‘Vikings’ just gave us the biggest, most shocking death since Ragnar in one of the best episodes in … [+]
Vikings played a dirty trick on us in tonight’s episode, ‘Death and the Serpent.’
When the bandits who raided Lagertha’s village attack once again, the villagers have prepared a trap. They’ve built a maze of sorts that they can use to cut off different pockets of raiders and then stab them through the slats in the wooden fences. It’s a clever plan—much smarter than sending those poor boys up to the cliffs again as archers. That only works if you have the element of surprise. When you don’t, well, death comes swirling down.
The plan is so effective that they drive the bandits off. Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) finds herself facing their leader, White Hair (Kieran O’Reilly). They fight. It’s one of the best fight scenes this show has offered up in a long time, with both combatants taking serious hits and growing wearier and more worn down by the moment.
By the time White Hair disarms Lagertha, her shield is broken to pieces. Only a small sliver of it remains. She falls to her knees, open to attack, seemingly resigned to her fate. And for a moment you think she’s a goner. At last, they’re going to kill off Lagertha.
The bandit leader goes in for the kill but she swoops to the side at the last second and comes up quickly, driving that last shard of shield into his neck and slitting his throat with a sword she must have grabbed on the way up.
Lagertha lives! Sweet relief. The shield maidens and old men and children emerge victorious for a second time. Brains over brawn.
Lagertha vs the bandit leader.
Then for some reason she decides she needs to go back to Kattegat to tell Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) and Torvi (Georgia Hirst) and the rest what happened. She needs to go right then, alone, before treating her wounds.
Off she goes, and I’m not sure if it’s her stubbornness or the writing that motivates her.
If I could pin down just one complaint about tonight’s episode it’s that even pigheaded Lagertha wouldn’t ride off alone after taking such serious wounds. At the very least, she’d take some people with her the next day after she had time to rest and get patched up. What comes next still could have worked with a little finagling.
She didn’t ride back after her grandson was killed, why not wait a couple more days?
I’ll let it slide, but it does irk me. Characters acting stupid for no reason is my most peevish of pet peeves.
So Lagertha makes her way back to Kattegat and arrives at night, in the rain, so badly wounded that she slumps and falls from her horse only yards from the great hall. She drags herself to her feet and staggers forward, stumbles back to her knees, drags herself forward. All the while, Ubbe and Torvi and the others sit in the hall while a viking woman sings a ballad about Lagertha. It’s quite haunting. A fitting dirge.
Meanwhile, Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø)—drunk and paranoid, still hallucinating from a bad mix of mushrooms and madness—leaves his hut and goes out into the rain, sure that Ivar is coming. He strikes the woman who’s been caring for him when she gets in his way. There is very little of Hvitserk left behind those bloodshot eyes. (On a side-note, I’m a little confused by the mushroom thing. Mushrooms aren’t really an addictive substance like alcohol, and they’re certainly not something you’d want to take if you’re plagued with evil visions. But okay.)
He stumbles into the night, following the tail of a long black serpent. At its head is a black, demonic body, crawling like Ivar.
We know what’s coming. This is the dirty trick. The head-fake. We thought Lagertha was going to be killed by the bandit leader. But the moment we see the beast we know it isn’t Ivar at all. It isn’t just a bad vision, either. It’s Lagertha, wounded and scrabbling across the wet ground.
Hvitserk sees only a monstrous version of his monstrous brother and he pulls out his knife and stabs again and again and again until his vision clears and he sees that it’s Lagertha. She tells him she was fated to be killed by one of Ragnar’s sons. She could no more escape it than he could escape killing her. He holds her on the ground in the rain as she slips away, stunned into silence, and then makes his escape into the night.
Will Ivar be upset that Hvitserk killed Lagertha after he’s wanted to do it himself for so long, or will he be pleased? It’s hard to say with Ivar these days.
Lagertha is dead. Long live, Lagertha.
This is the biggest, most profound death we’ve had in Vikings since Season 4, Episode 15 “All His Angels” and the death of Ragnar (Travis Fimmel).
The death of Ecbert (Linus Roache) comes close, but as much as I loved Ecbert Lagertha has been with us longer and was with us from the very beginning. Very few characters remain from that very first episode. Rollo (Clive Standen) is as good as dead, wasting away in Normandy. Floki’s (Gustaf Skarsgård) fate is a mystery, but I’m not holding my breath for his return.
