Vikings Recaps S5E9: A Simple Story
Vikings – and I mean this in the most passionate, serious way I possibly can – can fuck off. I can’t believe that a show that I was so optimistic about until a mere five episodes ago is now one of the biggest nightmares of my week. Let’s get this over and done with as quickly as possible so I can move on to less painful things like getting blood-eagled.
Firstly, they killed off Moe Dunford. I mean, I’m not saying that Moe Dunford was Monly Dunford thing that I enjoyed about this show anymore, but I did think Athelwulf and the inherent conflict at the centre of his character (especially his attempts to define himself as a King outside of his father, Ecbert) were interesting and could have warranted a little more exploration. So, doing him in by bee sting (GOD, FUCK) in order to make way for some manufactured “conflict” between his sons and his wife that ultimately led us to the inevitable Alfred-on-the-throne conclusion just made me want to punch this show right in the face. I guess his death has been coming for a while, but it seemed to spring in out of nowhere, doing thin justice to the effort that Moe Dunford has consistently put in to this wildly underserved character. Fuck, at least it gave Jennie Jacques as Judith her first legitimate scene of the season, which I suppose I’m happy about, but having it spring from the death of one man and leaving it stuck in the middle of two others just doesn’t do justice to what a fascinating character I used to look forward to.
Elsewhere, monologues abound as Vikings drops all semblance of subtlety and just lays everything out on a plate for us. Bishop “This Sword is a Metaphor for my Dick” Heahmund has the worst scene of the episode, as he literally sits there and spouts off all the blandly obvious thematic elements of his arc so far while shooting bedroom eyes at poor Lagertha who just can’t seem to not fuck anyone they put in front of her. I don’t care about him, and I certainly don’t care about him and Lagertha boning because it feels like the most obvious development of the season so far. If they’ve both got piercing blue eyes, they’re going to go at it, as proved by Ubbe and Tove inexplicably climbing up on each other later in the episode.
I only watched this episode yesterday, but I’ve already forgotten so much of what actually happened in it. Floki and the New Class actually got their first real story of the season, as one of their midst turns against Floki and burns down the temple to Thor they construct together. This story delivers one of the episode’s more striking images, and draws together the general feelings of chaos and uncertainty that have been plaguing the main stories and manages to lend them a brief sense of intention. But it’s not enough to make the Ivar/Harald/Hvitserk plot – which is still the meat of Vikings for the time being – worthwhile.
No, back over in Harald-land, things are as punishingly boring as ever. Hvitserk invokes a promise from Rollo to lend the army his Francish troops, dangling the promise of Clive Standen in front of my face and then whipping it away in a long, deep sigh of dissatisfaction. The show continues to hold Astrid’s rape-plot at arm’s length, while focusing in on the crushingly uninteresting strategising in the lead-up to yet another battle. This season has been an execute, rinse, repeat in terms of battle sequences, and I used to be so excited for the action scenes in this show – but now it’s just so clearly a desperate grasp to come up with enough cool moments to fill a Next Week On trailer. When Alexander Ludwig is the best part of an entire story, you know you’re in trouble. My God. How do you make a show with so many potentially interesting stories and conflicts (like the one between Ubbe, Bjorn, and Lagertha, or Astrid’s internal conflict after her seperation from Lagertha and her rape and impregnation) so fucking boring? How do you render a plot that features Alex Hogh’s insane performance such a snoozefest?
I have no idea at this point if I’ll be back to review the rest of this season. These last few episodes have been such a crushingly boring mess that I’m struggling to find anything new to say about them week after week, and I can’t see that changing soon. With the death of one of the last characters and performances I was sticking around for (because, let’s face it, it’s not as though Alfred has anything on either Ecbert or Athelwulf), I am entirely out of patience with this show. It might be a simple story, like the title of this episode promises, but that’s no excuse for the lack of nuance and intelligence.
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