As it happens, I thought the finale was not too bad. It was fun to see Ragnar and Rollo go Full Anime, no matter how silly, and it reinforced one of my favourite themes, which is that numbers and tech tend to beat a straight-ahead attack full of spirit and vigour.
But obviously the big news is the last chunk of the series, which does something that Vikings has done a few times already, leaping forward a few years to catch up with the next phase of the saga. Ragnar’s sons are already grown up and ready to take their place as the main characters of the story, which is sort of the idea, after all.
Now, this is all well and good — Older Ivar is particularly enjoyable — but there’s a risk that this can be a problem in a show where “unfocused” is already the major criticism. They sort of seem to know that — look at the last few episodes, where they killed off Yidu, Erlandr, Odo, Young Siggy and probably some other characters that no living human gave a shit about. The trend continues in this episode with the strangling of Baron Whatsisname and his sister, Lady Who Cares. It’s not that those characters couldn’t have been interesting, it’s that they never really got the chance to be more than generic politico-sexual intriguers like every other character who got unceremoniously swept off the board this season.
Now, on the one hand I approve of this narrative streamlining. On the other hand, this show’s fixation on violence in the Viking age has somehow missed the idea of a blood feud, which is not only a great source of violence and a threat to social cohesion but also the reason why you don’t do this kind of thing. Every episode asks us to believe that there is someone who has ascended to high social rank without having even one powerful ally, heavily-armed relative, incriminating secret or other reason that you wouldn’t just straight-up murder them. And this is how people think politics worked back in the day, is it? A series of sterile intrigues at the court of a ruler who can just have you stabbed up any time he feels like it without consequence?
I’m skeptical. And I think it’s ever so slightly cheating for the show to draw conclusions to plots starting on premises that are based on its own sense of narrative economy. It’s as if the detectives in a cop show knew that there were only seven or eight people in New York in any given week.
That shots with the boat was cute, once again reinforcing my belief that this show looks better than it thinks. Still, this at least suggested that something interesting might be happening, which would be a nice change from the housekeeping of the first half of the season.