Hello….and welcome to my first TV review post ever! (Hooray!). It’s a huge honor to be doing this and to be a part of Keith’s blog, so big thanks to him.
So…I’m here today to talk about the History Channel show Vikings and the new episode that just premiered. I know what you are thinking….the History Channel…really? Trust me, it’s not what you think. Vikings is a pretty awesome show that has the same caliber as a show on the TV channel FX or on one of the premium channel shows (i.e. HBO, Cinemax, Starz, or Showtime). For those who don’t know the show, Vikings premiered back in 2013 and was created by Michael Hirst (the mind the Showtime’s The Tudors). Set in the 700s AD, the show follows the adventures and exploits of the Viking Ragnar Lothbrok from a lowly farmer to a powerful and revered king in Scandinavia as he raids nearby lands, amasses power, and deals with traitors and conspirators both abroad and within his own family.
The show is currently in its fourth season, so I would suggest watching the first three season and the first half of season 4 (season 4 is twice as long as the previous seasons) to catch up. To those who watch the show, here is the synopsis of what (so far) has happened in season 4.
Ragnar and the Vikings have returned to Kattegat after raiding Paris. While Ragnar recovers from his wounds suffered in Paris, he meets a new slave, Yidu, whom he grows close to. He also deals with Floki, who has been imprisoned by his Ragnar’s son Bjorn for the murder of Athelstan. Bjorn also reveals to Ragnar that he intends to travel into the wilderness to find himself, but not before Kalf and Erlendur plot against him. Meanwhile, the Viking women have growing ambitions, as Lagertha and Asluag, both attempt to plot themselves back into power. In Paris, Rollo and the Franks prepare for the eventual return of Ragnar and his Viking warriors, and Rollo attempts to build a relationship with his new wife Princess Gisla. In Wessex, relationships get tense as Ecbert grow closer to Judith, while his son Aethelwulf forms a relationship with Queen Kwenthrith. Along with King Aelle, this alliance prepares to restore Kwenthrith to power in Mercia, while also keeping in mind the eventual return of Ragnar and the Vikings, whose settlement was slaughtered by Eckbert’s degree. King Harald Finehair arrives in Kattegat with his brother Halfdan, both eager to raid with Ragnar in Paris. However, Harald has desires to become the King of all Norway, but in doing so must overthrow Ragnar. Older, wounded, and lacking the desire to explore like his early years, Ragnar faces enemies on all sides and must confront each one.
Sounds cool…yeah. There’s a lot more information that I didn’t cover, but that the bare “necessity” to know of what has happened in Vikings season 4 (so far) without spoiling it.
So….(big drum roll)….Vikings returns with season 4’s midseason premiere episode “The Outsider”. Suffice to say, it’s a not a very “explosive” episode, but rather a very character driven episode, acting as a gateway to establish several characters as well as planning for what is to come for the rest of the season.
In truth, “The Outsider” feels like the first episode of season 5 rather than the mid-season premiere episode of season 4 (probably due to the time jump at the end of the mid-season finale). Because of this, “The Outsider” devotes time to reestablish many of its characters, setting them up for the events that will play out in the rest of the season, while leaving some sort of “mystery” for most of the characters (assuming that it will be revealed later on). I really didn’t expect this episode to be action-packed or anything like that as it is a somewhat transitional episode, reflecting on past events and as characters (and the story) find their footing for the future.
Of course, the main piece of the “The Outsider” is Ragnar’s return to Kattegat and how he interacts with several main characters. Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) is not the man he used to be as he appears ragged, fractured, and seeking forgiveness from his family and friends. However, despite his intentions, many of the characters in the show (almost all of his subjects) have “moved on” from Ragnar, due to his failures of losing the battle in Paris as well as losing their settlement in Wessex, which was just revealed to several characters in the last episode (only Ragnar and Floki knew about it before this). “The Outsider” sees Ragnar going on a sort of “apology” tour, interacting with all of his sons, his first wife Lagertha,, and his friend Floki in an attempt to reconnect with them before he journeys onward. Spoiler alert…Ragnar tries to “off” himself by hanging, but the tree’s branch (unexpectedly) breaks, saving Ragnar from dying. During that scene, there were plenty of ravens that were watching him (the raven represents the god Odin in Norse Mythology), so I guess that Odin himself intervened in Ragnar’s suicide attempt. I guess that the gods aren’t finished with Ragnar Lothbrok just yet.
