Vikings: Season Four So Far (And What’s Yet to Come)

by thethreepennyguignol

So, my apologies for the delay between blog posts- it was my birthday on Sunday, and, despite having very little planned, I ended up doing a lot more and seeing many more people than I had initially intended. Then I was down in London for two days, and then I had to spend quality catch-up time with the cat on my return, etc, etc.

Excuses aside, it’s time to talk about a show that I’ve been aggressively ramming down your throats for the last two years: Vikings. Yes, in case you weren’t already tired of me twatting myself silly over Travis Fimmel’s amazing lead performance as Ragnar or the show’s killer fight scenes or what have you, it’s time to talk about the second-best historical show on TV (yo, what’s up, my fellow Outlander fans?).

For one thing, my God, did they make us wait for the back half of this season. The first half of season four finished in April-fucking April! Legends of Tomorrow had less time between two separate seasons (granted, the second of which has been utterly shite) than Vikings did between it’s two sections of this series; my theory is that the writers forgot they had a second half of the season to write, and had to pretend that they just happened to be taking a really long break while they frantically attempted to gum together another ten episodes’ worth of plot and get it shot in a semi-reasonable timeframe. I know this shouldn’t really affect my opinion of the show, but it does, because I’m a petty fuck and a millenial with no patience.

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Anyhoozle, it’s back, the first episode of the second half of the season airing on Wednesday night. And…it served to remind me of all of Vikings excellent points, and all the failings that have become more apparent since the beginning of series three.

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Okay, let’s get the good stuff out of the way first, because there is plenty of it: Vikings has always been a show packed to the brim with fascinating and flawlessly cast characters; this season saw the real introduction of the Muppet Baby Vikings, also known a Ragnar’s four sons. They’re all pretty good, but the obvious standout here is Ivar the Boneless, played by the relative newcomer Alex Høgh-as the show has foreshadowed with the subtlety of an axe to a toddler’s head, he’s a proper shit, but in the best possible way for the show. Unable to walk, procreate, or have sex, this episode hinted at the new and sinister ways he’ll find to define his masculinity in the Viking world; Høgh’s performance clearly drew from Fimmel’s idiosyncratic potrayal of Ragnar, all creepy little smirks and twitches and glances, and he’s already a well-deserved fan favourite. On top of him, of course, you’ve got the usual excellent performances from Kathryn Winnick, Alexander Ludwig,  Gustaf Skarsgard, et al, as our original cast reaches middle age and beyond and become secondary to a new generation who’ve been defined by their actions. It’s all juicy and delicious and tantalising, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Vikings deals with the changes to come in Kattegat.

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But, despite all it’s triumphs, the show still has it’s problems. Some of them, it’s suffered from since the beginning- the writing which often verges on far too direct, the inching slowness of several of the plots, and the apparent inability to balance all the plates they have spinning in different locations (we barely saw a glimpse of the scintillating Linus Roache’s King Ecbert in the first half of this season, and I’m struggling to see how Rollo, still out in Paris, will fit into what they’re setting up for the next ten episodes). But I think they’re biggest problem, right now, is Ragnar.

Which sounds odd, because there’s no doubt that Travis Fimmel’s stunning performance is what got many people into the show-myself included. Watching his fall into corruption as the people he loved died or betrayed in made for one of the most engrossing character arcs in recent memory. But…he needs to go.

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Look, bear with me here: I was writing about this very conundrum in that Walking Dead article a couple of weeks back, and I feel like Vikings is beginning to suffer from some of the same problems. We’ve seen Ragnar’s rise to power, his fall from grace, with plenty of ups and downs in between- to the point where it feels as though his character has run his course. Unlike The Walking Dead, Travis Fimmel’s performance is so maddeningly brilliant that I understand the reluctance to cut the show loose without it- but still. We’ve seen his story. The show hasn’t held back on killing off major characters before (Athelstan and Siggy spring to mind)- to see them hold back now would be against the run of the story so far.

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According to the myths of yore, this is where Bjorn Ironside steps up to take over his father’s mantel, but the show is still skittish at the thought of existing without it’s leading man. Yeah, I’ll be sad to see him go- but I’d rather be sad than feel that sense of “About ruddy time” as I have down with other shows. If he’s still around at the end of the season, depending on how it’s handled, I think I’m going to have trouble coming back for another series. Vikings as a show has always seemed somewhat surprised by it’s success, as though they never planned this far in advance, and that has led to some plots getting dragged out and going stagnant, while others are basically ignored (see also: Lagertha for pretty much the last twenty episodes).

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Overall, I’me excited for the next nine episodes of Vikings, because this show is my baby- I introduced it to a lot of people, and I’ve been a vocal defender of it against bigger-budget mystical historical stuff (basically, Game of Thrones). But I’m keen to see whether the show will put it’s money where it’s mouth is and make Ragnar step aside for the new generation.

What are your thoughts on this season of Vikings, and the show as a whole? Do you want to see the back of Ragnar or are you happy having him stick around a big longer? Let me know!

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