Hamm….Wow….and interesting. Some of my first initial thoughts after seeing the season 4 finale of Vikings. It was definitely an important episode with a huge victory Ragnar’s sons and a couple shocked filled moments to close out the season in a very interesting way, but with a few more question marks instead of exclamation points. Don’t get me wrong, I liked this episode and was satisfied with it, but leaves more lingering questions rather than closing out the season properly. Then again….the past season finales of Vikings have done that, so it’s nothing new or shocking to see them in the season 4 finale.
The episode began with a great opening salvo, involving the “great heathen army” clashing with the Saxon army, with Aethelwulf leading the charge. Unfortunately, the battle doesn’t go his way as Aethelwulf sounds a retreat as Ragnar’s sons savor their victory. The battle itself was great. It was bloody, brutal, with plenty of “Viking” violence. It didn’t last super long, but it last a good enough time to be effective and entertaining.
Afterwards, Aethelwulf returns to his father King Ecbert, who renounces his title and position as king and bequeaths to his son. So now Aethelwulf is now is the King of Wessex, Mercia, etc. Now, as king, Aethelwulf gathers his wife (Judith) and his two sons, including Alfred and leave for the “great heathen army” arrives. Unfortunately, Ecbert refuses to leave and stay, along with Bishop Edmund (Philip O’Sullivan), who does meets his demise in the following scene shortly after. As for this whole scene, it was kind of interesting. Ecbert has always been complex character (like Ragnar), so to see him give up his title as king that quickly and suddenly….I kind of had an idea that he had one last trick up his sleeve.
This brings us to the next big scene, with Ragnar’s sons (and their army) storm Ecbert’s estate and come up victorious (with little resistance in seizing the place). This, of course, leads to them capturing the defenseless Ecbert, who willingly gets capture and caged up, professing his love for Ragnar to his sons and, while Ragnar’s sons argue over what to do with him, laid out his final plan before them (i.e. letting him live and in exchange for land in a nearby kingdom). Of course, we know that Ecbert is lying as he really doesn’t have the power to “give” land since he gave up his title as king, but Ragnar’s sons didn’t know that. So…in the end, Ragnar’s sons agree to Ecbert’s proposal (accepting his terms), but, still harboring the grudge for aiding in their father’s death, demand that he (Ecbert) must die. Ecbert agrees to this, but to die on his own terms. So yes…Ecbert does met his end in this episode as he bleed out in the Roman-style bathhouse.
The death of Ecbert was sad, seeing such a character leave the show. Much like Ragnar, Ecbert was a very entertaining and complex character and the bond that they (their sort of enemy / friend relationship) was really unique and quite engaging to watch and unfold. It was just sad to see him go, especially since Linus Roache did a masterfully in bring him to life. However, it would seem that, given the false pretenses he gave Bjorn and the rest about the land, Ecbert is going to have the last laugh and not Ragnar nor his sons.
After achieving their victory over Ecbert and being granted new land in England, Ragnar’s sons, Bjorn, Ubbe, Sigurd, Hvitserk, and Ivar celebrate and discuss plans for the future. Bjorn plans to leave and return to raiding in the Mediterranean Sea and leaves the handling of their England settlement in the hands of his four brothers. This, of course, draws ire from Ivar, who believes they should fight and raid and instead of becoming farmers, and then draws sibling rivalry between him and Sigurd. The tension between the two brothers explodes as Ivar takes a axe and throws at Sigurd in the chest, who ultimately meets his demise by the hand of his brother. So now…Sigurd is dead. While I’m shocked about that, it’s hard not to say that I didn’t see it coming as the show has always pitted the two characters against one another that you knew that things were about explode (eventually), which it did in this episode. Fortunately, Sigurd wasn’t as developed of a character in the second half of the season (only Ivar and Ubbe were), so it wasn’t a huge deal breaker (for me at least) that Sigurd is no more. Still, I was bit shocked by his death.
Before the death of Sigurd and Ecbert, we saw the death of Floki’s wife Helga. Despite her determination to create a new family with the young Muslim slave girl that she “took in” to raise as her own daughter, Helga met her demise by the young slave girl. Maybe after seeing the whole “Viking” lifestyle of battles, blood, and violence, she would never have wanted to be a part of that, despite Helga’s nurturing, motherly care for her. So, yes, Helga was killed the young Muslim slave girl, who then took her own life right after stabbing Helga. I had a feeling that something like this had to happen as this whole storyline was going nowhere, so I kind of figured something “big” had to happen to either evolve it or end it. The show choose the latter one. All in all, I’ll miss Helga on the show.
So while it was sad to see Helga go, it was especially hard for Floki to see her go as now the eccentric Viking boat builder seems lost, echoing that part of him died with his daughter, a part of him died with Ragnar, and the rest died with Helga. What will become of Floki now….who knows? Will he leave the show or will he try to find meaning in this cruel world. Hopefully, season 5 will answer that question.
While this episode showed a lot of what was going on in Wessex, the episode didn’t show any of the story threads elsewhere. So the questions about Lagertha and what’s going on in Kattegat remain unanswered as well as what’s going on with Rollo in Paris. I guess those storylines will be carried over and answered in season 5.
Lastly, the episode ends on introducing a new character for Season 5, seeing actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing Bishop Heahmund. My problem is his somewhat odd introduction at the end of the episode, which sort of takes away from the death of Sigurd scene (a more powerful scene). I think they should’ve (the showrunners) introduced the character in the opening of season 5, which would’ve worked better, but (as it stands) it sort of diminishes the dramatic impact of Sigurd’s murder. Move beyond that notion, Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ inclusion in Vikings will definitely be an interesting one.
All in all, the season 4 finale of Vikings closed out the season with some big deaths, the dissolution of the “united” Ragnar sons (with some of the brothers going their separate ways) and closed out the “death of Ragnar” story arc. This second half of season 4 juggled a lot of storylines and, for the most part, did so in a satisfying manner. In short, it was a fitting finale for season 4. With so many storylines threads to continue that are leftover from season 4, season 5 of Vikings has a lot narrative to expand upon and with new character dynamics to uncover in true Viking style and fashion.
Score: 8.5 / 10
If interested, check out my movie blog @ Jason’s Movie Blog for my reviews of current movies.