Vikings Recaps, S4E16: Crossings
Sorry for the delay on this week’s review; I’ve been busy pretending I’m actually going to fulfill my new year’s resolutions and also putting a wash on. So, we’re back for another week of Vikings- except this time, it’s sans Ragnar. How did the show fare in it’s first episode without it’s main character?
Well, not brilliantly. But that’s to be expected- with Crossings, Vikings had to do a hard reset and put everything in place for the story to unfold without Ragnar, as well as providing various characters the chance to react to his death. As a table-setting episode, this was a fine forty minutes, but it had it’s problems.
I think one of the biggest issues was Lagertha. Now, don’t get me wrong, like any other Vikings fan with half a brain, I’ve been white-knuckling it waiting for the show to actually do something with the badass sheildmaiden. But the episode opened on her conceding that she would indeed have to rule Kattegat now that Ragnar was dead, which…well…yeah? You don’t take over a kingdom, kill the queen and claim the throne with no intention of ruling, do you? It was a confusing bit of character development that I could see no real point to. Speaking of, I was thinking about Harald and Half this episode-you know, The Brothers Balding. They must be the most patient power-hungry maniacs ever, having waited several years while Ragnar was away and politely not tried to overthrow Kattegat in his absence as they obviously should have if they truly want to rule Norway. What, were they dropping a big one on the bog when he did his whole “who will kill the king?” bit in The Last Ship? Bet they were kicking themselves when they found out.
And that’s not to mention Lagertha’s later scene as Ragnar appeared to her in the middle of the night; Katheryn Winnick is perfectly cast most of the time, but when the script calls for her to do much past “stoic and awesome”, I’m not sure she can really deliver. Still, the promise of her further beefing with Ivar, Ubbe and Sigurd looks for a fun showdown, so I’m willing to forgive the episode it’s odd character choices in regards to what is now their only remaining leading woman.
We finally caught up with Rollo and Bjorn as they arrived in Spain and got acquainted with the locals-by rampaging through their city and murdering everyone in sight, of course. Alexander Ludwig had his best glower on while Clive Standen gleefully chucked his sword around, but the really interesting stuff in this plot came from Floki and Helga. Now, I haven’t talked much about Floki in these reviews before, but he really is a fascinating character. In real life Gustaf Skarsgard looks like he’s about to try and sell you a second-hand car, but as Floki, he takes on an unsettlingly elemental presence that fits the not-entirely-natural character so well. In this episode, he comes across a group of locals worshipping in a mosque; it’s a clear parallel to the scene way back in series one where the Vikings encounter Christians for the first time. While the Christians run, hide, and grab for icons and objects, the Muslims continue to pray, even in the face of a horde of sword-wielding Vikings. Floki seems to respect that- maybe because it reflects his own religious fanaticism- and I’m keen to see where the show takes this little subplot. Especially since Helga, desperate for another child, kidnaps a young local girl orphaned by the Viking attack and insists on taking her with them.
Another thing the show handled really well was the confirmation of Ragnar’s death to all his sons. Odin- literally, Odin, surrounded by ravens, comes to each of them to inform them of their father’s passing. Obviously, there’s lots of juicy development to be had from Bjorn and Rollo, and it was another great example of the show toeing the line of Viking mysticism, neither confirming nor denying that the God really did come to the Lothbrok men. Bjorn, fresh off a successful raid, turning to see Odin and a flock of ravens standing atop a Spanish mountain and comprehending the meaning of it at once- it’s a powerful moment, and one of the smaller, stronger scenes of this season.
So, overall, not the season’s finest episode- but a chance for the show to bid it’s farewell to Ragnar for good, even if not every farewell was handled as well as it could have been. But the rest of the season still holds plenty of promise- and Vikings looks set, thankfully, to outlive it’s leading man.