The Cutprice Guignol

The Ninth Year: The Haunting of Swill House

Category: Vikings recaps

Vikings Recaps S5E3: Homeland

Vikings is setting itself up for a stonker of a fifth season. I have to admit it – I’ve been so wary of committing to the belief that the show is actually back on track, but this episode, Homeland, proved that Vikings still has a firm grip on so many of the things that make it great, while at the same time striking out into some enticing new territory. And I like it. Well, most of it, but we’ll get to that.

Read the rest of this entry »

Vikings S5E1/2: The Departed

And we’re back! Since the last set of Vikings recaps, I published two books as well as launching a film criticism site. Without further ego, let’s get to the recap!

What does a post-Ragnar world look like for Vikings? It’s a question I’ve been asking since his death three-quarters of the way into last season, and one that the show hasn’t really offered a definitive answer to until the double-header that opens it’s latest season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Vikings Recaps, S4E20: The Reckoning

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?

Vikings, S4E19: On the Eve

I went into this week’s episode, On the Eve, with something close to trepidation; a number of reviews had been pretty dismissive of the episode, and, after a wobbly few weeks for the show, I was seriously worried that this would be the one where it lost it’s way. After all, the show has a lot of work to do to get things back on track after Ragnar’s death, and it seemed like his presence haunted Vikings in a way that seemed to hold it back from fully escaping his shadow-maybe this, the second-last episode of the season, would prove to be a cracking point as the show buckled under the weight of the loss of it’s lead character?


Read the rest of this entry »

Vikings Recap, S4E17: The Great Army

Sorry I’m a little late- I’ve been very busy talking about other things and going to see a bunch of movies because Oscar season, bitch!

(On a brief aside- if you’re looking for something to see, I cannot recommend the new Scorsese movie Silence enough. If you like beautifully shot, sweeping historical epics with a focus on religion and faith, which you do if you like Vikings, you HAVE to see it)


Read the rest of this entry »

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?


Read the rest of this entry »

Vikings Recaps, S4E15: All His Angels

Well, they did it.

I wrote at the start of this half of season four that the show really needed, in order to keep the momentum going, to kill off Ragnar Lothbrok. This entire season has been building to it- longer than that, actually, as his nihilistic outlook has been an increasingly important part of his character since the death of Athelstan. But this week, in All His Angels, Vikings finally bit the bullet and killed off their leading man.


Major character deaths have been a theme for this season of television, but no show has done it with more style or substance than Vikings. This episode, written by Michael Hirst and directed by Ciaran Donnelly, is a real masterwork in both restraint and spectacle. The direction, on odd interplays between light and dark-such as having only Ragnar’s hands lit in one of the first shots of the episode- is award-worthy in it’s beauty, but this is fifty minutes of truly sumptuous writing more than anything else.


Michael Hirst, who created the series and writes all the episodes, has an ironclad grip on the mythos and history of Vikings, an unusual feat in a time when most shows rely on a plethora of writers to come up with a full season’s story. You can peel back this tale as far as you like-right back to the first episode- and all signs point to Ragnar’s final moment in Aelle’s snakepit (thanks, by the way, to Vikings for ruining my snake-fearing boyfriend’s birthday, as we snuggled up to watch this episode and finished up with him practically smashing the screen to dust in Ragnar’s final moments as the camera lingered on the particularly enormous slitherers). Hirst has proven himself, in unfolding the story of Ragnar Lothbrok and particularly in this final episode, to be one of the most patient and detail-orientated storytellers working on TV today, and I, for one, am glad to have him.


This is, as it should be, an episode dominated by Travis Fimmel- whose career I sincerely hope hasn’t died along with Ragnar. He’s exhausted but still defiant, admitting that he has long since stopped believing in the Gods, but still bellowing his excitement at entering Valhalla at the English people who turned up to watch his execution because it’d piss them off. He insists to a vision of the Seer that he has defied the Gods by choosing his own death; whether or not he has if left ambiguous, but till his last moments, Ragnar is idiosyncratically himself, the myth, the man, the legend- the arsehole. He peers up out of the snakepit to see Ecbert disguised as a monk, an stand-in for Athelstan (an Athelstand-in?), he smiles, and he dies. It’s a brilliant, brutal death, and a sad farewell to one of the most compelling characters in this golden age of television- if an overdue one.



But as one story ends, another begins- Ivar speaks with his father before he is sent back to England, and Ragnar makes him promise to avenge his death on Ecbert. Ivar agrees, but when he returns, it seems like he’s got more dead parents to avenge than he knows what to do with. I’d been trying to figure out what the show was planning to do with Ubbe, Sigurd, and Ivar, and forcing them into this uneasy alliance to take down Lagertha and Ecbert seems like a way to get fraternal sparks flying.

Honestly, it’s hard to look forward after an episode like this. I’m impressed and glad that Ragnar has finally bitten the dust and opened the show up to whole new stories and characters, but I’m sad to see him go, and the little flashbacks in this episodes only served to remind us what an amazing story his has been. I’ll be raising a horn of ale to Ragnar- and Travis Fimmel- tonight. As well as trying to figure out who that one-eyed raven bloke floating towards Kattegat is meant to be…

Vikings Recaps, S4, E14: In the Uncertain Hour Before The Morning

Well, that was…an episode.

It’s an impressive show that can relegate a major character death to the back burner of a mid-season episode, but Vikings did just that- even as Slaugy brought it at the hands of Lagertha in what was, for my money, Alyssa Sutherland’s best scene in her run on the show, Vikings returned instead to the major conflict that has always been the driving force behind the show: religion.


Read the rest of this entry »

Vikings Recaps, S4E14: Two Journeys

Who is Ragnar Lothbrok?

Read the rest of this entry »

Vikings Recap, S4E12: The Vision

Are you HUNGRY for RECAPS?  No? Ah well, shame, because Vikings has finally made it’s semi-triumphant return, and I am HERE for the next eight episodes. Starting with this week, I’ll be reviewing each episode of the back half of season four- which has already set itself up into an extremely tantalising little run.


The amount of gorgeous this picture contains is precisely as gorgeous as I always think I am, by the way.

Read the rest of this entry »