Vikings airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on The History Channel
PREVIOUSLY, ON VIKINGS: Ragnar invited King Aella’s unending hatred by murdering his brother, and Lagertha miscarried. That’s it.
Okay, full disclosure! This is an email I sent to Laura on April 23:
OKAY AS YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED I HAVE NOT FINISHED THE VIKINGS RECAP YET BUT. I have a problem. This past episode made me so fucking angry with every aspect of it that I know I definitely can’t be funny about it, and probably can’t even be impartial and do a dry basic “this is what happened” recap (which nobody would want to read anyway). It’s like they took everything I loved about the show and fucked it up in every possible direction and I don’t know what to do! I’ve been trying to write it for like two days, and I’m just so frustrated with it that I keep stopping. I know HDJM is supposed to be positive but I genuinely didn’t enjoy a single thing about the episode. WAT DO I DO HOW DO I WRITE ABOUT IT OMG. :(
At that point I also had what I can only assume was machupo, so I figured that maybe by the finale A) I would be better and B) so would the show. MAIS NON. Something terrible happened between episode seven and episode eight that turned a previously literally perfect show into a hideously-paced mess of destroyed characterization and nonsensical plotting. Laura emailed me back pretending to be Oprah and gave me a special dispensation to “write my truth,” so it’s gonna get complainy in here. I FULLY UNDERSTAND IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO READ FURTHER AS THIS WILL NOT BE A RECAP AND WILL PROBABLY NOT BE FUNNY. Just for completion’s sake, I wanted to put this down–because I did really adore this show, and will maintain that the first six episodes are worth it all on their own. Its downhill journey was just so fast and so furious that the only explanation is darck magicks.
The only other show I’ve ever felt like this about was Community, but that show had 3 seasons to make me fall in love with it and there was a discernible reason for why I can’t stand it now. I was sold on Vikings after the first episode, and I seriously have no idea how this disaster happened.
SUMMARY OF 1.08: Everybody went to Uppsala for a camping in the woods party that involved lots of drinking, shrooming, fucking, and ritual sacrificing, like all good camping in the woods parties do. The ~big shocker~ moment of Ragnar’s betrayal of Athelstan (he’s brought Athelstan along as one of the volunteer human sacrifices) is at once totally telegraphed and annoyingly out of character. We know he’s gonna get offered up as soon as a twitchy, depressed Ragnar starts questioning him about Christianity again and asks him to come to Uppsala (saying he would have brought him even if he refused), but it doesn’t make any sense. It’s fair to assume that Ragnar’s emotional instability (ostensibly due to Lagertha’s miscarriage, except he was acting kinda crazy before that) might lead him to making some weird decisions, but sacrificing Athelstan doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Particularly because he had to know Athelstan wasn’t a suitable sacrifice on account of still being pretty religiously Christian, and in fact says as much after the Seer declares Athelstan unfit to ritually murder. Leif volunteers instead–OH NO, LEIF!–and the last scene is actually very emotionally effecting. But it’s the only one.
Ragnar also pulls away from Lagertha, which is something that would make sense if they hadn’t spent all of the previous episodes establishing his unwavering love for her. In the real Viking society, Lagertha’s miscarriage might have been a legitimate reason for Ragnar to start acting like a neglectful asshole to her, but show-wise? To make Ragnar a relatable, likeable character, they put a lot of work into framing his marriage as more or less equal and loving, and it paid off. For him to suddenly only value her for her ability to produce sons goes in completely the opposite direction of all the characterization they’ve given Ragnar, and it’s so weird and uncomfortable that I really hated it. They had to use this trope in order to make the events of the next episode make sense, but it’s still gross. Also gross is how she suddenly is cast in the role of nag, and spends most of the episode praying for another baby and asking Ragnar not to go out partying. Which, again, WOULD MAKE SENSE IF WE DIDN’T ALREADY KNOW HOW LAGERTHA ACTUALLY WAS. The time jumps don’t help the situation, as we don’t know how much time has passed or what they’ve been doing in that time. Have they tried for more kids? Have other things happened to strain their marriage this much? We don’t know, and we never will.
The stuff with Rollo and how he’s a complete Schrodinger’s traitor at this point is also extremely tedious.
The episode wasn’t boring, and there were one or two good moments–mainly the sacrifice scenes and the blood baptism at the beginning, when Travis Fimmel didn’t flinch from the blood droplets being flicked directly into his eyeball. But the episode made no sense and seemed out of place and shook my previously unshakeable faith in the writers. UNFORTUNATE.
SUMMARY OF EPISODE 1.09: ALL CHANGE And this episode actually was boring, for the most part. I think the show was always strongest when Ragnar and Lagertha were in the same place, whether it was at home or on a raid, and the only interesting parts of this episode were Lagertha’s. While Ragnar was off doing shit in Sweden for his new friend King Horik (Donal Logue, who is actually wonderful at all times), a plague annihilated Kattegatt. Lagertha handled it as best she could, but both Gyda and Thyrri ended up dying, with Athelstan almost succumbing as well. I’m irrationally angry about Gyda’s death specifically–she had just started bleeding!–because she could have been an amazing foil for most of the other characters, as a relatively (as we saw her) gentle girl. It’s disappointing, because there’s not another character that’s really like her in the series. Plus, now Lagertha is going to be sad, and Ragnar’s probably going to use this as an excuse to ditch his family.
WHICH HE IS ALREADY DOING. His negotiations with Horik’s enemy, Earl Borg, break down because Horik doesn’t accept the terms and still wants Borg’s land. So while he’s hanging around in Sweden, his men come across some scary hottie bathing in a river, and he gives her A Test that she passes, so then they fuck. ????? I just don’t get it. This pisses off Bjorn because they fuck in front of him, and Ragnar’s basically like “Yeah I love your mom but her vagina isn’t here? And this one is?” and it’s just all gross and awful. And extra gross and awful when it turns out that the scary hottie, Aslaug, is pregnant, and the season ends with Ragnar seemingly pretty happy with this.
Meanwhile somewhere else Rollo promises to betray Ragnar for like the 80th time. YAWN.
I honestly don’t know what went wrong with the series, because there are a lot of things I hated but that I might not have hated if they hadn’t taken place in the course of one episode. If Ragnar and Lagertha’s growing apart had happened over the course of the first two seasons instead of two episodes, it might have made more sense. If Rollo would pick a side and stick to it (even if that side was just his own), his storyline wouldn’t be so dull. If the show could decide whether it wants to be Historically Accurate or Relatably Entertaining, I might not have ended this relationship on such a sour note. As it stands, I don’t know if I’ll be watching the second season, because the end of the first one bummed me out so bad. I am, however, down for some discussion, so feel free to comment if you want to talk it out!
Thank you for reading!