Vikings S5E11: The Revelation
Well, we’re back, team: the back half of the fifth season of Vikings has finally Moe Begunford (I’m sorry, I’ll stop, please forgive me). Some quick updates for anyone who only tunes in for these recaps: my debut novel, RAPE JOKES, is coming out in a few months time, and I’ve also released a series of short femdom erotica stories that you can find starting here (eighteen-plus, of course). On to the recap!
I hate to start this off by talking about Ragnar, but we’re going to talk about Ragnar, because I’m still hung up on Travis Fimmel’s esteemed central character and I always will be. Ever since his death, the point that has been underlined in this show over and over again is that an ensemble this big and this scattered across the world really needs a central point to hinge it all on. And, instead of Ragnar, we have a collection of Ragnar-lites in his place.
The first and most obvious of this Ragnaritos is Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), and his plot is, for me, probably the most compelling of the episode. Rollo, his uncle and Ragnar’s brother, returns to Kattegat and attempts to offer a defeated Lagertha and Bjorn safe passage to France – because, Rollo claims, he is truly Bjorn’s father. Now, this is a plot point that I do mildly hate, mainly because it’s just so obviously constructed to create conflict with no real grounding in what the show has done with these three characters up until this point, but the way the episode handles it actually works for me. Bjorn dismisses the percieved reality of his lineage by pointing out that, no matter who may have actually knocked Lagertha up (and I just finished work on a big erotica project and trust me when I say I had to take out fifteen more lurid and hideous metaphors), his identity is built around him being Ragnar Lothbrok’s son. That’s bold, and I like it: it’s Ragnar’s stubborn commitment to his legacy, except papered over with Ludwig’s absurdly huge performance and incredible rap hands. I can live with it.
But let me tell you something I cannot fucking live with, and that’s Ivar the Boneless and Lothbrok brother Hvitserk plot as the now-rulers of Kattegat. I don’t think Alex Hogh is truly terrible as Ivar or anything, but he’s Ragnar’s unhinged side distilled as his one character trait – with the show apparently forgetting that what made Ragnar’s descent into madness so compelling was his grasp on the real world that came before it. Ivar works as supporting cast, not as an A-plot, and here he swiftly devolves into intently annoying. The less said about Who?stverk the better – in fact, the show seems to care about him and his disgraceful moustache as much as I do, which is not at all, so at least it’s got that going for it.
But of course, there’s more going on than just the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok (you’ll notice that I didn’t mention Ubbe, and only part of that is because I forgot his name – the show has been doing nothing with him these last few episodes, and that’s a shame because I really like Jordan Patrick Smith as an actor). Floki is still craicing about on Magic God Island, though the only thing worth mentioning about this plot (in which the inhabitants of the new town vote on whether or not to kill him) is that I started watching Attitude-era WWE in the midseason break and thus whooped with excitement when The Edge appeared on screen.
In plots that I actually did like and found something to enjoy in, England has a lot to offer. I was seriously not sure about Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Alfred last season, but there’s some real command to his appearances this episode, as he insists on the Church making education more accessible to the citizens he’s overseeing, while his brother Aethelred (Darren Cahill) is being seeded as an interesting, military counterpoint to his brother’s intellectual approach to rulership. Rollo is also back, in a storyline I honestly thought I would care more about, and is mostly here to moan about not being able to fight and strike boring trade deals with Ivar – but he does share a great scene with Heahmund (who, tragically, is still in this fucking show) as the Bishop blesses him, the two of them the dark versions of Ragnar and Athelstan in a nice, subtle nod to the history of Christianity and Viking beliefs in this show thus far.
Honestly, there’s so much going on in this episode that it’s hard to keep track of it all – Harald is sad about killing his brother (but I’m not sad about the fact that Jasper Paakonnen has gone on to feature in some great movies since he left the show), Lagertha has white hair but still hasn’t facially aged a single second since the start of the show, Margrette is mad now, I guess? Ubbe is shagging Bjorn’s wife, the slave that Ivar freed is putting the movies on him, the queen is a goat. They are piling it on, which is somewhat neccessary for a midseason premiere, but it’s also hard to see where the next ten episodes are going to go.
The show doesn’t miss Ragnar simply because he was a great character played by a great actor – it misses him most of all because he was a central point around which the entire show could revolve. Without him, Vikings is occasionally sharp, often dull, sometimes compelling, but more than anything, unfocused. And that’s going to be a problem if they can’t find a way to get it in hand soon.
And that’s us for this midseason premier. What did you think? Are you confident about this season, or worried about where it’s going to go? Let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter or Tumblr! If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to check in with my other recapping projects – I’m currently covering the first Harry Potter book as well as the current seasons of Doctor Who and Riverdale. If you want to read some of my fiction, please check out the ALPHA FEMALE erotica series (eighteen-plus, obviously), available on Amazon now. As ever, if you want to see more stuff like this, please consider supporting me on Patreon!
(header image courtesy of Forbes)