroes of these sagas come from Kattegat.)
I do have my concerns over Ivar, but I have faith that at the very least this show always complicates its heroes and villains enough to make them more than just one-dimensional. And I’m curious to see where all these shifting alliances and betrayals go as the season progresses.
What did you think?