King Harald Finehair
King of all Norway
At King Olaf’s (Steven Berkoff) moot, all the kings and jarls of Norway have gathered—so many that Olaf jokes about their number—ostensibly to elect Bjorn Ironsides (Alexander Ludwig). But it doesn’t take too sharp a wit to see that all is not going to go according to plan. Harald (Peter Franzén) was acting sly last week, and Bjorn is too trusting. Olaf should have known better, but somehow with the help of Kjetill “Flatnose” (Adam Copeland) Harald convinces the others to vote for him. At least, he convinces enough of the others.
This, again, is no great surprise. The first historical king of all Norway was Harald Finehair or Harald Fairhair, not Bjorn Ironsides. While the show rarely sticks too closely to history, it does get some of the broad strokes right, and this wasn’t going to be an exception. Harald wanted this more than Bjorn and he’s much more clever. He’s also an ungrateful bastard who tries to have Bjorn killed after the election (and almost certainly will try to kill Olaf as well).
It’s Flatnose who realizes this is Harald’s intention and warns Bjorn just in time. With the help of a stranger—Erik (the Red?)—they abscond on a longboat to safety after yet another very exciting fight scene. Seriously, the fight scenes—like everything else in Season 6—are just leagues better than last season. It’s just night and day all across the board. Even just having a cool political betrayal like this feels more like the days of Ecbert than the dark days of Ragnar’s sons endlessly fighting and that ridiculous Bishop Heahmund.
So Bjorn escapes with a new ally, but I am left wondering where his army was. He still had his army around, right? Were they slaughtered somehow? Wasn’t Harald a prisoner just the other week—where did his army come from? Where did Bjorn’s go? It’s little details like this that hold the show back from greatness even while it vastly improves over the previous season. We’re left to fill in the blanks. The army must be . . . elsewhere.
I like Flatnose but he’s been a royal bastard lately. I wonder if Bjorn will learn the truth about his betrayal, and whether or not his final act of loyalty will save him in the end.
This was a great segment all around. Peter Franzén is electrifying as Harald. He’s so mercurial. One moment calm, collected, the next a raucous winner all cheer and goodwill. The next, a slurring, leering thug all threat and danger. Bjorn should have fled the moment he lost.
Ivar vs Oleg
Oleg and Kayta
I didn’t review last week’s episode because I was busy with the holidays and it aired on New Year’s Day. I simply forgot. This show started back up just before Christmas, took a week off, then came back on and I simply forgot due to crazy holiday family stuff. My apologies.
In any case, over the course of the past two episodes Ivar and Igor freed Dir from his cell by tricking the guards with a mysterious half-naked woman who led them away long enough to free Oleg’s poor older brother. Dir still had his chain through his cheek when he escaped. I’m not sure if Ivar merely took pity on him or has a bigger plan, but I’d wager his primary motivation is to stop Oleg’s ambitions.
Oleg is clever, ambitious and dangerous as a viper. He brings out the heads of the guards who failed to protect their prisoner in dishes at suppertime, presenting them to Ivar and young Igor and then questioning them about whether they had anything to do with it. They deny it, but you get the feeling Oleg knows. Oleg seems to know a great deal about everything that goes on, and about Ivar as well.
He brings out his bride-to-be and Ivar is stunned. The princess Katya looks just like his own (murdered) wife, Freydis, though her hair is sable, not flaxen. (She’s played by the same actress, Alicia Agneson, so this is very much intentional). Is she Freydis in disguise? No, she’s dead. Could Oleg know somehow what Freydis looked like? I’m not sure how that could be possible even with all his information.
Is she something more than a normal human, a god or god-like being similar to Harbard? We don’t know. But Oleg and Katya do wed, and later while the two of them sit with Ivar at dinner, Katya asks Oleg if she can take off her dress because she’s overheating.
He says Ivar won’t mind, and she ups the ante further, asking Ivar to help her take the dress off. Oleg sweeps the dishes from the table, pulls her up on it, and beds her there in front of Ivar, who squirms in his seat and says “I don’t want to be here.”
Oleg will hear nothing of it. Ivar must stay and watch. Oleg is flexing his muscle, asserting his dominance over the viking king. His power.
This was the best episode of the season so far, and the best episode in a very long time. Certainly better than anything in Season 5. Some actual political maneuvering. An attempted ambush and desperate escape. A tragic death of one of our most beloved characters. This really is Vikings the way I remember it (minus most of my favorite characters, but still).
I even like Ivar now, which is something I never thought would happen. He’s become a much more rounded, interesting character now that he’s no longer god boy making everyone around him look stupid and foolish. He’s met his match with Oleg—and better still, the writing has toned down his worst tendencies, giving him a human side we can actually relate to.
It’s sad to see Lagertha go, but I’m glad she got such a compelling death. Have a horn of mead in her honor, dear readers. She will be missed, as will Katheryn Winnick who has done such a terrific job playing her.