Vikings Recaps S5E4: The Plan
Ugh. Honestly, I want to come in here all guns blazing and ready to write a killer review for this week’s episode, The Plan, but right now my head is mince from The Last Jedi and honestly I’m having a hard time thinking about anything other than that despite the fact I already vomited up three thousand words on it today.
So sorry if this comes across as a little disjointed. But then, that could just be the fault of the episode – The Plan, for all it promisingly set up, was a spectacular mess of the highest order. Good thing they’ve got some great direction and performances to keep it clinging together, but it’s threatening to bust at the seams under the weight of it’s own story any minute now.
And, well, let’s get this out of the way first: while we’re on performances, there were some real stinkers in this episode. Johnathan Rhys Meyers has finally shown his hand as the comically wooden performer he is – it’s alright when he’s just reacting to other characters or only required to act below the neck, but he gets a couple of monologues this week that feel honestly like he’s reading them off of cue cards while fighting a killer hangover. Blank doesn’t do him justice, honestly. He’s almost concave at this point, inverse, collapsing in on his complete lack of self. Katheryn Winnick, too, has some wobbles this week – though maybe that’s just because she’s surprised to be on camera again after the lengthy break I spoke about last week. She’s never been the greatest actor Vikings lays claim to, but she swings between convincingly wily and seemingly drunk a little too often for my liking here.
Anyway: there’s a ton to bash through here so let’s get cracking. The story in York takes up most of the episode this week, with Ivar and Hvitserk attempting to keep hold of the city as tensions begin to rise between the two remaining brothers. Hvitserk even got a couple of lines of characterization, for goodness sake! Only took them a dozen episodes. Alex Hogh is deliciously devilish in these segments, the little flashes of his unhinged mania working well in the snippets we get from him. Elsewhere in York, Aethelwulf and Heahmund come to disagreement over the best course of action to take in reclaiming the city. As you all know, as head of the Moe Dunford Appreciation Society, I’m a die-hard fan of the current King, but his attempts to emasculate Heahmund, forcing him to acknowledge Aethelwulf’s place as not just his King but as the King chosen for him by the God Heahmund is so zealous about, are, for me, the episode’s high points.
Back in Kattegat, Lagertha has an odd but satisfying episode as she brokers a deal with Ubbe and tries to consolidate her power amongst her subjects. I was complaining about the lack of woman-stuff last week and I don’t think this episode fixed it, but it was good to see some genuine conflict between the female cast as opposed to having them accessorize the plots of the male characters. Even if Magrethe is still a fucking awful character. I’m intrigued to see where this story goes, and whether Ubbe does attempt to claim the throne from Lagertha: Lagertha’s remarks about every man she’s trusted betraying her seem to hint that she might not be as committed to their deal as Ubbe is, and her meeting with the Seer is appropriately foreboding.
Elsewhere elsewhere, Bjorn and Halfdan arrive in Sicily where they impress the apparent leader and find themselves invited into the inner echelons of their society. Alexander Ludwig, in his first real plot of the season, is actually pretty damn good here, channeling some of Travis Fimmel’s playful, cunning curiosity and playing it relatively low-key for a performer who usually demands your attention with as much shouting as he can feasibly fit into one line reading. Both Ludwig and Bjorn seem more comfortable now that the focus has been taken from them, and an easy chemistry shared with Jasper Pääkkönen as Halfdan renders these sections distinctly watchable, helped along by the gorgeous sets and just A-plus costuming.
Finally, it’s Floki’s plot that rounds everything off this week, and for once it doesn’t just feel like a check-in. The direction is so stunning it might as well have a discreet “as paid for by the tourist board of Iceland” in the corner of every shot, but it’s once again a superlative performance from Gustaf Skarsgard that holds the Iceland stuff together. His monologue, delivered in Norse to the Gods, is a testament to his mastery of the character, of his commitment to the bit, and I’m almost sad that he’s heading back to reality and that we’ll get less of The Kooky Adventures of Floki every week. But as long as it means we get more of him, I’m all in.
It’s an episode of set-up, The Plan, but one that at least fits in enough great moments and some fantastically assured direction to keep me interested. Juggling this selection of plots is going to be tough, but then, Vikings has never been the show that shies away from a challenge.
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