As I said, Ragnar visits many of the show’s characters in this episode, including his first son Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), his first wife Lagertha (Kathryn Winnick), and his eccentric friend Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard). Each one of these characters has their own ambitions and takes away something different from their visit with Ragnar. Bjorn, having his own ambitions to venture and raid in the Mediterranean Sea, still feels that Ragnar (his father) treats him not as a man, but as a child, which continues to make their father / son relationship not the most loving one. Lagertha has moved on, living in her earldom in Hedeby with her new female companion lover Astrid (Josefin Asplund) and refuses to take part in Ragnar’s plan to attack Wessex and King Ecbert. However, Lagertha still finds herself pinning for her past days with her first husband, feeling conflicted on whether to stay or fight along Ragnar’s side once again in battle.
As for Floki, he too has moved on, siding with Bjorn to build boats (and journey) to the Mediterranean Sea in his raids. However, the biggest revelation in this episode was the Ragnar finally gave Floki his love. Not romantic love, of course, but rather the love / forgiveness of him as a friend. This was a huge thing as the character of Floki as always desired Ragnar’s affection, but was always jealous of the character of Athelstan (George Blagden), a Christian monk who befriended Ragnar. So much so that Floki actually killed Athelstan in a jealous rage, which, of course, angered Ragnar. That was until now as Ragnar seems to forgive Floki (for his past endeavors) and the two parted ways (in this episode) on equally good terms with each other.
With Ragnar’s return, “The Outsider” also focuses on his other four children Ivar, Ubbe, Sigurd, and Hvitserk (the children that were made between him and Queen Aslaug). Since the time jump in the last episode, these four characters are now played by more adult-looking actors (versus the previous children actors) as this episode is kind of like their introductions in their more adult roles. The one who gets the most screen time is the character of Ivar the Boneless (Alex Hogh Andersen). He’s definitely an interesting character as he could’ve been painted as a sympathetic character (due to being a paraplegic in this era of Vikings), but he’s smart, cunning, and a bit dark, which will probably make him in a great character to watch and unfold throughout the rest of the series. In truth, Ivar seems the closest (personality-wise) to Ragnar, which is probably why Ragnar invites him to go to Wessex with him at the end of the episode. The character of Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) is also established in this episode as a somewhat “big brother / parental” figure of the four brothers as well, with some screen-time devoted to him. Unfortunately, Sigurd (David Lindstrom) and Hvitserk (Marco llso) get the short end of the stick with less character moments (they’re both mostly in the background). However, I’m sure that they will be more fleshed out in the coming episodes.
There were some story threads that weren’t covered in “The Outsider”, most notably with King Ecbert (Linus Roache) and what’s going in Wessex (and England) and also with Ragnar’s brother Rollo (Clive Standen) and what’s going on in Franca. I understand the main narrative had to focus on Ragnar’s return to Kattegat (and the people there), but these two storylines are important and will probably be mentioned in the next episode (hopefully). In addition, what’s also missing from this episode is the character of Queen Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland). She has one scene in this episode (and it was a minor one). Hopefully, she is in it more in the next episode. In conjunction with that, her and Ragnar didn’t share a scene together, which I thought the would (given their animosity towards each other and their long separation).
Lastly, it wouldn’t be a Vikings episode without having “The Seer” character appear and tell of a grim warning. He explains to Bjorn that Ragnar’s return will invite many calamites to befall them. Sounds ominous….
Vikings is back in season 4’s mid-season premiere episode “The Outsider”. its not action-packed with epic battles or bloody twists of betrayal, but rather gives to time to flesh out its new characters (I should say new actors) and places the main spotlight of the episode on the worn-down (and defeated) Ragnar Lothbrok, his returning home to seek atonement from his past before making (what it appears to be) his final journey. Will Ragnar die at the end of the season? Will Bjorn make to the Mediterranean? What will happen in Wessex and Paris? We’ll just have to wait and see….
If interested, check out my movie blog @ Jason’s Movie Blog for my reviews of current movies.