Well, that’s another season of Vikings firmly behind us. And I think the finale, The Reckoning, really summed up everything right- and wrong- with season four.
Firstly, let’s talk about that opening fight scene; as I said last week, I fucking love the way Vikings handles it’s action sequences, and the clash between Aethelwulf and Bjorn’s troops is another great example of how thrilling they can be. The sequence is a reminder that, for the Vikings and unlike many other similair protagonists on TV, battles like this aren’t just a necessity- they’re a pleasure. Ubbe has never dominated the screen more in the few seconds we see of him ploughing through the English troops, and Hvitserk (whose name I suppose I’ll have to start spelling correctly now he seems to be sticking around) was actually kind of a badass. I loved it to death, and it reminded me of all the amazing fight scenes this show has consistently delivered us over this patchy season.
While I’m sticking with the good stuff, this was an amazing Ecbert episode, as Vikings bids a fond farewell to it’s second-best character. He cons the sons of Ragnar, abdicating the throne to a fleeing Aethelwulf and misleading the sons of Ragnar into believing he has the power to sign them over the land that their father always dreamed of having in England. His panicked but gleeful farewells to his family, his boozing with the bishop, the fear in his eyes as the battle rages on in the field beyond- it’s a powerhouse performance, and is brought to a close in a beautifully shot scene where Linus Roache (very graphically, for those disturbed by this kind of stuff) opens his veins in the very pool where he first met Ragnar. Ragnar’s voice tells him not to be afraid as he dies, and it’s a staggeringly beautiful moment- and an appropriate goodbye, as Ecbert wins the game that Ragnar has been playing since they met. In giving the sons the land without the legal power to do so means that his son will be able to chase them off eventually, and seeing Ecbert, a character torn between personal ambition and decency from his very inception, pull it off makes for satisfying if sad farewell.
Floki, too, has had just an amazing arc this season. Ever since he killed Athelstan, he has been damned by this show- he lost his daughter, Ragnar (not to mention Ragnar’s friendship and trust), and, in this episode, Helga (in a dissapointingly trite scene). Now, he curses himself to wander the Earth alone, completely broken and apparently wavering in his faith. The scene where he buries Helga is genuinely heart-breaking- not least because he’s forced to bury her in England, the country that took Ragnar from him both spiritually and physically. His arc has been phenomenally well put-together, and I’ve loved every minute.
Sigurd also bit the dust in a surprising-yet-inevitable finale to the episode After the brothers kill Ecbert, they soon realize that his death was the only thing keeping them together was the compulsion to avenge their father. Ivar wants to go raiding, while Bjorn is looking to the Mediterranean-and Sigurd isn’t going anywhere, as his taunting of Ivar goes too far and he gets an axe to the chest for his troubles. For a second, Ivar’s composure drops and it’s obvious that even he can see he’s gone too far. But, as soon as his walls go back up as Sigurd bleeds out on the ground before him, it’s clear that this is a turning point for Ivar. If he’ll kill one of his own brothers, there is nothing standing between him and the unrepentant sadism that he was always destined to vanish into. I have to admit, I’m secretly looking forward to seeing what more the show will give to the consistently brilliant Alex Hogh, whose savagely compelling performance has been the closest Fimmel-replacement we’ve had since he elft.
On the weaker end of the scale? Once again, this episode knew not what to do with Lagertha (also, Tove’s alive, because…?). And now, with no Aslaug or Helga or, apparently Judith, I feel like the show is finally loosening it’s grip on the amazing female characters it once laid claim to. I still love Lagertha, but the show is way, way more interested in the brothers Lothbrok these days than her story. She is as influenced by Ragnar as them- even if she romanticises him a whole lot less than Ivar and company- and I would like to see the show ackowledge that a bit more.
And the last scene does not fill me with a sense of comfort about what’s to come. Johnathan Rhys Myers, an actor who I have hated for literally years, makes his first appearence in the show as an apparently famous historical Viking-slayer. Which is cool, but he’s still played by JRM, and his nastiness was underlined by him doing a widow doggy-style in a tacky and uncreative little scene. Also, that is far too much hair gel for a ninth-century Bishop. Just saying.
Like the rest of the season, The Reckoning is plagued by problems. It’s still juggling too many balls, and introducing another to the mix feels like a mistake. It’s bid goodbye to two of it’s best characters this season (in Ragnar and Ecbert), and, while the surviving cast (particularly Ivar, Ubbe, and Aethelwulf) hold some promise, I’ve not seen it fulfilled yet. Season four was a mess, but an almost always interesting one- with some staggering highs and yawnsome lows. All I know is that I’ll be back next season to see what happens next- and how the show survives post-Ragnar. What did you think? And will you be coming back for season five?