I haven’t kept it a secret that my enjoyment of the series Vikings went into a steep decline after the deaths of the former monk Aethelstan and über-Viking Ragnar Lothbrok. They, along with shield-maiden Lagertha, were the heart of this story for me.
Lagertha is still around in Season 6 (at least for a while), but she’s only a shadow of her former self. The focus of the series has shifted to the next generation of Lothbroks, to Bjorn, Ubbe and Ivar (and, to a lesser extent, to Hvitserk). Even Floki, the shipbuilder, seems to have left the story at the conclusion of Season 5.
All of which means I was watching a series set in the same milieu as the initial four seasons of Vikings, but featuring an almost entirely new cast. In short, a spinoff of the original. In many ways, a less focused and less satisfying series.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: Firewater, you are always resistant to change. And this is true. I don’t like change at all and no longer think it’s necessary to pretend otherwise. At this juncture, I never intend to interview for a job again. So, I don’t have to lie about things like thriving on stress and pressure, or accepting change as a fact of life, or being able to multitask like a madman. These are all lies we tell ourselves as well as others.
I don’t like change. I accept change when it is natural and organic, and, given enough time, I can adapt to change. But I never like it. Like, at all.
Chances are, you feel the same way yourself whether or not you’re at a point in your life or career where you can freely admit it.
Season 5 was the worst season of Vikings for me, because of the changes I was forced to adapt to. In many ways, the final season felt a little more like the original show to me, probably because we spent an entire season getting acquainted with a new cast of characters. As always, the legend of Ragnar Lothbrok looms large over everything that happens. It’s just that the legend seems a bit diluted because it’s shared by the individual story threads of his sons.
Enough time has passed that anything I write about this season shouldn’t be considered a spoiler now. I guess a warning is warranted, though.
I like the way we were immediately led into the various story arcs.
Lagertha is leaving Kattegat to found another settlement and a homestead like the one she and Ragnar shared before things grew complicated and deadly.
The fleeing Ivar the Boneless arrives at Rus and becomes a companion of Oleg the Prophet, who has some grand designs of his own.
Bjorn is committed to opening Kattegat to trade and commerce rather than continuing to wage war; however, Harald has asked for his military aid and feels that Bjorn owes him a debt.
Ubbe becomes interested in Iceland, the territory founded by Floki and the settlers he took with him. There’s the mystery of Floki’s disappearance to solve as well. Hvitserk thinks there’s nothing more important than tracking down Ivar and ending the threat of his existence.
As always, the sets are impressive and the acting is solid. As the season began, I wasn’t sure how these various plot threads would be woven together into a cohesive finale. But, they immediately engaged my interest.
I wanted to know what self-centered long-term plans were put in place by Ivar, a character I love to hate. He was allied with the Rus, who would go on to attempt to invade Kattegat, our main hub world in this narrative. Along the way, he helps engineer the overthrow of Oleg the Prophet—one of the more interesting characters in the series by this point—and the installation of his brother Dir, who will lead Rus until Igor comes of age. Oh, Ivar also fathers a biological child with Oleg’s wife, who is a dead ringer for Ivar’s deceased wife. At least, I think this is what happens.
I was marginally interested in what happened to Bjorn and Ubbe. Bjorn Ironside dies a Viking’s preferred death, in battle against the Rus. Ubbe travels to the New World by way of Greenland (or was it Iceland?) and finds that there are already people living there. Since he was searching for the so-called “Golden Lands,” I’m surprised these indigenous peoples misnamed “Indians” because of the perennially lost Columbus weren’t referred to as the Golden People. It turns out that Floki lives amongst these native North Americans as well. He somehow survived being buried alive during a volcanic eruption on Iceland (or was it Greenland?). Maybe this was explained and I just don’t remember the explanation. Or, the New World is a metaphor for some sort of afterlife and Ubbe and Floki are really dead. And maybe I just blew my own mind.
I wasn’t interested in the drug-addled Hvitserk at all, and he continued to show me why in this final season. He murders Lagertha. There: I warned you that there would be spoilers. Then, he throws his lot in with the traitorous Ivar the Boneless and fights against his own people. They lose but live that time, but later join Harald Finehair in his invasion of England, where both brothers join Bjorn (and possibly Ubbe) in death.
All of that happens in a paltry twenty, tightly-plotted episodes. Have I omitted details? Absolutely. This is a review, not a true synopsis.
This final season was beautifully shot, well-acted, and -written.
Sadly, it left me underwhelmed. Unsatisfied. As I’ve said, the real story had ended for me already, with the final nail in the coffin being the death of Lagertha and the total disappearance of Rollo from the narrative. The last seasons were a diluted spinoff of the original, like AfterM*A*S*H or Joanie Loves Chachi.
Now I’ve been made aware that there is a genuine spinoff in the works, and I’m on the fence about whether or not I’ll be watching it. I’m leaning precariously towards not, by the way. That’s probably a better review metric than the letter grade I’m about to drop on you.
Firewater’s We-Come-from-the-Land-of-the-Ice-and-Snow-from-the-Midnight-Sun-and-the-Hot-Springs-Flow Report Card: C+
Most of what I know about the Vikings comes from Led Zeppelin song lyrics, Marvel Comics and this series. I’m pretty sure I know nothing, Jon Snow.